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Florida Bar Lawyer Grievance and Discipline Process

Lately, there has been a strong push from lawyers, judges, Florida Bar leaders, and the Florida Supreme Court to take a more aggressive stance against professionalism related complaints.



The Bar’s procedure for investigating and prosecuting disciplinary complaints

FEB 1, 2014 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT; JUNE 2, 2021

There are a number of things that can get a lawyer in hot water with The Florida Bar’s Lawyer Regulation Department. While any violation of the rules of professional conduct could warrant a disciplinary complaint, some of the more common transgressions investigated by The Florida Bar include:

* Theft of client funds,

* Misrepresentation and other dishonest conduct,

* Failure to comply with trust accounting rules,

* Commission of a crime (in particular a felony),

* Failure to communicate with clients,

* Lack of diligence/competence,

* Conflicts of interest,

* Improper transactions with clients (for example, naming the lawyer as a beneficiary in a client’s will),

* Charging excessive fees,

* Unprofessional conduct with opposing counsel and disrespect to the judiciary.

Lately, there has been a strong push from lawyers, judges, Florida Bar leaders, and the Florida Supreme Court to take a more aggressive stance against professionalism- related complaints.

If trends continue, I would expect to see the prosecution of these types of complaints to increase in the upcoming years.

Stage 1: Complaint Intake & Preliminary Investigation

The process starts when the Bar receives a complaint against a lawyer. Clients, opposing counsel, or judges may file complaints, or the Bar may discover potential misconduct through other means, such as media reports or notice of a bounced check from a lawyer’s bank.

Not all of the thousands of inquiries and complaints the Bar receives each year are prosecuted.

After a complaint is submitted to the Bar, but before charges are filed, intake counsel conducts a preliminary investigation.

If intake counsel determines that the allegations do not warrant discipline, then the case is closed immediately without further action against the attorney.

However, if intake counsel determines that the facts alleged would constitute a violation warranting discipline, then counsel opens a file, notifies the accused attorney, and requests a response within 15 days.

Over the past five years, an average of nearly 7,600 cases each year make it to this stage.

After receiving the lawyer’s response, intake counsel can close the file if the facts do not support going forward.

However, if further investigation is warranted or if the lawyer fails to respond, then intake counsel will forward the case to the Bar’s branch office covering the judicial circuit where the lawyer practices.

The Florida Bar has branch offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami.

Stage 2: Branch Investigation

Once the branch receives the case, it is assigned to Bar counsel who will conduct a factual analysis of the case.

Bar counsel will close the case if disciplinary measures are not warranted.

For relatively minor transgressions, Bar counsel can recommend diversion, in which case the grievance committee can divert the case to a practice and professionalism enhancement program in lieu of disciplinary sanctions.

Diversionary measures can include requiring the respondent to complete ethics school, a trust and accounting workshop, a stress management workshop or an advertising workshop, enter into a contract with Law Office Management Assistance Service (LOMAS) for practice management assistance, or enter into a rehabilitative contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., (FLA, Inc.).

Diversion is not considered “discipline,” which would stay on the attorney’s permanent record.

Finally, if Bar counsel determines that there are sufficient grounds to go forward with prosecution, the complaint is forwarded to a grievance committee in the accused lawyer’s judicial circuit for additional investigation, and The Florida Bar becomes the complainant/prosecutor in the case.

Stage 3: Grievance Committee Process

There are 81 local grievance committees across Florida – at least one in each of the state’s 20 judicial circuits. Each circuit’s grievance committees are comprised of lawyers and public members living in that circuit. The grievance committees serve like a grand jury, and are charged with further factual investigation and determining whether there is probable cause that a disciplinary violation occurred.

The grievance committee chair will assign the case to one of the committee members, who will serve as the case’s investigating member. After interviewing witnesses and reviewing evidence, the investigating member will make a recommendation to the grievance committee.

Following a hearing, the grievance committee has a number of options. The grievance committee can:

* Find no probable cause, or no probable cause with a letter of advice, which ends the case with no discipline;

* Recommend mediation or arbitration of a fee dispute;

* Issue a finding of minor misconduct, which includes an admonishment;

* Recommend diversion to a practice and professionalism enhancement program;

* Recommend deferral of grievance committee review until the conclusion of a parallel criminal or civil case against the accused; and

* Find probable cause, which sends the case to trial.

Grievance committee investigations can take from three to six months, and in some cases even longer, depending on the complexity of the case.

Stage 4: Trial

Following a probable cause finding by the grievance committee, Bar counsel will draft a formal complaint and file it with the Florida Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court then appoints a circuit or county judge in the respondent’s circuit to serve as the referee for the case.

For cases not disposed of pretrial (such as by motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment), the referee conducts a trial of the case, and hears witnesses and receives other evidence.

The referee then issues a report that contains factual and legal findings, a recommendation of guilt or innocence, and a recommendation of the appropriate sanctions.

The referee’s recommendations are not final until approved by the Supreme Court. Once the report of referee is filed with the Supreme Court, it is reviewed by the Board of Governors.

The Board of Governors and the respondent each have 60 days to appeal a referee’s decision.


Stage 5: Board of Governors Review

The Board of Governors oversees the prosecution and appeals of disciplinary cases at all stages in the process. The Board of Governors can overturn a decision to close a disciplinary file, reviews grievance committee actions, and reviews reports of referees from disciplinary trials and petitions for reinstatement and decides whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The initial review occurs with the designated reviewer — the Board of Governors member from the respondent’s circuit assigned to review that specific case through all stages. The designated reviewer can refer matters to the Board of Governors for review. In addition, even if the designated reviewer agrees with an underlying decision, any single Board of Governors member can request review and debate of a disciplinary case by the board.

When review of any disciplinary matter by the Board of Governors is requested, the review first occurs in the Disciplinary Review Committee (DRC) which, with 26 members, is the largest committee of the Board of Governors.

The DRC meets before each of the six Board of Governors meetings each year to review all the disciplinary cases, and to debate those cases referred by designated reviewers or other board members, as well as cases where there is a disagreement between any of the designated reviewer, Bar Counsel and the referee.

The DRC typically reviews between 25 to 40 discipline cases each meeting, and the agenda often contains more than 500 pages of materials for review by the members. The DRC makes recommendations to the Board of Governors, which then votes as a whole on the DRC’s recommendations.

Board Review of Grievance Committee Decisions:

After the grievance committee makes its decision on probable cause, minor misconduct, or referral to diversion, the findings are forwarded to the designated reviewer.

If the designated reviewer disagrees with the grievance committee’s findings, the designated reviewer can send the matter back to the grievance committee for another review, or can request review by the Board of Governors.

The board can overturn a grievance committee’s findings and enter a finding of probable cause, no probable cause or minor misconduct, or the board can order diversion.

Board Review of Consent Judgments, Disbarments on Consent, and Disciplinary Revocations:

After probable cause is found but prior to trial, Bar counsel and the respondent can enter into a proposed consent judgment (like a plea agreement) to resolve the discipline, including disbarments on consent and disciplinary revocations (the voluntary surrender of a license while disciplinary proceedings are pending, which is tantamount to disbarment).

The consent judgment will include a guilty plea, proposed sanctions, and other requirements. Proposed consent judgments are reviewed by the Board of Governors, which can accept or reject a consent judgment, or can condition its acceptance on imposing additional conditions.

Consent judgments approved by the Board of Governors are tendered to the referee, and if approved by the referee, filed with the Supreme Court for consideration.

If a consent judgment is not accepted by both the board and the referee, then the case proceeds to trial.

Board Review of Reports of Referee:

Referees’ decisions following trial, pretrial dispositive orders (such as dismissal or summary judgment), and recommendations regarding reinstatement of a suspended lawyer are reviewed by the Board of Governors.

If the board disagrees with any aspect of the referee’s decision, including recommendations of guilt or innocence, recommended sanctions, or recommendations regarding reinstatement of a suspended lawyer, then the Board of Governors can seek review by the Supreme Court.

Final Stage: Florida Supreme Court Review

The Florida Supreme Court is the ultimate and final authority on lawyer discipline matters. The Supreme Court reviews consent judgments and referee decisions from disciplinary trials or reinstatement petitions. If either the Board of Governors or the respondent petition for review of a report of referee, then the matter is briefed. If neither the board nor the respondent petitions for review of the report of referee, then the Supreme Court will conduct its review of the report of referee without briefs unless the court requests briefing.

