Category Archives: Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction

Florida lawyer accused of “planning” Allied Veterans scam is reinstated nunc pro tunc after criminal charges were reversed

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Order of the Florida Supreme Court reinstating the license of a lawyer who had been charged with felony crimes for allegedly planning Allied Veterans scam and whose conviction was reversed.  The case is The Florida Bar v. Kelly Bernard Mathis, Case No.: SC13-2031 (Supreme Court of Florida, July 17, 2017) and the SC Order is here:  https://efactssc-public.flcourts.org/casedocuments/2013/2031/2013-2031_disposition_138842.pdf

As some of you may recall, an alleged financial scam involving an entity called Allied Veterans, based in St. Augustine, was in the media extensively a number of years ago.  The alleged scam involved gambling and “internet cafes”.  The lawyer had advised Allied Veterans that the internet cafes were legal and, after a law enforcement investigation, he was charged with planning the scam and with multiple felonies.  In 2013, Attorney General Pam Bondi said that the lawyer was the “mastermind” behind the alleged $300 million racketeering and money laundering scheme with internet cafes where people were actually illegally gambling.

Although 57 people were arrested, the lawyer was the only defendant who went to trial.  He argued that he was giving legal advice to a client and many lawyers were concerned about what that might mean for the potential criminal liability of attorneys who advise clients on a future course of conduct.  The former presidents of the nonprofit pleaded no contest and the former Fraternal Order of Police president and vice president pleaded guilty and faced no prison time.

The criminal prosecutors argued that, although Allied Veterans claimed that it was a nonprofit organization created to help veterans, it had only given about two percent of its profits to charitable causes.  The prosecutors also argued that the lawyer’s law firm had billed the nonprofit about $6 million for his legal services, although his lawyers stated the amount was most likely less than that and that he only billed for actual work his firm had performed.

During the trial, prosecutors presented testimony from witnesses who said that they had purchased hundreds of hours of internet time but never used it because they actually came to gamble. The lawyers wanted to argue in the lawyer’s defense that the lawyer had properly advised Allied Veterans that it was his opinion that offering a sweepstakes game that was legal under Florida law, which permits sweepstakes if they are used to bring a customer into a business that sells a legal product, such as McDonald’s sweepstakes.  The judge rejected their request to make that argument.

After his conviction on 103 criminal counts, the lawyer was sentenced to six years in prison.  He appealed and the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, finding that the trial judge improperly prohibited his lawyers from arguing that the internet cafes were legal and not gambling.  The Attorney General’s office decided not to pursue charges against the lawyer after the conviction was reversed.

In disciplinary matter, The Florida Bar did not oppose the lawyer’s reinstatement and Fourth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Mark Mahon issued a report in March 2017 recommending that the Florida Supreme Court immediately reinstate the lawyer.  In its July 17, 2017 Order, the Florida Supreme Court reinstated the lawyer nunc pro tunc to the date of his felony suspension in 2013.

Bottom line:  This lawyer was charged with multiple felonies and chose to go to trial instead of accepting a plea bargain which would not have resulted in prison time; however, the conviction would most likely have resulted in his disbarment.  After his trial in 2013, the lawyer was convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison.  He was also automatically suspended because of the felony conviction.  Pursuant to the Florida Supreme Court’s July 17, 2017 Order, the lawyer was reinstated to practice nunc pro tunc to November 28, 2013, the date of his felony suspension.  The lawyer was ultimately suspended and unable to practice for over 3 ½ years for a conviction that was later reversed.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

29605 U.S. Highway 19, N., Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

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Filed under .S. Supreme Court, and reinstatement, Attorney Ethics, Florida Bar, Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Florida Supreme Court, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, lawyer felony suspension, lawyer nunc pro tunc reinstatement, lawyer reinstatement after criminal conviction reversed

Georgia Supreme Court rejects lawyer’s agreement for reprimand for threatening and improper e-mails in his divorce case

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court rejecting an agreement between a lawyer and the Georgia Bar for a reprimand as a sanction for the lawyer’s “inappropriate threatening language, intimidation and personal attacks directed to opposing counsel” during his divorce case. The case is In the Matter of John Michael Spain, No. S17Y0010 (February 27, 2017) and the Court’s opinion is here:  http://www.gasupreme.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/s17y0010.pdf

The lawyer, who was admitted in Georgia in 1999, sent the e-mails over a period of two days while he was representing himself in his divorce matter.  He pled no contest to misdemeanor charges of stalking and harassing communications related to the e-mails and was sentenced to one year of probation on each count to be served consecutively.

