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Rogue Lawyer Catherine Czyz aka Caucci Receives Two Year Suspension for Outrageous Employment Discrimination Case

The Bar referee, namely Judge Charles Sniffen, imposed double the recommended State Bar sanctions requested and made readmission possible only on full payment of restitution and fees.

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The number of offenses here warranted disbarment. LIF holds the view the Judge wanted to sanction Czyz even more but felt, based on past lenient case law, his hands were tied. So he did what he could, by doublin’ the term of suspension and ordering Catherine Caucci or Czyz to make full restitution before readmission;

“2) that Respondent be required to pay restitution in the amount of $41,708.45 together with prejudgment interest to Ms. Neitzelt as a condition of reinstatement”

The question this raises; does this prevent the injured client from obtaining a payment from the Florida Bar insurance fund or will they repay the $40k fees to the complainant and assign the rights to recover the funds paid directly from Catherine Czyz? We’ll reach out to the Bar et al on social media and see if they are willing to answer the question as we are certainly not in their preferred list of media journalists.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA

(Before a Referee)

Supreme Court Case No. SC19-1545

THE FLORIDA BAR,
Complainant,
v.

CATHERINE ELIZABETH CZYZ,
Respondent.

Florida Bar File No. 2017-00,628(2A)

MAR 8, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: FEB 9, 2022

FINAL REPORT OF THE REFEREE

I. SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

Pursuant to the undersigned being duly appointed as referee to conduct disciplinary proceedings herein according to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, Chapter 3 Rules of Discipline, Rule 3-7.6, the following proceedings occurred.

On September 12, 2019 The Florida Bar filed its Complaint against Respondent. On October 22, 2020, October 23, 2020, November 25, 2020, and December 2, 20201 a final hearing was conducted. At the final hearing the Complainant was represented by Shanee L. Hinson, Esq. and the Respondent represented herself pro se2.

The undersigned received testimony under oath from the following witnesses: Erin Neitzelt; Rocky Ludwick; Roy Jeter; Richard Akin, Esq.; Jason Gunter, Esq.; Daniel Tarantur; Scott Atwood, Esq.; and Respondent, Catherine Elizabeth Czyz.

1 After the close of all testimony, on December 2, 2020, a separate hearing was conducted for the purpose of identifying and marking all exhibits being offered by Respondent.

2 Although Respondent represented herself pro se throughout the majority of this case, including the final hearing, at various times during these proceedings Respondent was represented by counsel, including but not limited to the sanction hearing.

The Referee received the Complainant’s Exhibits 1-22 and Respondent’s Exhibits A-V.

At the final hearing Respondent presented a renewed motion for summary judgment that was denied as untimely. At the close of evidence presented by The Florida Bar Respondent moved for a directed verdict or involuntary dismissal; that motion was taken under advisement by the court and is hereby denied.

A sanctions hearing was conducted on February 11, 2021.

Subsequent to that hearing the Florida Bar requested that the Referee take judicial notice of a filing in Lee County Case No. 2018-CA-1244 involving the Respondent.

To allow complete review the court will include the request and attached document in the record.

However, because the document was filed after the final hearing and sanctions hearing were concluded, and there was no opportunity for the court to hear argument regarding the significance or context of the document, the Referee in and exercise of discretion will decline to consider the document in making its findings and recommendations herein.

On February 17 and 18, 2021 Respondent filed her notice of appeal and motion for stay pending appeal. Rule 3-7.7(c)(1) is entitled Notice of Intent to Seek Review of Report of Referee, and states:

“A party to a bar disciplinary proceeding wishing to seek review of a report of referee shall give notice of such intent within 60 days of the date on which the referee’s report is docketed by the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida.”

Because the Report of Referee had not been filed at the time of the notice and motion to stay, the Referee finds that the notice is premature, and the motion to stay is denied.