The Supreme Court can approve or disapprove any aspect of the report of referee, including findings of guilt or innocence or recommendation sanctions. The disciplinary sanctions ordered by the Supreme Court may be harsher or more lenient than the discipline recommended by the referee. The Supreme Court’s decision on guilt or innocence and the ultimate sanction imposed, if any, is final.

The Supreme Court’s orders are enforced through the court’s contempt powers. For example, if a lawyer is accused of practicing law while suspended, the suspended lawyer will be brought before the court on a petition for contempt and new discipline may be imposed. Such discipline is typically increasingly harsh. Thus, a lawyer who is suspended, if found guilty of contempt, may be disbarred. A disbarred lawyer who is caught practicing law may be permanently disbarred and/or face additional contempt sanctions.


While every jurisdiction has its own process and procedures for regulating its attorneys, The Florida Bar’s disciplinary system has many participants and levels of review.

Florida Bar attorneys and professional staff, county and circuit court judges, Supreme Court justices, and a number of volunteers — from the lawyers and public members who serve on the grievance committees to the members of the DRC and the Board of Governors

— spend a substantial amount of time dedicated to ensuring fairness and integrity in the process for the profession, the public, and the respondent.

Special thanks to Ken Marvin, retired director of Lawyer Regulation, and Arne Vanstrum, associate director of Lawyer Regulation, for their contributions to this article.

Brian D. Burgoon has served as an out-of-state member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors since 2000, served as 2013-14 chair of The Florida Bar Disciplinary Review Committee, and served on The Florida Bar Executive Committee. He also served as a member of the statewide Hawkins Commission on Review of the Discipline System.

He practices business litigation, civil litigation, and personal injury with The Burgoon Law Firm in Atlanta. If you have questions about filing a complaint against a lawyer, you may contact the Florida Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) hotline at toll free 1-866-352-0707.


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Editors Choice

The Senate Judiciary Committee Has a Responsibility to Forcefully Reject this Judicial Overreach

LIF and LIT has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that there are many rogue judges on our Federal Benches. This request is in direct violation of the US Constitution.



Principles for Federal Judicial Privacy Legislation
Protection of Judges’ Personally Identifiable Information

Further to our article on Judges wanting God Status and Protection from Scrutiny by Tax Payers and Citizens, the following article transcribes the letter circulating congress and the Judicial Senate Committee…

September 4, 2020
Honorable Lindsey Graham Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

In my August 19, 2020 letter to House and Senate leadership, I outlined six recommendations approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States to improve judicial security.

That letter was prompted by the July 2020 attack on the family of United States District Court Judge Esther Salas that resulted in the murder of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, and the critical wounding of her husband, Mark.

Unfortunately, too many others in our judicial family have experienced similar tragedy and grief. The murders of United States District Judge John Wood (1979), United States District Judge Richard Daronco (1988), United States Circuit Judge Robert Vance (1989), United States District Judge John Roll (2011), family members of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow (2005), and now the son of United States District Judge Esther Salas were tragic targeted attacks against federal judges and their families.

Unfortunately, threats have greatly multiplied over the past five years and require immediate legislative action to enhance security protections.

Among the recommendations approved by the Judicial Conference is to seek legislation to enhance the protection of judges’ personally identifiable information (PII), particularly on the internet.

Another recommendation is to seek legislation to eliminate the sunset provision in 5 U.S.C. app. § 105(b)(3)(E), which grants the Judicial Conference authority to redact financial disclosure reports.

Other recommendations are for additional appropriations – for the upgrade, installation, and continued sustainment of the Home Intrusion Detection Systems program; for additional deputy U.S. Marshals; and for the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to fund the required upgrades for courthouse security camera systems.

A final recommendation is to support the development of a resource to monitor the public availability of judges’ PII, inform judges of security vulnerabilities created by this information, and where necessary, advise the appropriate law enforcement of an inappropriate communication.

James C. Duff


Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Honorable Cory Booker
Honorable Bob Menendez

The judiciary supports the protection of and prevention of unauthorized release of personally identifiable information of federal judicial officers and their immediate families (“Judges’ Personally Identifiable Information” or “JPII”), particularly such information that is available and distributed through the internet. “Immediate family” includes a judicial officer’s spouse, child, parent, or any blood relative of the judicial officer or the judicial officer’s spouse who lives in the same residence as the judicial officer.

The goal of this legislation is to ensure that federal judicial officers are able to administer justice fairly without fear of personal reprisal from individuals affected by decisions made in the course of carrying out their professional duties. The purposes of the legislation are to remove and/or limit access to JPII from publicly displayed records, as well as to prohibit any person, business, association, or agency from posting, displaying, selling, sharing, transferring, or trading JPII with others. Federal privacy legislation shall not be construed to impair free access to decisions and opinions expressed by judicial officers in the course of carrying out their public duties.
The judiciary recommends enactment of federal legislation that incorporates the following:

1. PROTECTION OF FEDERAL JUDICIAL OFFICERS including the Chief Justice of the United States; the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States; judges of the United States courts of appeals; district judges and magistrate judges of the United States district courts, including the district courts in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands; judges of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Court of International Trade, United States Bankruptcy courts, United States Court of Federal Claims, and any court created by Act of Congress, the judges of which are entitled to hold office during good behavior. The legislation shall extend to any individual identified above, whether in active, senior, recalled, or retired status, as well as any individual whose nomination to a position listed above has been transmitted by the President of the United States to the United States Senate and whose nomination remains pending before the United States Senate.

2. PROTECTION OF PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION of judicial officers and their immediate family members, to include but not be limited to the primary home address; date of birth; social security number; driver’s license number; voter registration information that includes a home address; bank account and credit or debit card information; property tax records and any property ownership records, including a secondary residence and any investment property; birth and marriage records; marital status; personal email addresses; home or mobile phone number; vehicle registration information; family member’s employer, daycare, or school; personal photographs or photographs of a judicial officer’s home; religious, organization, club, or association memberships; identification of children under the age of 18; and any other unique biometric data or piece of information that can be used to identify an individual.

3. PROHIBITION OF PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION OF JPII BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY. Federal government agencies shall have an affirmative duty to prevent the public disclosure of JPII, and upon written request shall remove restricted JPII from internet sites or publicly accessible federal government databases within 48-72 hours of the request.

4. MANDATORY REMOVAL OR REDACTION OF JPII UPON WRITTEN REQUEST SERVED ON ANY PERSON, BUSINESS, ASSOCIATION, OR AGENCY. Upon written request, a person, business, association or agency must, within 48-72 hours of receipt of the request, redact from the public record any existing JPII and may not thereafter knowingly post, display, sell, share, trade or transfer JPII, including publicly accessible and displayed content. No person, business or association shall solicit JPII with intent to do harm to a judicial officer or immediate family member. The written request by a judicial officer, or his or her representative, to remove and/or to redact from the public record JPII of the judicial officer or an immediate family member shall not require a showing of fear of harm or immediate threat and shall remain effective until revocation of the request by the judicial officer or a surviving immediate family member.

5. ENFORCEMENT/REMEDIES shall include a private right of action (including injunctive or declaratory relief), civil enforcement authority by an appropriate federal department or regulatory agency, and limited criminal enforcement authority.

6. PREEMPTION OF STATE LAWS. Federal legislation must mandate and/or provide incentives for the protection of JPII held at the state/county/local level – at a minimum including motor vehicle registration and driver’s license information; real estate transaction and property tax records; and voter registration information that includes a home address. Restricted JPII of federal judicial officers and immediate family members must be exempt from state public information laws. Federal legislation might include grant programs to assist states in complying with these provisions.

Permanent Authority to Redact Sensitive Security Information from Judicial Financial Disclosure Reports



Section 105(b)(3) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.) is amended by striking subparagraph (E).


• The Judicial Conference of the United States seeks legislation to eliminate the sunset provision in 5 U.S.C. app. § 105(b)(3)(E), which grants the Judicial Conference authority to redact financial disclosure reports.

• The need to provide permanent redaction authority is a sensitive security matter. A lapse in redaction authority, which has occurred in the past, creates significant security risks to judges and judiciary employees. Federal judges and judiciary employees, like probation officers, routinely interact with disgruntled litigants and convicted criminals who may bear grudges against them. Without redaction authority, these individuals will be able to learn sensitive information such as the unsecured locations of judges, employees, and their families. Redaction of this sensitive information protects these public servants and their families from harm.