In the agreement with the Georgia Bar, the lawyer admitted that the e-mails included “inappropriate threatening language, intimidation and personal attacks directed to opposing counsel, including inappropriate remarks about counsel and members of her family, and ad hominem statements about his wife.”

The lawyer cited as mitigating factors that he had no prior discipline and that he was suffering from his personal and emotional problems related to the marriage and stated that he has received professional help for his problems and he has retained a lawyer to represent him in the divorce.  He also stated that acted in good faith to rectify the consequences of his conduct by entering the pleas, that he has cooperated fully with the Bar, that his misconduct did not involve his practice or his clients, that he was deeply remorseful and recognized that his conduct was contrary to his professional obligations and longstanding personal values, and that he wished that he could reverse his actions.

The Georgia Bar agreed to the reprimand under the “unique set of circumstances’; however, after reviewing the record and relevant cases, and analyzing the facts, the opinion rejected the petition for voluntary discipline for a reprimand.

Bottom line:  This case involves some allegedly egregious conduct by a lawyer who was representing himself in his own divorce proceeding.  A lawyer is responsible for his or her actions, even if the conduct occurs outside of the representation of a client if they result in violations of the Bar Rules.  This also appears to clearly demonstrate the application of the old proverb, commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln (although likely much older), that: “A man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client”.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

29605 U.S. Highway 19, N., Suite 150

Clearwater, Florida 33761

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer derogatory remarks, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction, Lawyer disparaging statements to opposing counsel in own divorce, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer threatening e-mails, Lawyer threats and discipline

Pennsylvania lawyer agrees to disbarment for forging judge’s name on court order and misspelling it

 

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court disciplinary Order disbarring a lawyer on consent for forging a judge’s name on an Order and misspelling it. The disciplinary case is In the Matter of Stephen P. Ellwood, Docket No. 181 DB 2015 (11/10/15), and the disbarment entry is here:  http://www.padisciplinaryboard.org/look-up/supreme-court-actions.php

According to media reports, the lawyer represented a client in a matter and claimed that he had obtained the $250,000.00 judgment.  The former client then went to another lawyer for assistance in collecting the judgment that he thought he had received; however, the new lawyer noticed that the judge’s name had been misspelled in the order.

After being confronted with the evidence, the lawyer admitted to forging the signature and agreed to two years of probation with 75 hours of community service in a criminal prosecution.  The lawyer then agreed to be disbarred by consent after admitting to forging a judge’s signature on a $250,000.00 judgment.  The media reports are here:  http://www.pennlive.com/news/2015/11/schuylkill_attorney_disbarred.html and here: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lawyer_gets_probation_for_forging_judges_name_on_court_order_and_is_disbarr/

Bottom line: This is a very bizarre example of a lawyer who apparently wanted a client to believe that he had accomplished a positive result and resorted to creating a false judgment, which led to his criminal prosecution and disbarment.

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, Attorney misrepresentation, deceit, dishonesty, fraud, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer disbarment, Lawyer disbarment forging court order, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction, Lawyer discipline forging court order, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer misrepresentation, Lawyer sanctions

Minnesota lawyer suspended for, inter alia, making false and/or misleading statements related to trip which caused missed court dates

 

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss recent Minnesota Supreme Court opinion suspending a lawyer for making false or misleading statements related to a Paris trip which caused her to miss a trial and  court dates.  The opinion is In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Mpatanishi Syanaloli Tayari-Garrett, Case No. A14-0995 (July 1, 2015) and is online here: http://www.mncourts.gov/mncourtsgov/media/Appellate/Supreme%20Court/Standard%20Opinions/OPA140995-070115.pdf

According to the opinion, the lawyer is admitted to practice in Texas and Minnesota.  She requested a continuance of a May 2, 2011 trial for her client in a criminal matter in Minnesota.  Before a hearing was held on the motion, the lawyer had purchased a nonrefundable round-trip airline ticket to attend her brother’s wedding in Paris, France from May 4, 2011 to May 9, 2011.