The Complaint alleges violations of the following Rules Regulating the Florida Bar:
3-4.3 Misconduct and Minor Misconduct; 4-1.1 Competence;
4-1.2 Scope and Objective of Representation; 4-1.3 Diligence;
4-1.5 Fees and Costs for Legal Services: a) Illegal, Prohibited, or Clearly Excessive Fees and Costs;
4-3.1 Meritorious Claims and Contentions;
4-3.4 Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel;
4-3.5 Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal;
4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
4.8(d) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
5-1.1(a)(1) Nature of Money or Property Entrusted to Attorney, Trust Account Required: commingling prohibited;
5-1.2(b) Trust Account Records’ and
5-1.2(d) Minimum Trust Accounting Procedures.

All pleadings and exhibits received in evidence and this Report constitute the record in this case and have been forwarded to the Supreme Court of Florida.

The legal authority relied upon by the Referee in making the recommendations below is included at the end of this report.

Erin Neitzelt

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

Jurisdictional Statement. Respondent is, and at all times mentioned during this investigation was, a member of The Florida Bar subject to the jurisdiction and Disciplinary Rules of the Florida Supreme Court.

Narrative Summary of Case. Certain testimony and evidence relied upon by the Referee will be attributed to a specific witness or exhibit, particularly where such testimony or evidence is disputed. Other testimony and evidence will be described in narrative form, particularly where such testimony or evidence is undisputed.

Upon the evidence presented, the undersigned makes the following findings of fact:

1. Respondent was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997.

2. Respondent’s law practice is Czyz Law Firm, PLLC. Respondent has been a sole practitioner since 1999.

3. Respondent and Erin Neitzelt were acquainted in high school and had sporadic contacts in recent years via the internet.

Ms. Neitzelt initially contacted Respondent in connection with what Ms. Neitzelt perceived as possible misconduct by her former employer, Mariner Middle School in Cape Coral, Florida (“Mariner”).

Ms. Neitzelt contacted Respondent because of their shared personal history.

4. Ultimately Respondent undertook representation of Ms. Neitzelt to pursue claims against her former employer, including a claim of employment discrimination.

Erin Neitzelt

5. Ms. Neitzelt began employment at Mariner during August, 2015 and resigned voluntarily from her position during March, 2016 believing that she might be facing termination; this was her first teaching position in Florida. Ms. Neitzelt has previous experience as a school principal from 1997 to 2007.

6. Ms. Neitzelt described various issues she faced during her time at Mariner, including lack of support, lack of access to training and exclusion from a pool for consideration for a principal position.

7. During March, 2016 Ms. Neitzelt contacted Respondent to gather information and eventually sought consultation in connection with her experiences at Mariner. Ms. Neitzelt and Respondent were acquainted as classmates in high school and reconnected in recent years through social media.

8. Ms. Neitzelt recalled that Respondent accepted representation quickly, and would not agree to a contingent fee agreement. Respondent initially indicated that her hourly rate was $750.00 per hour, but could be reduced to $500.00 per hour; Respondent said that she would offer an additional reduction to $350.00 per hour because “she knew me and I was an acquaintance.”

9. Ms. Neitzelt received a written retainer agreement on March 31, 2016, which had been dated March 28, 2016 by hand.

Ms. Neitzelt did not immediately sign and return the agreement because of issues surrounding her lack of ready access to her computer and the unavailability of a printer.

Ms. Neitzelt eventually saw a signed copy of the agreement during April, 2018 in a separate civil case, but denied having ever signed the document.

Ms. Neitzelt believed her signature on the document had been forged.

Despite her concern about the authenticity of the signature on the document, Ms. Neitzelt acknowledged that the retainer agreement was received, and that it was her intention to hire Respondent and pay for her services.

10. The retainer agreement (Florida Bar Exhibit 1) includes a provision for a nonrefundable retainer of $6,000.00, and also states

“The Attorney reserves the right to require the Client to deposit money into the Attorney’s Account to be used to pay the Attorney’s fees to cover significant expenditures of attorney’s fees such as in advance of a hearing, deposition, trial, for research time, for the review or preparation of contracts, or other matters which require an amount of attorney’s time reasonably expected to exceed three (3) hours.”

11. Respondent instructed Ms. Neitzelt to make payments via electronic deposit to her law firm bank account and provided an account number, routing number and the name of her firm. Respondent specifically declined to receive payment by check.