• Judges and certain judicial employees are required to file financial disclosure reports under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended. Congress has recognized judges and judicial employees have been the subject of assault, threats and harassment. Accordingly, Congress enacted legislation that grants the Judiciary the authority to redact certain statutorily required information in a financial disclosure report in limited instances when the release of the information could endanger a judicial officer or employee or his or her family (The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, Section 7, P.L. 105-318, October 30, 1998.) We thank the Congress for their past support of this critical safeguard.

• Congress has extended the authority to redact six times since 1998. In 2012, Congress passed an extension of the sunset provision through December 31, 2017. Unfortunately, the redaction authority expired on January 1, 2018 because Congress did not take final action on eliminating the sunset provision or renewing the authority. It wasn’t until March 23, 2018, upon enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 that redaction authority was again extended to December 31, 2027.

• Congress previously has indicated support for legislation to make this authority permanent. As noted in House Report 115-332, the House has consistently supported permanent reauthorization of redaction authority. The House passed permanent redaction authority in 2011 by a vote of 384-0. In October 2017, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs favorably reported to the Senate S. 1584 which provided for permanent redaction authority (see Senate Report 115-172.)

• The Judicial Conference uses its redaction authority carefully and reasonably. Each year a very small percentage of the financial disclosure reports filed contain an approved redaction of some information in the report. In 2019, 4,379 individuals employed in the judicial branch were required to file a financial report and 155 filers, or just 3.5 per cent, requested redaction. Of those, 150 requests were granted in full or in part. Of the 34,612 reports released to the public, only 1,970 contained partial redactions. Although only a small percentage of reports released to the public are approved for any redactions, the written application to examine a financial disclosure report and the ability to withhold sensitive information remain important protections for the judicial officers and employees who are most at risk for facing serious threats and inappropriate communications.


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Editors Choice

Judges Want to Throw You In Jail if You Share Any Personal Information About Them

And the reason the Judiciary want this is so that blogs like LIT and LIF are unable to share the corruption within the third branch of government.



Judges propose making disclosure of their personal details a crime

The request to Congress raises serious First Amendment and transparency concerns, critics said.

SEP 24, 2020 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 20, 2021

Judges are public officials, not God. We The People cannot allow this request to be pushed through Congress – if you value democracy and a hint of a fair trial in courts in this country.

Judges are not forced into these positions, they choose to be in the profession and they are supposed to follow the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, which includes the First Amendment. In short, Judges should not receive any preferential security not available to a citizen of the United States of America.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a top contender on President Donald Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court, has drawn widespread media attention for her reported membership in People of Praise, a largely Catholic, charismatic religious group.

Another shortlister, Judge Barbara Lagoa, is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Her husband, Paul Huck, is an attorney at Jones Day, a law firm with close ties to the White House and throughout the Trump administration.

Those details — readily found in numerous news stories about the potential SCOTUS nominees — could become illegal for media outlets or anyone else to publish on the internet under a proposal federal judges sent to Congress earlier this month.

Under the suggested legislation, lawmakers would grant judges extraordinary latitude to decide what personal information to exclude from the public eye.

Critics say the effort — framed as an attempt to protect the physical safety of judges and their families — is on a collision course with the First Amendment.

It could also complicate efforts to vet judicial nominees and to assess their conflicts of interest after taking the bench, lawyers say.

The new push to lock down a broad swath of personal information about judges was prompted by a tragic incident in July, in which the son and husband of a New Jersey-based U.S. District Court judge were shot at the doorway of her home — apparently by a deranged attorney who may have been angry over the slow pace of a suit he’d brought challenging the exclusion of women from draft registration.

Federal judges handling high-profile cases in Washington have also experienced threats. Last month, a Long Island, New York man was indicted for leaving a voice mail message containing a vivid threat to kill U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has been handling the politically contentious prosecution of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The caller also threatened “cutting down” Sullivan’s staff.

On Sept. 4, a group representing federal judges — the executive committee of the Judicial Conference — sent congressional leaders an urgent request seeking “immediate legislative action” to head off future violence and stem a rising tide of threats against judges and their families.

“We are seeking legislation to enhance protection and prevention of unauthorized release of judges’ and immediate family [personal information] particularly on the internet,”

U.S. District Court Judge Claire Eagan told reporters last week following a virtual meeting of the Judicial Conference.

“There is so much talk about cases and about judges, on the internet, that contains personal information.”

Eagan also said the courts are also looking to set up a system to “monitor proactively” personal information and threats to them online and elsewhere.

The letter sent to House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders did not contain specific legislative language, but did offer a non-exclusive laundry list of information judges want authority to suppress.

It includes judges’ home addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account details, home and mobile phone numbers and vehicle registrations.

However, the list also covers details on judges’ “investment property,” any “family member’s employer,” and “religious, organization, club, or association memberships.”

The proposal urges Congress to create a legally mandatory takedown mechanism that would give anyone 48-72 hours to remove such details “from the public record” if a judge requests their deletion.

The Judicial Conference asked lawmakers to give judges and the government the right to sue to force compliance. The proposal also called for “limited criminal enforcement authority.”

“We’re asking that the legislation require that when a written request by a judge or his or her representative is submitted, this will result in a mandatory redaction or removal of the personal information,” Eagan said.

By its terms, the proposal would apply not only to sitting and retired judges, but to all judicial nominees as long as their nominations are pending before the Senate.

Advocates for court transparency called the proposal a dramatic overreach by the judiciary.

“What they’re saying is the First Amendment doesn’t apply to judges, which is just awful,”

said Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, which advocates for openness at court proceedings and on details about judges’ financial ties.

“Obviously, I’m very sympathetic to the concerns about attacks on public officials, especially judges, [but] I can’t imagine that any lawmaker would take this seriously.”

Legal experts also expressed doubt about whether the provision would meet First Amendment standards, despite the fact that it originated with a panel of federal judges.

“My hope is this is going to get tightened up,”

said University of California at Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh.

“It would need to be narrowed considerably in order to survive a challenge under the First Amendment.”

Volokh said that while some of the information would almost never be of public concern, a number of the items on the judicial list could be relevant to whether a judge is being fair or has the appearance of doing so.

“People need to be able to talk about whether a judge needs to recuse due to some conflict of interest,” Volokh added. “These are perfectly legitimate things for people to talk about.”

However, the plan to protect judges’ personal information has one extraordinarily impassioned and powerful voice backing it:

Esther Salas, the New Jersey judge who recently lost her son and saw her husband wounded.

“I am asking everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain,”

she said in an emotional video statement released last month.

“We may not be able to stop something like this from happening again, but we can make it hard for those who target us to track us down.”

“The free flow of information from the internet allowed this sick an depraved human being to find all our personal information and target us,”

the judge declared.

“In my case, the monster knew where I lived and what church we attended and had a complete dossier on me and my family. At the moment, there is nothing we can do to stop it and that is unacceptable.”

The plan the judiciary has offered would appear to give judges greater protection for their personal details than executive branch officials or lawmakers currently receive.

A federal law passed in 2008 makes it a crime to disclose a narrower set of personal information about federal officials, including lawmakers and judges.

It covers only the sharing of a Social Security number, home address, home or mobile phone number, personal email or home fax number.

In addition, under current law, disclosure is only a crime if the release is part of an effort to threaten, intimidate or incite a crime of violence against an official or his or her family.

The statute was used in 2018 to prosecute a former Democratic Senate staffer who released several GOP senators’ home addresses and phone numbers online out of anger at their handling of the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.

The judicial proposal seeks to drop the intent requirement and significantly expand the scope of what’s deemed personal information.

Some experts said the nature of the internet does call for placing greater limits on the kind of personal information the public can access about judges and other officials.

“This makes sense to me—to limit the amount of personally identifiable information for both executive branch officials and judicial officials that is available both on the internet and to eight billion people around the world,”

said former State Department legal adviser John Bellinger.

“It shouldn’t just be put up on the internet for anyone to see.”

Bellinger was a vocal opponent of a law Congress passed in 2012 that would have automatically posted many federal employee financial disclosures and investment transactions online.