The trial court denied the lawyer’s motion to continue and another lawyer who showed up on the lawyer’s behalf on the May 2, 2011 trial date said she had informed him that she was hospitalized in Dallas.  The court granted a continuance for one day and ordered the lawyer to provide documentation of the circumstances surrounding her hospitalization and also the arrangements she had made to travel from Dallas to Minneapolis for the May 2, 2011 trial.  The lawyer failed to attend the May 3, 2011 hearing.

The lawyer later provided documents showing that she was hospitalized on May 2, 2011; however, she was released the next day.  On May 4, 2011, she traveled to Paris.  While she was in Paris, the lawyer attended a May 5, 2011 hearing on a motion for an order to show cause as to why she should not be held in contempt by telephone. The lawyer discussed her illness but did not reveal that she was in Paris at that time.  According to the opinion, “(d)uring the hearing, the court scheduled a contempt hearing for May 9.  In response, the lawyer stated, ‘I have a follow-up appointment next week so I cannot, and I believe the Court is aware of that, that I cannot be there on Monday [May 9].’  (The lawyer) did not appear for the May 9 hearing either in person or by telephone.  In fact, at the time of the May 9 hearing, Tayari-Garrett was en route from Paris to Dallas.”

The referee found the lawyer guilty of multiple Bar Rule violations, including committing a criminal act, misrepresentation, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and also found aggravating factors that included lack of remorse and refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of her conduct.  The referee also recommended that the lawyer be indefinitely suspended no right to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of 120 days.

The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the referee’s findings and the suspension is effective 14 days from the date of the filing of the July 1, 2015 opinion.  The lawyer will not be eligible to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of 120 days from the date of the suspension and any reinstatement will be conditional on the lawyer’s successful completion of the professional responsibility portion of the state bar examination and satisfaction of Minnesota continuing legal education requirements.

Bottom line:  According to this opinion, this lawyer failed to appear at a hearing and lied to the court regarding the circumstances surrounding her failure to appear and she was also convicted of a criminal misdemeanor for contempt of court.  She received an indefinite suspension will not be eligible to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of 120 days from the date of the suspension.  This is an example of the application of the quote by Sir Walter Scott in 1808 (often misattributed to Shakespeare), “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.”  Another jurisdiction may well have imposed a harsher sanction.

Don’t do this…and be careful out there.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, Attorney misrepresentation, dishonesty, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer false statements, Lawyer misrepresentation, Lawyer sanctions

Indiana assistant public defender suspended for one year for texting prostitute to a cell telephone in police custody and soliciting prostitution

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Indiana Supreme Court opinion suspending an assistant public defender for one year for, inter alia, sending a text to a person who he believed was a prostitute to a cell telephone in police cust

ody and soliciting that person for prostitution, and then meeting an undercover police officer at a hotel to solicit sex from her.  The opinion is In the Matter of: Christopher A. Hollander, No. 49S00-1402-DI-118 (Ind. SC March 24, 2015) and the link to the disciplinary opinion is here: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/03241501per.pdf

According to the opinion, “H.S., using a fictitious name, had placed an online classified advertisement for escort services that listed her cell phone number.  At some point, H.S. was arrested by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (“IMPD”) for engaging in prostitution.  Respondent had seen and remembered H.S.’s classified advertisement, and when Respondent came across a police report containing the same phone number, he was able to determine specific arrest information regarding H.S. and thereafter identify her.”

The lawyer, who was an assistant public defender, texted that telephone number in November 2012 believing that the text was going to H.S.; however, the telephone was actually in the possession of the Indianapolis police and an officer impersonating the woman responded to the text.  The lawyer told the officer impersonating H.S. that he could help her with her situation and that he would “work with her” with regard to the attorney fees.  The lawyer set up a time to meet the undercover office who he believed to be H.S. and went to a hotel to meet her in December 2012. When the lawyer arrived at the hotel, he tried to hug and kiss the officer impersonating H.S. and made statements indicating that he wanted sex with her in exchange for legal services.