12. Ms. Neitzelt paid an initial non-refundable fee retainer in the amount of $6,000.00 and a cost retainer of $1,500.00. These sums were deposited electronically to Respondent’s firm account per Respondent’s instructions.

13. At the outset of representation Ms. Neitzelt explained to Respondent that she did not know why she was being mistreated at Mariner, but suggested that it could have been because of “the way I looked or the car I drove or because of the jewelry that I wore or where our home was located…”

14. Eventually an EEOC Charge Form Letter was prepared by Respondent and signed by Ms. Neitzelt which claimed discrimination based on Ms. Neitzelt being a woman, “and more specifically, a good- looking, blonde, white woman with a stellar education (I have a bachelor’s degree and seven years post-graduate work, with only my thesis left for a doctorate, and a 4.0 GPA), and I have a certain amount of wealth from hard work.”

Ms. Neitzelt explained that she was embarrassed by the references to wealth and attractiveness, but that Respondent told her “you have to sign this, this is what we have to do to get your case going.”

Respondent told Ms. Neitzelt that the grounds set forth in the Letter were a legitimate basis to file suit.

15. Ms. Neitzelt was told by Respondent that additional information would be needed to “start building a case” and that she provided “mountains of information” to Respondent. This information was provided in the form of paper copies mailed to Respondent.

16. By June of 2016 Ms. Neitzelt had already paid Respondent “many thousands of dollars” and expressed concern about her ability to manage the expense of the case; in response Respondent reduced her hourly rate for future billing to $175.00 per hour, and added a contingency fee.

This agreement is reflected in an addendum to the original retainer agreement. (Florida Bar Exhibit 5).

The addendum requires a monthly “retainer” of $3,000.00 to cover attorneys’ fees; the addendum does not indicate that the retainer is nonrefundable.

Ms. Neitzelt instead testified that this monthly sum was understood to be an advance payment against which future fees would be billed.

The addendum also requires a monthly cost deposit of $750.00.

Respondent’s billing statements (Florida Bar Composite Exhibit 7) show that at certain times during the representation Ms. Neitzelt maintained a credit balance for both fees and costs where her total payments, retainer deposits and cost deposits exceeded the amount billed; for example, the billing statement dated September 30, 2016 reflects amounts for “fee retainer remaining” and “cost retainer remaining”.

17. In early November, 2016 Ms. Neitzelt revisited the subject of a full contingency arrangement with respondent due her continuing concern about managing the expense of her case.

Respondent agreed to proceed on a contingent basis, but did not send a contingency agreement until the end of the month.

The contingency agreement did not provide for a credit for previously paid fees against any contingency recovered by Respondent.

The agreement was ultimately executed by Ms. Neitzelt. (Florida Bar Exhibit 6)

18. During October, 2016 Ms. Neitzelt received a draft complaint from Respondent against Mariner and its Principal, Rachel Gould.

The complaint included references to Ms. Neitzelt’s Irish and Italian heritage which were not previously discussed as a basis for relief; moreover, Ms. Neitzelt did not ever tell respondent that she believed her treatment at Mariner was in any way related to her national or ethnic heritage.

Despite Ms. Neitzelt’s objections, Respondent pressed for these allegations remain in the complaint.

Ms. Neitzelt made edits to the draft complaint and returned them to Respondent; when the complaint was ultimately filed, Ms. Neitzelt was shocked to learn that the references to her heritage remained in the complaint.

19. Ms. Neitzelt was informed by Respondent that the complaint could be removed to Federal Court.

When the case was eventually removed to Federal Court, Respondent told Ms. Neitzelt that she was admitted to the Southern District of Florida, but would have to get admitted to the Middle District; Ms. Neitzelt offered to pay the $200.00 fee for Respondent’s admission to the Middle District.

20. Respondent told Ms. Neitzelt that she believed she could move the case back to the Circuit Court.

Eventually Ms. Neitzelt learned that Respondent filed documents with the Middle District seeking a stay of the proceedings.

21. After the case was removed Respondent told Ms. Neitzelt that she could no longer afford to proceed under the contingency agreement and offered to enter into a new agreement for a monthly retainer.