The law was aimed at cracking down on insider trading, but it drew an outcry from employees across the government who said they feared identity theft, financial scams and even targeting by hostile foreign intelligence agencies.

President Barack Obama signed a repeal of many of the requirements the following year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee routinely asks judicial nominees to list all associations and clubs they belong to and to detail whether any of them discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin.

Under the new proposal, those answers could also be put off limits by a judge as personal information. Even if the questions were asked, the answers could be scrubbed before a questionnaire is made public.

Bellinger said criticism of some items on the list judges want to protect sounded “fair” and added he would oppose language that allowed judges to prevent disclosure of their membership in professional groups.

“You shouldn’t be able to hide something like that,” the attorney said. “I don’t know quite how you strike the balance. … The balance has to be struck in a different place in 2020 than it was struck maybe 50 years ago.”

The judiciary has struggled to find that balance in the internet era. In 1999, the crime news site sued the court system after it refused to comply with the site’s request for financial disclosures on every federal judge.

A judicial committee said it feared that posting the information on the internet could expose judges to harm, but Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the broader Judicial Conference eventually reversed that position and released the records.

The lawyer who brought the suit two decades ago, Mark Zaid, said he’s sympathetic to Salas’ concerns and those of other judges. Earlier this year, a Michigan man was indicted for threatening to kill Zaid, apparently over his role representing a key figure in the Trump impeachment saga.

However, Zaid said trying to suppress websites with information about judges seems misguided.

“It’s tricky and difficult and I’m not sure this is the right way to go about it,” said Zaid, who often represents journalists, including from POLITICO.

“We should be careful in the wake of tragedy not to go too far in terms of trying to do the right thing.”

Even some parts of the new proposal unlikely to draw much objection, like protecting details about judges’ and nominees’ minor children, could be tricky to enforce.

Children and family members of nominees have often been introduced by them at confirmation hearings that are open to the public and streamed on the internet, but under the proposal that, too, could be subject to a takedown order and might even be stricken from official transcripts of the event.

Judges’ children might sometimes be legitimate subjects of news coverage, Volokh said.

“You hear stories sometimes that a judge’s child was involved in some crime and then the charges are dropped and then the question is asked: Did he get a sweetheart deal? It’s very hard to talk about that without any identification of the child,” the professor said.

The judiciary is also seeking $524 million to improve security systems at judges’ homes, upgrade video surveillance at courthouses and add 1,000 new deputy marshals.

Spokespeople for House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders did not respond to requests for comment on the judges’ proposal.

A spokesman for the federal courts, David Sellers, stressed to POLITICO Wednesday that the letter presented an initial round of suggestions and no formal legislative language. He also insisted there is no intent to limit legitimate debate about judicial nominees or court rulings.

“This is very early in the conversation,” Sellers said.

“These are broad principles that are the beginning of a conversation with our Congressional contacts. … Nobody’s goal is to limit transparency that’s needed in assessing judicial nominations or judges in any other capacity. It’s to safeguard the personal data that often is associated with it.”


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First Amendment

Fla. Bar v. Dupee, 160 So. 3d 838 (Fla. 2015)

Concealing a document even temporarily, and even when the information may be available to opposing counsel by other means or from other sources, has been held to be misconduct.



Defund The Florida Bar, Sovereign Immunity is Simply Ochlocracy

For the Burkes Original Complaint Against Ms Catalina Azuero, you can visit this link. It took 6 months and two reminders from the Burkes to obtain this reply full of lies and contradictions as to the reason the Fl. Bar exists.

The Burkes furnished the Bar with many case citations in their complaint against the Greedy Goodwin Lawyer, including the case below which is exactly the case against Azuero. Yet the Fl. Bar found no violations for the BigLaw Lawyer who works for Wall Street Banks and NonBanks.

This is corruption at it’s most obvious. It’s time to put an end to State Bars and the lawlessness therein.

However, we are releasing this Florida Bar response immediately, as it is essential the public in Florida and indeed the United States is aware of the deep level of lawlessness in our courts.

It is up to the people if they are willing to be sacrificed and slaughtered for Billionaires, Wall St and the BigLaw lyin’ legal counsel they hire for their own financial gain. They want to take ownership of affordable housing, your families future in any real estate holding along with your liberty and freedom. The Constitution does not apply in America in today’s government.

JUN 2, 2021


We have for review a referee’s report recommending that Respondent Zana Holley Dupee be found guilty of professional misconduct and be suspended from the practice of law for ninety days followed by two years’ probation. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 15, Fla . Const. Due to the serious nature of the misconduct, we find that more severe discipline is required and suspend Respondent from the practice of law for one year.


The Florida Bar filed a complaint against Respondent alleging multiple counts of professional misconduct.

The Court referred the complaint to a referee, who conducted disciplinary proceedings including an evidentiary hearing and submitted a report including findings of fact, recommendations as to guilt, and recommendations as to discipline.

The Referee’s Findings of Fact

The referee made the following findings of fact. Respondent represented the wife in a dissolution of marriage action filed by the client’s husband in July 2010.

Respondent’s client had a credit union account in her name only with over $480,000 in it.

After the dissolution action was filed and after meeting with Respondent to discuss representation, the client withdrew the money in the account, closed the account, and had the credit union issue a cashier’s check in the amount of $482,980.46, payable to “Parenting Education Charitable Trust.”

Respondent had suggested the name to use on the check, became aware of the existence of the check shortly after its issuance, and knew that no charitable trust by that name existed. This check was never negotiated and remained in the client’s possession for the next eleven months, until she redeposited it into a new account at the same credit union and then moved it to an already existing account at a bank.

Because the named payee was fictitious and the check was never negotiated, the money represented by the cashier’s check remained the property of Respondent’s client. See § 673.4041(2), Fla . Stat. (2014).

In late August and early September 2010, respectively, the husband’s attorney served on Respondent a request for production and standard family law interrogatories.

Respondent did not provide timely responses to these discovery requests. The husband’s counsel filed a motion to compel, which the trial court granted.

In December 2010, Respondent served answers to the standard family law interrogatories and a written response to the husband’s request for production. She also filed a family law financial affidavit signed by the wife.

The only cash asset listed in the financial affidavit as being in the wife’s name only was a checking account containing $16,285.40. The affidavit did not mention the cashier’s check then in the wife’s possession.

The affidavit was therefore false and Respondent submitted it to the court knowing that it was false.

In the wife’s answers to the standard family law interrogatories, under the category “assets,” subcategory “intangible personal property” (item 4c), the answer stated,

“No items other than the financial account listed in the Wife’s Financial Affidavit.”

By stating that the wife’s only intangible personal property was the account listed in the affidavit,

the answer Respondent served on behalf of the wife was false and Respondent knew it was false.

Item 4e called for disclosure of “financial accounts,” and the answer read,

“These are listed in the Wife’s Financial Affidavit. Copies of statements are also included in the documents being produced in response to Husband’s Request to Produce.” Item 4f called for “closed financial accounts.”

The answer read,

“Copies of statements are included in the documents being produced in response to Husband’s Request to Produce.”

The answers to items 4e and 4f were incomplete and misleading. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.340, Interrogatories to Parties, provides that interrogatory answers that refer to other records must be “in sufficient detail to permit the interrogating party to locate and to identify, as readily as can the party interrogated, the records from which the answer may be derived or ascertained.”

Respondent knowingly failed to provide truthful and complete disclosure of material information sought in discovery.

The request to produce, in item 6, asked for banking information for the previous four years in three categories, “accounts,” “records,” and “checks and money orders.”

The request specified the husband’s attorney’s office as the place of production.

The response served by Respondent on behalf of the wife stated, “The following disclosures and documents as set out below are available for inspection and copying at the office of the undersigned.”

The responses to items 6a and 6b, which requested bank account information and records, stated that bank account records, including those for the previously mentioned credit union account, were “available for inspection and copying at the office of the undersigned.”

No response was provided for item 6c, which requested “all cashier’s checks, money orders, or certified checks, in your possession or under your control.”

Although the husband’s request to produce specified the husband’s counsel’s office as the place of production and the husband’s motion to compel compliance had been granted in December 2010, Respondent did not produce the requested items until September and October of 2011.

Respondent did not object to the specified place of production or seek a protective order. Under Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.285, Mandatory Disclosure, Respondent was required to produce the requested documents, including the cashier’s check.