The lawyer and the Indiana Bar stipulated to the facts and to a one year suspension.  In mitigation, “(1) Respondent has no prior discipline; (2) following his arrest, Respondent sought help from the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (“JLAP”), he has been under a JLAP monitoring agreement, and he has been receiving psychological therapy and treatment; (3) Respondent was candid with police immediately following his arrest; and (4) Respondent has expressed remorse for his behavior.

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted the stipulation and suspended the lawyer for a minimum of one year with the requirement that he petition for reinstatement at the end of the suspension period and meet the requirements for reinstatement, which include satisfying “the burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence remorse for his misconduct, a proper understanding of the standards imposed upon members of the bar.”

Bottom line:  This case involves lawyer who apparently abused his position as an assistant public defender to obtain information on an alleged prostitute for purposes of solicitation and then actually solicited an undercover police officer for prostitution at a hotel.   The lawyer had no previous discipline, was fully cooperative, and is receiving psychological therapy and treatment; however, he received a one year rehabilitative suspension for the misconduct.  I am not sure what might be more embarrassing for a lawyer than this type of misconduct and discipline.

Be careful out there (and please don’t do this).

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kentucky lawyer permanently disbarred after pleading guilty to felony “flagrant non-support” for failing to pay over $200,000.00 in child support

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss a recent Kentucky Supreme Court opinion disbarring a lawyer after the lawyer pled guilty to felony “flagrant non-support for failing to pay over $200,000.00 in child support. The case is Kentucky Bar Association v. Daniel Warren James, Case No. 2014-SC-000499-KB (Ky. SC February 19, 2015) and the opinion is here: http://opinions.kycourts.net/sc/2014-SC-000499-KB.pdf.

According to the opinion, the lawyer pled guilty in 2012 to a felony charge of “flagrant non-support”, received 5 years in prison with probation for 10 years and was ordered to pay $233,000.00 in restitution. On February 8, 2013, after the plea was entered, the Kentucky Bar Association Inquiry Commission filed a complaint against the lawyer and he failed to respond.

On March 11, 2014, the Commission filed formal charges against the lawyer. Count I alleged misconduct for committing a criminal act reflecting adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer and Count II alleged misconduct for knowingly failing to respond to the February 8, 2013 complaint. The lawyer again failed to respond and was defaulted.

The lawyer had previously been suspended for five years for a multiple acts of misconduct, including not returning unearned fees, misappropriating client money for personal use, and altering billing statements. The lawyer admitted that misconduct and claimed that it was a result of the discontinuation of medication that he was taking for a mental health condition. As a condition of that suspension, the lawyer agreed to seek treatment through Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program (KYLAP) and to continue treatment as needed during the suspension period.

On August 21, 2014, the Kentucky Board of Governors filed its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendations with the Supreme Court and unanimously recommended that the lawyer be found guilty and that he be permanently disbarred. In aggravation, the Board noted the $233,000.00 child support arrearage that the lawyer had failed to pay over a thirteen year period, his prior discipline, most of which involved the misuse of client funds, and his failure to respond to his clients and the Bar.

The Supreme Court opinion noted that a lawyer in Kentucky had never been disciplined for criminally failing to pay child support; however, it found that the conduct violated the lawyer’s duty “’to conduct (his) personal and professional life in such manner as to be above reproach’. Grigsby v. Kentucky Bar Ass’n, 181 S.W.3d 40, 42 (Ky. 2005). ‘Failing to pay court ordered child support encompasses several breaches, including: failure to satisfy the statutory obligation of supporting one’s child; failure to follow a court order; and violation of the attorney’s duty recognized in Grigsby.’” The lawyer was permanently disbarred.

Bottom line: This sole practitioner apparently had serious mental health issues which destroyed his practice and resulted in his permanent disbarment. All lawyers, especially solos, must address the extreme stress involved in the practice of law and be fully aware of the consequences of personal and professional misconduct (including willful or “flagrant” failure to pay child support) that may be triggered due to the stress of practice (and life) and seek medical help.

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670
jcorsmeier@jac-law.com
http://www.jac-law.com

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, deceit, dishonesty, fraud, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer conduct adversely affecting fitness to practice, Lawyer conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, Lawyer criminal conduct, Lawyer disbarment, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer discipline for criminalconviction, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer flagrant and willful failure to pay child support, Lawyer Professionalism, Lawyer sanctions, Lawyer wilful failure to comply with court order