Ms. Neitzelt did not agree to enter into a new fee agreement, and understood that if she did not, Respondent would not continue to represent her.

22. Respondent proposed associating with co-counsel or “local” counsel and both Respondent and Ms. Neitzelt undertook to find an attorney to act as co-counsel or local counsel in the case.

23. Ms. Neitzelt attempted to contact approximately eighteen attorneys to assist in the case; she was able to reach seven or eight, but ultimately spoke to only three or four, including attorney Jason Gunter.

Of those Ms. Neitzelt spoke to, all stated that she “did not have any legal basis for a case” and “needed an exit strategy.”

24. Ultimately Ms. Neitzelt hired attorney Gunter and her case was settled. Ms. Neitzelt received a “nuisance” payment of $2,500.00 and her claims were dismissed with prejudice. The parties executed a written settlement agreement.

25. After hiring Mr. Gunter Ms. Neitzelt requested a copy of her file from Respondent, but Respondent refused the request.

26. After speaking with other attorneys who suggested she had been overcharged and that her case lacked merit, Ms. Neitzelt requested a meeting with Respondent to review her prior billing statements and discuss a full or partial refund; Respondent declined.

27. Ms. Neitzelt received a bill from Respondent during April of 2018 or 2019 reflecting hourly fees from November 28, 2016 through February 13, 2017 (see Composite Exhibit 17).

The bill appears to have a typewritten date of April 20, 2016 that was modified by hand to read April 30, 2017.

The bill was received after Ms. Neitzelt’s case had been removed to Federal Court on November 28, 2016, and after she filed her complaint against Respondent with the Florida Bar.

The bill reflects charges billed at the rate of $500.00 per hour and charges totaling $25,745.81. All time entries reflect fees incurred after Ms. Neitzelt and Respondent entered a contingent fee agreement.

28. On cross-examination Ms. Neitzelt was pressed by Respondent on multiple occasions to admit that she had been lying during portions of her testimony and/or in her complaint to the Florida Bar; on all occasions Ms. Neitzelt denied that she had been untruthful.

29. After her case was removed to Federal Court and she began contacting other attorneys, those attorneys, including Jason Gunter, Esq. and Scott Atwood, told Ms. Neitzelt that her case had no legal merit.

30. Ms. Neitzelt acknowledged that Respondent has requested a copy of her resume, which apparently listed Rachel Gould as a reference; Ms. Neitzelt could not explain precisely why it was not immediately produced to Respondent, but denied that it was intentionally withheld.

31. Ms. Neitzelt was challenged by Respondent on her testimony about the frequency and manner in which payment was demanded by Respondent.

Ms. Neitzelt remained steadfast that Respondent insisted on deposits to her firm bank account3, and recalled at least one occasion called at 10:00 p.m. to demand immediate payment.

Ms. Neitzelt also offered a credible explanation for a check deposit that bounced after a cash deposit was denied, and described an “angry” phone call from Respondent seeking immediate payment, despite the fact that Ms. Neitzelt was on the road travelling at the time.

Ms. Neitzelt recalled that Respondent indicated on one or more occasions that immediate payment was necessary because she had bills to pay.

32. Ms. Neitzelt acknowledged that after she began to question her professional relationship with Respondent, and just before her bar complaint was filed, she conducted online searches relating to Respondent and testified;

“I found a foreclosure. I found arrest records, things that would apparently be a motive for you to need money quickly. You were in the process of losing a home. You lost another home immediately after this trial closed. You’ve lost two homes to foreclosure in- one of them being in very close proximity to this court case4. And I believed I was your only client because of your seeking payment from me excessively and so desperately.”

3 Ms. Neitzelt recalled that Respondent initially directed that deposits be made in cash, but after an unsuccessful attempt to deposit cash due to the bank’s apparent concern about potential money laundering, subsequent deposits were made by check.

4 Because the Referee is not bound by the technical rules of evidence, and no objection was raised to this testimony, the Referee has considered this testimony but finds that it deserves diminished weight because it was offered without sufficient detail or context.

33. Ms. Neitzelt was cross-examined at length about various facts that came to light over time through questions that would suggest that these facts impacted the overall strength of her case.