She knowingly failed or refused to produce documents in response to the request for production.

While the dissolution proceeding was pending, Respondent submitted to counsel for the husband a proposed settlement agreement. The proposal included dispositions of various items and categories of the parties’ assets and provided that the wife would receive all funds in accounts held solely in her name.

This proposal was delivered at a time when Respondent’s client still held the undisclosed cashier’s check in an amount exceeding $480,000.

On September 9, 2011, the husband’s attorney took the wife’s deposition. Respondent was present.

Knowing that some years earlier, the husband had transferred $100,000 to the wife as a conciliation following some marital discord, the husband’s attorney asked her if she still had that money.

The questioning brought out testimony that the wife had withdrawn the money from the account where she had it, along with other money in the account, and had a check issued “for charity,” after which she changed her mind about donating the money to charity and redeposited it in a new account.

When the husband’s attorney asked her how much money she had in the account, she said she could not recall.

When he asked her whether it was less than $200,000, she said she could not recall.

This was about one month after she had redeposited the proceeds of the cashier’s check to an account at the credit union, shortly after which she moved it to an existing account at a bank.

When her client testified in deposition, in Respondent’s presence, that she did not know whether the cashier’s check was written for an amount that was less than $200,000,

the testimony was false, and Respondent knew it was false.

The wife’s testimony that the funds had been withdrawn from the account for the purpose of making a donation to a charity was also false because, as Respondent knew, her client had never intended to use the money to fund a trust or make a charitable donation.

The referee found that Respondent failed to take any action to correct her client’s false testimony so as to prevent the possibility of committing a fraud on the court.

After the deposition testimony in which the wife disclosed that she had withdrawn an unspecified amount of money, but at least $100,000, from her credit union account and had a check issued “for charity,” which she later redeposited, the husband’s attorney scheduled a hearing on his then pending motions to compel discovery.

On the eve of the scheduled hearing date, September 20, 2011, Respondent delivered to the husband’s counsel a box of documents which she said contained items responsive to his original request for production filed more than a year earlier.

Then, in October, the wife signed and Respondent served a corrected financial affidavit, which disclosed that the wife’s checking account balance was $437,422.04.

This money was derived from the proceeds of the redeposited cashier’s check, some of the money having been spent in the interim. Before he had seen the corrected financial affidavit, the husband’s attorney called Respondent to ask if she could tell him the source of the interest income the wife had reported on her 2010 tax return.

That same day, Respondent delivered copies of additional records, including those showing the existence of the former credit union account and the issuance of the cashier’s check.

After the final judgment was entered in the dissolution case, the court allowed the former husband to visit the former marital home for the purpose of retrieving personal items that had been awarded to him as nonmarital property but not yet given to him.

One item on his list of personal items was described as a “coin collection from childhood in fireproof safe in study.”

When he went to the home to get the item, he could not find it. The former wife, who disputed his ownership of any coins, had removed some coins from the home and given them to Respondent so the former husband would not be able to take them.

Respondent did not disclose that she had the coins until she was ordered to produce them in a postjudgment contempt proceeding.

When she received the coins from her client, Respondent knew that the husband had asserted or might assert a claim to the coins or at least some of them.

Referee’s Recommendations as to Guilt

The referee recommends that Respondent be found guilty of the following rule violations: Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 3–4.3

(“The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice … may constitute a cause for discipline.”);

rule 4–3.3 (a)(1)

(a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement made to a tribunal)

and 4–3.3 (b)

(a lawyer representing a client in a proceeding who knows that a person is engaging or has engaged in fraudulent conduct shall take reasonable remedial measures);

rule 4–3.4(a)–(d)

(a lawyer must not obstruct a party’s access to evidence, conceal material that is relevant to a proceeding or counsel or assist another to do so, fabricate evidence or counsel or assist a witness to testify falsely, disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal , or fail to comply with a proper discovery request);

rule 4–4.1

(in representing a client a lawyer shall not make a false statement to a third person or fail to disclose facts to a third person when necessary to avoid assisting in a criminal or fraudulent act);

rule 4–8.4(a)

(“A lawyer shall not violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another.”);

rule 4–8.4(c)

(“A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation….”);

and rule 5–1.1(e)–(f)

(upon receipt of property in which another person has or claims an interest, a lawyer shall treat the property as trust property and notify the claimant of receipt of the property).

Referee’s Recommendation as to Discipline

The referee recommends that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for ninety days and that upon reinstatement she be placed on probation for two years with the conditions that she be required to attend Ethics School and a professionalism workshop. The referee also recommends that the cost of the Bar’s investigation and prosecution of this matter be charged to Respondent.

Petitions for Review

Respondent seeks review of the referee’s report, challenging the referee’s findings of fact, the referee’s recommendations as to guilt, and the recommended discipline. Respondent argues that she should not be disciplined or, in the alternative, that the record supports only a finding of negligent misconduct justifying disciplinary measures less severe than those recommended by the referee.

The Bar has also filed a petition for review and argues that the proven misconduct calls for more severe discipline than that recommended by the referee. The Bar argues that because Respondent is guilty of misconduct involving deceit, dishonesty, or fraud that was committed knowingly, the appropriate measure of discipline is suspension from the practice of law for one year.


The Court’s standard of review for evaluating a referee’s factual findings is as follows:

This Court’s review of such matters is limited, and if a referee’s findings of fact are supported by competent, substantial evidence in the record, this Court will not reweigh the evidence and substitute its judgment for that of the referee.

See Fla . Bar v. Frederick, 756 So.2d 79, 86 (Fla.2000) ; Fla . Bar v. Jordan, 705 So.2d 1387, 1390 (Fla.1998).

The Court has repeatedly stated that the referee’s factual findings must be sufficient under the applicable rules to support the recommendations as to guilt. See Fla . Bar v. Shoureas, 913 So.2d 554, 557–58 (Fla.2005).

Respondent argues that the referee’s findings of fact are not supported by competent, substantial evidence.

With respect to the referee’s findings that Respondent committed acts involving dishonesty or fraud, Respondent argues that the findings are not supported by the evidence because proof of guilt of such misconduct requires proof of wrongful intent, and the evidence failed to establish intent on her part.

This Court has recognized that finding that an attorney has engaged in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation requires proof of intent as a necessary element.

See, e.g., Fla . Bar v. Barley, 831 So.2d 163, 169 (Fla.2002) ; Fla . Bar v. Fredericks, 731 So.2d 1249, 1252 (Fla.1999).

Proof of the element of intent is satisfied by showing that the attorney engaged in the conduct deliberately or knowingly.

See, e.g., Fla . Bar v. Johnson, 132 So.3d 32, 36 (Fla.2013) ; Fla . Bar v. Brown, 905 So.2d 76, 81 (Fla.2005).

As we explain below, we find the evidence is sufficient to support the referee’s findings that Respondent engaged in dishonest conduct knowingly.

Respondent claims there was insufficient evidence to prove that she knew her client had not established a charitable trust with the money she withdrew from her credit union account. Lacking such knowledge, Respondent argues, she did not knowingly submit a false financial affidavit or give false answers in discovery responses on behalf of her client.

Respondent argues that the record shows she did not fail to disclose the existence of the former credit union account and the cashier’s check, because she referred to records pertaining to the account in her written response to the request to produce, and the records were made available to the husband’s attorney.

Respondent argues that the record shows that when she discovered that her client still had the check, Respondent took reasonable action to provide corrected information by filing an updated financial affidavit.

Respondent also states that the evidence shows she took steps to correct the inaccurate information her client provided in her deposition.

Respondent also argues that the record fails to show she knew the husband had a claim to the coins she accepted from her client.

The Financial Affidavit and the Interrogatory Answers

About six months before the dissolution of marriage action was filed, Respondent had provided legal advice to the wife concerning her will. The wife told Respondent about her credit union account containing over $480,000.

The wife thought of the account as her separate property and told Respondent she did not want her husband to receive any part of her estate.

Respondent testified that she advised the wife that by law a spouse is entitled to a share of a deceased person’s estate, so she would not be able to completely bar her husband from receiving any part of her estate upon her death.

Respondent testified that the wife initially wanted to make her sister the beneficiary of her estate, and Respondent advised her she needed an alternate beneficiary also because if her sister predeceased her, her estate would go to her husband.

