Tuesday, December 2, 2014

First Wife's Club Overturned

Hat tip to my favorite Florida ethics blog sunEthics for finding this opinion of the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal.

In this case involving divorce and related proceedings, the husband's attorney also is his second wife.

His first wife moved to disqualify her.

The court here found the trial court's order of disqualification to be overbroad

We conclude that the order of disqualification departs from the essential requirements of law because it is not limited to Ferrer’s participation during the contempt hearing. As is well established by numerous Florida courts, the fact that Ferrer was a potentially necessary witness at the contempt hearing would not prevent her from serving as the former husband’s attorney in other pre-trial, trial, and post-trial proceedings.

But harsh words and a sanction for the first wife's counsel

Under normal circumstances, we would conclude this opinion by simply granting the petition and quashing the trial court’s order of disqualification and therein recognize that the order of disqualification was impermissibly overbroad. However, the actions of counsel for the former wife, Kenneth Kaplan, have transformed this "simple" matter into an unnecessary and protracted controversy by the failure of Kaplan to acknowledge clear and unambiguous controlling law directly adverse to his client’s position. As such, we are compelled to take the extraordinary but not unprecedented step of awarding appellate attorney’s fees as a sanction.

Nor did the court spare the second wife in a footnote

...we are deeply troubled by attorney Ferrer’s reply, since stricken, to the response to the petition. Ferrer does not aid her husband (and client’s) case by lobbing acrimonious grenades in the form of unprofessional comments directed at opposing counsel and the trial court. We are stunned at Ferrer’s disrespectful, offensive, and inflammatory argument directed at the trial judge...

Ferrer’s filings in this court, and indeed below, are verbose and unnecessarily digress in excruciating detail into irrelevant matters. An attorney who is too personally involved with the issues in a litigation should consider withdrawing or risk violating ethical duties owed to the client.

 The court found that the reply bordered on contempt. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2014/12/hat-tip-to-my-favorite-florida-ethics-blog-sunethics-for-finding-this-opinion-of-the-florida-fourth-district-court-of-appeal.html

Professional Responsibility, The Practice | Permalink

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