Monday, April 22, 2019

Bar Referral For Statements About Judge

sunEthics has a summary of a recent Florida District Court opinion 

The Third DCA ordered Lawyer to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for violations of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.  The found a reasonable basis to believe that Lawyer violated Rule 4-8.2(a) by making statements that Lawyer knew to be false, or made with reckless disregard, regarding the qualifications or integrity of several judges.  The statements included accusing a named circuit judge of acting with “blatant disregard for the rule of law,” saying that the judge “recently escalated her illegal conduct,” calling an appellate court opinion dishonest, “pretextual and arbitrary.”

  In his response, Lawyer acknowledged that his comments were “unprofessional and unwarranted” and that they were “inappropriate.”  Lawyer “accept[ed] full responsibility for his inappropriate action.”  Lawyer claimed that he had taken steps “to prevent any recurrence.”

If the conduct had been an isolated incident, the appellate court suggested that it may have closed the matter.  But the court had previously sanctioned Lawyer for “similar unprofessional statements.”  See Aquasol Condominium Ass’n, Inc. v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., __ So.3d __ (Fla. 3d DCA, No. 3D17-352, 12/5/2018), 2018 WL 6344710.  In that prior matter, Lawyer asserted that his misconduct was an isolated incident.  In this case, “while admitting his subsequent conduct was unprofessional, he asserts all such unprofessional conduct stopped once he received the prior order to show cause, which acted as a wake- up call to take steps to address the personal issues causing this conduct.”

The incidents at issue in the instant case occurred before the prior order to show cause had been issued.  Nevertheless, the court referred the Lawyer to the Bar:  “[B]ecause we are not in a position to ascertain the veracity of this latest explanation and this latest explanation is inconsistent with the previous one, we formally refer this matter to the Florida Bar for investigation.”  Bank of America, N.A. v. Atkin, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 3d DCA, No. 3D18-1840, 4/10/2019), 2019 WL 1551555.

(Mike Frisch)

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