They discussed various charities the wife might designate as alternate beneficiary. Respondent told the wife about a friend of hers who owned a company that published books that were used in classes intended to teach parents effective child-rearing methods.

The company that published the books was a for-profit enterprise, but Respondent suggested the owner might be interested in establishing a nonprofit organization to support the cause of promoting training in effective parenting techniques for the prevention of child abuse.

Respondent testified that when the wife consulted her about the dissolution of marriage action, Respondent advised her that the money she had in her credit union account, or most of it, would probably be deemed a marital asset subject to equitable distribution.

According to Respondent’s testimony, when the wife insisted that she did not want her husband to receive any of the money, Respondent advised her that if she donated the money to charity, the transaction would have to be disclosed and would be deemed a dissipation of assets, resulting in a setoff in the final distribution of marital assets.

Nevertheless, the wife said she wanted to donate the money to the parenting education group Respondent had told her about previously.

When Respondent advised the wife about her will, Respondent did not know whether her friend’s company had an affiliated nonprofit support organization.

However, by the time Respondent was retained to represent the wife in the dissolution proceeding, she had learned not only that there was no such nonprofit organization in existence, but also that due to a decline in the business, her friend had decided to seek other employment and was not interested in forming a nonprofit organization related to improving parenting or preventing child abuse.

On questioning by her own counsel in the referee proceeding, Respondent testified as follows:

Q. Okay. Now, this Parenting Education Charitable Trust, which is the payee on this $480,000 check, did you provide that name to her, that entity?

A. When I told her, [my friend] didn’t have any sort of charitable arm set up and something would have to be set up. [My friend] would prefer it to be a charitable trust because she didn’t want the ongoing administrative expenses that were associated with a 501(c)(3) corporation.

[The wife] asked me, well, how would a donation check be made out? I said, it would be made out to the name of the trust. And she asked me, well, how would the trust be named? I said, whatever you want to name it. You’re creating it, so it’s up to you what you want to name it.

And I think she asked me if the name Parenting Education Charitable Trust would be okay, and I said yes.

Respondent testified that she told the wife that she, Respondent, was not qualified to advise her on setting up a charitable trust and she would need to consult other counsel to provide her that service.

The former wife’s testimony differed from Respondent’s.

The former wife testified that Respondent told her the name of the payee to whom she should have the cashier’s check written. The former wife testified that she believed Parenting Education Charitable Trust was an entity that had been or was in the process of being established, that Respondent was going to research the issues as necessary, and that other lawyers in her law firm would be able to perform the necessary legal work to establish the charitable entity.

When asked why the cashier’s check was not reported as an asset in the wife’s initial family law financial affidavit, Respondent testified that when the wife gave her a worksheet she had prepared for the affidavit, and the money represented by the cashier’s check was not listed, Respondent “thought the reason was because she gave it to the charity that she’d set up.”

The former wife, on the other hand, testified that she assumed Respondent or other lawyers in the law firm were working on setting up the trust.

Respondent testified that she did not become aware that the wife had not funded a trust until the following August. Respondent claims that when she found out the wife still had the cashier’s check, she advised her to redeposit it in a bank account so that the funds could be disclosed by means of an updated financial affidavit, which was filed in October 2011, before the case went to trial.

The trial of the dissolution case was held October 24–26, 2011.

Thus Respondent claims she corrected the faulty financial information within a reasonable time after learning of the inaccuracy.

Respondent’s denial of the allegations of misconduct in connection with her disclosures to the court and in discovery on behalf of the wife depends on her claim that she assumed the wife had established a charitable trust and transferred the check in the amount of $482,980.46 to the trust.

However, Respondent never heard any report back from anyone that a charitable trust had been established and funded with her client’s money.

From the day the check was issued until the day it was redeposited—a period of nearly a year—so far as the record shows Respondent and her client never discussed the progress being made toward the establishment of a trust.

In order to know that the disclosures and discovery responses submitted on behalf of the wife were accurate, Respondent would have had to confirm that the wife had actually divested herself of the money.

According to Respondent, she did not confirm it; she assumed it.

Even if Respondent initially believed the wife’s financial affidavit was accurate because she had given away the money, the evidence supports the referee’s conclusion:

“As the dissolution proceedings continued, neither Respondent nor [the former wife] could have believed that the check would be used for charitable purposes.”

Although Respondent testified that she did not become aware that her client still had the check until August 2011, the referee implicitly concluded from the evidence that this knowledge must have come much earlier.

If Respondent was not aware of the inaccuracy of her discovery responses when they were served, under Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.280, General Provisions Governing Discovery, she was obligated to amend the responses when she became aware that the responses were incorrect or had become incorrect in light of new information.

The referee found Respondent never did this and that the failure to do so clearly shows intentional misconduct.

Although there were conflicts in the evidence, the referee heard the testimony and resolved the conflicts. The responsibility for finding facts and resolving conflicts in the evidence is placed with the referee.

See Fla . Bar v. Hooper, 509 So.2d 289, 290 (Fla.1987).

The referee is in the best position to judge the credibility of witnesses.

See Fla . Bar v. Forrester, 916 So.2d 647, 652 (Fla.2005) ;

Fredericks, 731 So.2d at 1251.

A party seeking to show that a referee’s findings of fact are not supported by competent, substantial evidence cannot do so simply by pointing to contradictory evidence in the record.

See Fla . Bar v. Committe, 916 So.2d 741, 746 (Fla.2005). We find that competent, substantial evidence in the record supports the referee’s factual findings with respect to Respondent’s knowledge of the cashier’s check, the falsity of the financial affidavit filed with the court, and the incomplete, false, or misleading interrogatory answers provided to opposing counsel.

Based on her conduct with respect to the wife’s financial affidavit and the discovery answers, the referee recommended that Respondent be found guilty of the following rule violations:

(1) rule 3–4.3 (unlawful and dishonest acts are a cause for discipline), based on the filing of the inaccurate financial affidavit and not disclosing the existence of the cashier’s check;

(2) rule 4–3.3 (a) (making or failing to correct a false statement of material fact made to a tribunal) , based on the filing of the false financial affidavit;

(3) rule 4–3.4(b) (a lawyer must not fabricate evidence), based on the submission of the false financial affidavit;

(4) rule 4–4.1 (making a false statement or failing to disclose a material fact), based on the false financial affidavit and nondisclosure of the cashier’s check;


(5) rule 4–8.4(a) and (c) (a lawyer shall not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or do so through the acts of another and shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), based on the filing of the affidavit and the nondisclosure discussed in connection with the other violations.

As stated above, the factual findings must support the recommendations as to guilt.

We find that the referee’s findings of fact support these recommendations as to guilt.

Response to Husband’s Request for Production

Respondent argues that there was no failure to disclose the cashier’s check as a financial asset because her written response to the husband’s request to produce made reference to the credit union account from which the cashier’s check was issued and stated that the records were “available for inspection and copying at the office of the undersigned.”

Respondent argues that the husband’s attorney did not inspect the documents because of his own lack of diligence.

However, the request to produce filed by the husband’s attorney specified that production of documents should be made at his office.

The referee found that Respondent did not object or seek a protective order with respect to the terms of the discovery.

Although the husband’s request to produce specified the husband’s attorney’s office as the place of production, Respondent testified that her paralegal “tried to find out how they could coordinate the discovery but she wasn’t getting any answers from [opposing counsel] or his office.”

The husband’s attorney testified that from December 2010, when his first motion to compel was granted, until September 2011, Respondent delayed the production of the documents he sought by his request to produce.

He testified that he offered numerous times to pick up the documents, scan them at his office, and bring them back the same day, but his offers were refused.

The husband’s attorney wanted to examine the documents at his office so he could decide which ones he needed to copy or scan and he preferred to scan the needed items at his office so he would have them in digital format.

Respondent testified that her law firm had a policy of not providing documents in discovery without payment of copying costs by opposing counsel.

A paralegal who worked with Respondent testified that the documents were not produced because the husband’s attorney refused to pay the copying costs.

She said that she offered to send the documents to a copy service to have the documents copied or scanned at his expense, but the husband’s attorney refused the offer.

Attempting to explain why her firm would not allow the records to be delivered to the husband’s attorney for him to inspect, copy, or scan selected items as he chose and then bring them back, the paralegal testified as follows:

So, it went back and forth several times, but he wanted somebody to deliver them to his office and sit at the office and let him go through and pick out what he wanted and copy them.

