February 19, 2009
Competing With Client Draws Long Suspension
The Florida Supreme Court rejected as unduly lenient a referee's proposed 90 day suspension and probation for an attorney who had engaged in a serious conflict of interest and imposed a suspension of 18 months with fitness. The lawyer represented a company that sold and repaired component aircraft parts and also ran an aircraft leasing business. The lawyer joined forces with a departed employee and was engaged in a competing business:
...[the lawyer] represented [the client] at the same time he represented...his own company. Both companies performed the same services and functions and had the same pool of potential customers and potential suppliers. Litigation, contract disputes, and deal negotiations with one pool or the other would have been the most foreseeable legal activities on behalf of the other client...[t]he inherent, direct conflict was exacerbated by the fact that[he] owned one of the companies; his loyalties were not only divided, but unequal.
The court also rejected a proposed 200 hours of pro bono services because the rules do not provide for such a sanction. Probation "is usually imposed when the [attorney] suffers from some kind of drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness, such that ongoing monitering...is desirable." (Mike Frisch)
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