Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert Update which will discuss the recent Rule 11 Motion For Sanctions for Filing Frivolous Lawsuit filed by the Ticket Clinic Law Firm (Gold and Associates) and the individual defendants. The case is TIKD Services LLC, v. The Florida Bar, et al., Case No. 1:17-cv-24103-MGC (U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida-Miami Division). The Motion for Sanctions is available on the PACER federal document system here: https://www.pacer.gov/login.html (subscription required).
As I previously blogged, TIKD Services, LLC filed the federal lawsuit against The Florida Bar, the Ticket Clinic law firm, and other individuals in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida on November 8, 2017. The TIKD app is set up to allow an individual who has received a traffic citation to upload a photo of the citation and pay a fixed fee. TIKD then retains an attorney to represent that individual and, if that individual receives points against his or her license, TIKD refunds the payment and also pays the cost of the ticket. The TIKD business model is apparently based on the fact that contested traffic tickets are often dismissed or a lower fine is assessed and, since TIKD deals in volume, it can charge a lower price than a lawyer who is separately retained by the individual.
The Florida Bar issued a staff opinion finding that lawyers who work with TIKD and similar programs could be in violation of various Florida Bar ethics rules, including fee splitting and interference with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment; however, TIKD states that its services fully comply with Florida Bar ethics rules and that lawyers who represent the individuals receive a flat fee and are independent practitioners “over whom TIKD does not exercise any direction or control.” A complaint was filed by members of the law firm with The Florida Bar alleging that TIKD was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). That complaint is currently pending and the Bar has recommended further proceedings.
TIKD then filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging conspiracy, restraint of trade, tortious interference with business relationships, and antitrust violations. The defendants include The Florida Bar, attorney Mark S. Good, who founded The Ticket Clinic law firm, and other individuals. According to the Complaint, The Florida Bar advised TIKD that it was opening an unlicensed practice of law investigation into the company’s activities after the company was featured in a Miami Herald story. A few months later, attorneys with The Ticket Clinic, a Miami law firm that handles traffic tickets, threatened to report two of TIKD’s lawyers to The Florida Bar if they continued to work with TIKD.
A state lawsuit was later filed and the parties reached a settlement in that matter; however, TIKD alleges in the Complaint that The Florida Bar and the Ticket Clinic law firm continued to make a “concerted effort” to put it out of business, and that the firm’s lawyers continued filing “baseless ethics complaints” against attorneys who represent TIKD customers.
The recent Motion for Sanctions alleges that the claims against the law firm and the individual defendants are baseless and fail to state a cause of action, that there is no subject matter jurisdiction, that The Florida Bar has immunity, which immunizes the individual defendants, that the individuals have immunity on other grounds, that the lawsuit is frivolous on other grounds, and that the lawsuit should be dismissed and the Plaintiffs should be sanctioned.
Bottom line: As I have previously stated, this is one of the first cases filed in Florida (and possible in any jurisdiction) which directly alleges that a State Bar’s procedures violate the Sherman Antitrust Act in reliance upon the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission. A Motion for Sanctions under Federal Rules of Procedure 11 has now been filed seeking sanctions against TIKD and the dismissal of the Complaint against the law firm and individual defendants.
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.
29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150
Clearwater, Florida 33761
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670