Because we weren’t gonna drop the box of documents off because those were all our original documents and we had not scanned them in or catalogued them or Bates stamped them, you know, to know what—everything that’s in there, so we weren’t just gonna drop the box of documents off and let him go through and copy them.

This testimony does not justify the failure to produce the documents.

Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.350 governs

“Production of Documents and Things”

and provides that a party may request another party

“to produce and permit the party making the request … to inspect and copy any designated documents.”

Rule 1.350(b) provides that a request to produce “shall specify a reasonable time, place, and manner of making the inspection” and requires the party to whom the request is directed to respond either stating that the inspection will be permitted as requested or stating an objection.

See also Fla . Fam. L.R.P. 12.285(l ) (“Unless otherwise agreed by the parties or ordered by the court, all production required by this rule shall take place … in the office of the attorney for the party receiving production.”).

The referee found that Respondent never objected to the husband’s request to produce.

The husband’s request for production did not require Respondent to incur any copying costs.

There was no testimony that Respondent had any reason to believe the husband’s attorney could not be trusted to inspect the original documents and return them in proper order.

While the paralegal described her reluctance to turn over documents without knowing, in the paralegal’s words, “everything that’s in there,” the obvious solution would be to catalogue the documents and to know what they are before producing them for inspection.

A party’s objections to the time, place, or manner of production should be made to the court.

See Fla . R. Civ. Pro. 1.280(c) (General Provisions Governing Discovery; Protective Orders).

The referee found that the dispute about paying for copies “may have resulted in some delay but certainly this was not the major reason for the delay in responding to [the husband’s attorney’s] requests.”

Respondent also argues that if she violated the rules of discovery, the violation was inconsequential because ultimately all the wife’s financial information was disclosed before the trial.

However, concealing a document even temporarily, and even when the information may be available to opposing counsel by other means or from other sources, has been held to be misconduct.

See Fla . Bar v. Forrester, 818 So.2d 477, 481–82 (Fla.2002).

Respondent’s claim that there was no concealment of financial information because the bank records were in a box of documents which opposing counsel could have inspected at her office does not justify her failure to comply with the rules of discovery.

We find that competent, substantial evidence in the record supports the factual finding of the referee that Respondent deliberately withheld documents requested in the husband’s request to produce.

This factual finding supports the referee’s recommended finding as to Respondent’s guilt of violating rule 4–3.4(a) (concealing or obstructing the opposing party’s access to evidence) and rule 4–3.4(c)–(d) (disobeying the rules of the tribunal and failure to produce records or documents in response to discovery).

The Wife’s Deposition Testimony

Respondent argues that the referee erred in finding that she knowingly allowed false evidence to be presented by way of the wife’s deposition testimony about the withdrawal and redeposit of the funds in the credit union account without taking any remedial action.

The referee found that the wife’s September 2011 deposition testimony that she had the cashier’s check issued to make a donation to charity, did not know the amount of the cashier’s check, and did not know whether the balance in the account from which she withdrew the money was more or less than $200,000 was false.

The wife’s testimony was that after she withdrew the money in the form of a cashier’s check, it was not her money since it was going to charity; therefore she did not need to include it in her financial affidavit.

When she later changed her mind about donating the money to charity, it meant merely that her financial affidavit needed to be “updated.” The referee concluded that Respondent knew the wife’s deposition testimony was false but took no remedial action.

The referee’s recommended findings of misconduct for violating rule 4–3.3 , Candor Toward the Tribunal , subdivision (a)(1) and (b), are based partly on Respondent’s failure to correct the inaccurate financial affidavit as discussed above and partly on her failure to correct “the false evasive testimony” of the wife at her deposition.

Rule 4–3.3 (a)(1) provides:

“A lawyer shall not knowingly: (1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer.”

Rule 4–3.3 (b) provides:

A lawyer who represents a client in an adjudicative proceeding and who knows that a person intends to engage, is engaging, or has engaged in criminal or fraudulent conduct related to the proceeding shall take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal.

Furthermore, rule 4–3.3 “applies when the lawyer is representing a client in an ancillary proceeding conducted pursuant to the tribunal’s adjudicative authority, such as a deposition.” R. Regulating Fla . Bar 4–3.3 cmt.

The comment to rule 4–3.3 also includes the following statement: “The prohibition against offering false evidence only applies if the lawyer knows that the evidence is false. A lawyer’s reasonable belief that evidence is false does not preclude its presentation to the trier of fact.” This comment does not apply here because, as the referee found, Respondent knew the testimony was false. We are also not concerned here with issues that sometimes arise in criminal cases in circumstances where a lawyer’s duty of candor to the tribunal must be “balanced with competing obligations.” United States v. Stewart, 931 F.Supp.2d 1199, 1215 (S.D.Fla.2013).


The comment to rule 4–3.3 recognizes that in certain circumstances the rule may put the attorney in the difficult position of betraying the confidence of his or her client:

The rule generally recognized is that, if necessary to rectify the situation, an advocate must disclose the existence of the client’s deception to the court. Such a disclosure can result in grave consequences to the client, including not only a sense of betrayal but also loss of the case and perhaps a prosecution for perjury.

But the alternative is that the lawyer cooperate in deceiving the court, thereby subverting the truth-finding process that the adversary system is designed to implement.

The comment also illustrates the rule’s requirement of “reasonable remedial measures” as follows:

“If perjured testimony or false evidence has been offered, the advocate’s proper course ordinarily is to remonstrate with the client if circumstances permit. In any case, the advocate should ensure disclosure is made to the court.”

Respondent suggests that the wife was not deliberately lying but was confused due to badgering by the husband’s attorney.

Respondent also argues that she took reasonable steps to remedy the effect of the wife’s inaccurate deposition testimony.

Respondent argues that if she had interrupted the wife in the middle of the deposition to counsel her about her testimony, she would have been accused of coaching the witness, so she waited until a break in the deposition to inform the husband’s attorney that accurate information about the amount of money in the account could be obtained by examining the records she had referred to in her response to his request to produce—records which she had “made available” to him but had not yet actually provided to him.

Respondent’s assumption that any interruption would have been objected to is speculative.

We do not know what opposing counsel would have done if Respondent had asked for a suspension of questioning so she could counsel her client because, as far as the transcript shows, she never asked.

The referee found that the husband’s attorney did not remember Respondent acknowledging the inaccuracy of the wife’s testimony and telling him where he could find the correct figures as Respondent claimed.

The transcript of the deposition does not show any such correction or clarification on the record. Thus there was a conflict between Respondent’s testimony and that of the husband’s attorney.

Resolving conflicts in the evidence is the responsibility of the referee. See Hooper, 509 So.2d at 290. The referee resolved this factual issue by finding that Respondent failed to take reasonable remedial steps to rectify the effect of false deposition testimony, knowing of its falsity.

On review of the record we conclude that the referee’s findings that the wife’s deposition testimony was false and that Respondent knew it was false and took no reasonable remedial action are supported by competent, substantial evidence.

Respondent argues that the opposing party and the court had accurate financial information by the time of the trial and that the record shows no intent to mislead or deceive the court.

In the aftermath of the September 2011 deposition, the requested documents were finally produced and accurate financial information was provided.

The circuit court proceeded to render a final judgment and distribute the parties’ assets.

The Bar responds that Respondent should not be credited for her delayed compliance with her disclosure obligations, because after the deposition of the wife, it was inevitable that the deception would be uncovered, and Respondent had no choice but to provide accurate financial information.

Regardless of the lack of effect on the ultimate outcome, the referee found that Respondent knowingly withheld accurate information from opposing counsel and the court by failing to take action to correct the inaccurate testimony at the deposition.

This finding is supported by competent, substantial evidence.

The referee’s finding, in turn, supports the recommendations as to Respondent’s guilt of violating rule 4–3.3 (a)(1) and (b) (failing to take remedial action to correct the false deposition testimony) and rule 4–3.4(b) (assisting in the giving of false testimony).

Respondent’s Receipt of the Coins

Respondent challenges the referee’s findings of fact and recommended finding as to misconduct in connection with her taking possession of the coins given to her by the wife.

Respondent claims there is insufficient evidence to support the conclusion that she violated rule 5–1.1(e)–(f) by receiving property in trust without notice to a party claiming an interest in the property.

Respondent claims she believed the coins the wife gave her were her client’s property and she had no reason to believe the husband had a claim to those coins.

There was conflicting evidence concerning the coins. An exhibit admitted into evidence by the referee, which had also been an exhibit admitted into evidence in the circuit court dissolution case, was the “List of Husband’s Personal Property.”

Item 9 on the list was “coin collection from childhood in fireproof safe in study.” The final judgment in the dissolution case awarded both parties their claimed personal property as submitted to the court in their respective lists.

The former husband testified that he had about a dozen old silver dollars and that when he was allowed by court order to visit the former marital home to collect the personal property that had been awarded to him but which he had not yet received, he could not find the coins.

He asked the former wife where they were and, according to his testimony, she replied, “I have them in safekeeping.” Respondent was present during this visit, heard the conversation, and said nothing.

The former wife testified that during the dissolution trial she gave some coins to Respondent for safekeeping because she was afraid her former husband might try to take them.

She said she inherited the coins from her mother and she had claimed them as her separate property in the dissolution case. She testified that her former husband did not own any coins and the coins that were present in the marital home were hers.

In her testimony before the referee, Respondent admitted that during the dissolution trial she received some coins from her client because the wife was afraid the husband would try to take them.

Respondent testified that she believed the coins she received were the separate property of the wife.

Respondent testified that to the extent of her knowledge, the former husband did not have a coin collection and that she did not disclose her possession of the coins because she did not know the husband had asserted a claim to the coins she had taken possession of.

The dissolution court ultimately divided the coins between the parties.

Respondent acknowledged that the reason the wife wanted her to take the coins was that the husband might try to take them.

That fact alone was enough to alert Respondent that there might be a dispute as to the ownership of the coins, whether the husband’s claim was meritorious or not.

But even if, at the time she received them, Respondent was not aware that the husband claimed ownership of the coins the wife entrusted to her for safekeeping, she certainly became aware that there was a dispute as to the ownership of the coins when the former husband visited the home, looked for some coins, and could not find them.

At that point, if not earlier, Respondent had a duty to disclose her custody of the coins.

Therefore, even though ownership was disputed by her client, Respondent had a clear duty to notify opposing counsel that she had received and had custody of the coins.

She did not do so until she was ordered to in connection with a postjudgment contempt proceeding.

The referee’s findings of fact represent a resolution of conflicting evidence.

The mere showing that there is conflicting evidence in the record is not sufficient to overcome the presumption of correctness that applies to the referee’s findings of fact.

See Committe, 916 So.2d at 746 ; Fla . Bar v. Barrett, 897 So.2d 1269, 1275 (Fla.2005).

The findings of fact are supported by competent, substantial evidence in the record.

Moreover, the findings of fact support the recommendation of guilt of misconduct for violation of rule 5–1.1(e)–(f) (failure to give notice of receipt of property held in trust).


The referee recommended that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for ninety days and be placed on probation for two years.

The referee observed that a more severe discipline might be deemed appropriate to the nature of the misconduct, but found as mitigating factors that Respondent had an unblemished record and a good professional reputation.

Respondent seeks review of the referee’s recommendation on discipline.

She argues that the discipline is too severe because her only misconduct, if any, was that she failed to respond quickly or thoroughly enough to rectify the situation when she discovered that the wife’s financial disclosures were not accurate.

She argues that since her misconduct was negligent and not intentional, she should not be suspended but only reprimanded.

We have already rejected Respondent’s claim that the evidence was insufficient to prove intent under the applicable standard for finding that element.

We therefore reject Respondent’s argument on the question of discipline.

The Bar argues that the referee’s recommended discipline is inadequate in light of the proven misconduct.

In reviewing a referee’s recommended discipline, this Court’s scope of review is broader than that afforded to the referee’s findings of fact because, ultimately, it is our responsibility to order the appropriate sanction.

See Fla . Bar v. Anderson, 538 So.2d 852, 854 (Fla.1989) ; see also art. V, § 15, Fla . Const.

However, generally speaking, this Court will not second-guess the referee’s recommended discipline as long as it has a reasonable basis in existing caselaw and the Florida Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions.

See Fla . Bar v. Temmer, 753 So.2d 555, 558 (Fla.1999).

The purposes of attorney discipline are:

(1) to protect the public from unethical conduct without undue harshness towards the attorney;

(2) to punish misconduct while encouraging reformation and rehabilitation;


(3) to deter other lawyers from engaging in similar misconduct.

See Fla . Bar v. Maynard, 672 So.2d 530, 540 (Fla.1996) ; Fla . Bar v. Neu, 597 So.2d 266, 269 (Fla.1992) ; Fla . Bar v. Lord, 433 So.2d 983, 986 (Fla.1983).

Florida Standard for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions 6.1, False Statements, Fraud, and Misrepresentation, and Standard 6.2, Abuse of the Legal Process, provide guidance for determining the sanction in this case.

Standard 6.1 applies to

“conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice or that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation to a court.”

Under standard 6.1, specific standard 6.12 provides:

“Suspension is appropriate when a lawyer knows that false statements or documents are being submitted to the court or that material information is improperly being withheld, and takes no remedial action.”

Standard 6.2 applies to

“failure to obey any obligation under the rules of a tribunal .”

Under standard 6.2, specific standard 6.22 provides:

“Suspension is appropriate when a lawyer knowingly violates a court order or rule , and causes injury or potential injury to a client or a party, or causes interference or potential interference with a legal proceeding.”

Under these standards, a suspension is appropriate.

Because the standards do not distinguish among suspensions of differing length, they are helpful only as a starting point. See Fla . Bar v. Walton, 952 So.2d 510, 514 (Fla.2006) ; Brown, 905 So.2d at 83–84. We also look to the caselaw and compare the facts and circumstances of the case under review with previous disciplinary cases in which similar misconduct occurred under comparable circumstances. See, e.g., Fla . Bar v. Erlenbach, 138 So.3d 369, 373–74 (Fla.2014) ; Fla . Bar v. Breed, 378 So.2d 783, 785 (Fla.1979).

In Florida Bar v. Miller, 863 So.2d 231, 233–34 (Fla.2003), the respondent was found to have concealed his awareness of a document, submitted false statements as to his awareness of the document, and permitted witnesses to testify in ways that created false impressions as to their awareness of the document.

The Court imposed a one-year suspension. Id. at 236.

In Florida Bar v. Cox, 794 So.2d 1278, 1279–80 (Fla.2001), a prosecuting attorney was found to have knowingly concealed information from the court and from the defendant which would have been important information for the defendant to have in preparation for trial.

The Court observed that based on the applicable precedents, any attempt to withhold the truth or present false information in a court proceeding would normally merit disbarment. Id. at 1284–85.

However, based on mitigating factors found by the referee, including the respondent’s lack of a prior disciplinary record, the Court imposed a suspension of one year. Id. at 1286–87.

Other cases show that intentional misrepresentation to a court is regarded as serious misconduct which usually results at minimum in a suspension requiring proof of rehabilitation for reinstatement.

See, e.g., Fla . Bar v. Head, 84 So.3d 292, 303 (Fla.2012) ; Fla . Bar v. Head, 27 So.3d 1, 9–10 (Fla.2010) ; Fla . Bar v. Hmielewski, 702 So.2d 218, 219–21 (Fla.1997) ; Fla . Bar v. Jasperson, 625 So.2d 459, 463 (Fla.1993).

Based on the referee’s findings of fact and recommendations as to guilt, considered in light of the lawyer sanction standards and disciplinary caselaw discussed above,

we find that the appropriate measure of discipline in this case is suspension from the practice of law for one year.


Accordingly, Respondent is hereby suspended from the practice of law for one year.

The suspension will be effective thirty days from the date of this opinion so that Respondent can close out her practice and protect the interests of existing clients.

If Respondent notifies this Court in writing that she is no longer practicing and does not need thirty days to protect existing clients, this Court will enter an order making the suspension effective immediately.

Respondent shall accept no new business from the date this opinion is filed until such time as she is reinstated to the practice of law by order of this Court.

Respondent is required to comply with Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 3–5.1(h).

Judgment is entered for The Florida Bar , 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399–2300, for recovery of costs from Zana Holley Dupee in the amount of $9,009.33, for which sum let execution issue.

It is so ordered.



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