These included but are not limited to the existence of a male employee that felt he was also mistreated by the administration Mariner, the existence of Ms. Neitzelt’s resume showing Rachel Gould as a reference, and an email using the phrase “can you come down here before I go ape crap on these kids” or words to that effect.

Ms. Neitzelt was also questioned about why any of this information was withheld from Respondent.

Ms. Neitzelt either acknowledged and explained the surrounding context for these facts, or in some cases did not recall the facts in the way they were presented in the question.

Ms. Neitzelt explained that certain of these facts were known to Respondent.

Ms. Neitzelt denied ever intentionally withholding information from the Respondent and offered a credible account of her extensive efforts to share all relevant information with Respondent.

Ms. Neitzelt testified that even after learning of these facts, Respondent never advised her to discontinue the pursuit of her claims.

34. After the attorney-client relationship between Ms. Neitzelt and Respondent ended Ms. Neitzelt requested her file; Respondent refused to provide the file.

Ms. Neitzelt denied that Respondent refused on the basis of a claimed attorney lien, but acknowledged that Respondent told her she would have to send the file to Ms. Neitzelt’s new attorney.

35. Throughout these proceedings, Respondent has repeatedly urged the court to find that Ms. Neitzelt “is a fraud;” in fact, this is the opening statement of Respondent’s written closing argument.

Respondent has insisted that the Referee should find that Ms. Neitzelt repeatedly lied, withheld information, improperly accessed one or more of Respondent’s bank accounts and financial information, and that she was part of an elaborate scheme in concert with several lawyers and others within the legal system designed to cause harm to Respondent.

The Referee does not find that Respondent’s claims about Ms. Neitzelt or an alleged scheme are supported by any record evidence, and to the contrary the Referee finds that Ms. Neitzelt’s testimony was genuine, credible and entirely consistent with the other evidence presented in this case.

Rocky Ludwick

36. Mr. Ludwick is a branch manager with Chase Bank. Mr. Ludwick was the branch manager at the Bellaire, Ohio branch during 2017 when Respondent appeared the bank to report that someone previously came to the bank to make a deposit to Respondent’s business account, and that the person was given the account balance despite not being an owner or signer on the account.

Mr. Ludwick prepared an incident report and notified Chase’s privacy team.

The only information that Mr. Ludwick had about the alleged information breach came from Respondent.

37. Mr. Ludwick confirmed that in prior years the Bellaire location had a small drive-through and also a large main bank building across the street from the drive through.

38. Mr. Ludwick remembered meeting Respondent during 2017 but was either unaware of or unable to recall additional details of their interaction, Respondent’s account(s) or any investigation conducted by Chase Bank after Respondent’s report.

39. The Referee found Mr. Ludwick credible and accepts his testimony as true but finds that his testimony offers little to no value in resolving the issues presented in this case.

Roy Jeter

40. Mr. Jeter is a Certified Public Accountant and has been employed as an auditor for The Florida Bar for six-and-a-half years.

41. Mr. Jeter testified that retainers and cost deposits must be held in a trust account, and that depositing those sums to an operating account would violate Rule 5-1.1(a) of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.

42. In the course of employment Mr. Jeter routinely obtains information from the Florida Bar Foundation regarding the existence of IOTA (trust) accounts for attorneys. Mr. Jeter estimated that he obtains such records approximately once or twice per month, and “in every case”.

43. Mr. Jeter contacted the Florida Bar Foundation and requested trust account information for “Catherine Czyz, Florida Bar Number 105627.”

Mr. Jeter received a response from the Florida Bar Foundation showing that the “Czyz Law Firm” had a trust account with Wells Fargo Bank from March 1, 2000 to March 9, 2011. Respondent did not have a trust account during 2016, nor at the time the information was received from the Florida Bar Foundation.5

5 The information pertaining to the existence or non-existence of a trust account is contained in one or more documents received by Mr. Jeter from the Florida Bar Foundation that were received in evidence over Respondent’s objections.

Greedy Attorney: Jeremiah “J.J.” Talbott

44. The court accepts Mr. Jeter’s testimony as true and accepts the records of the Florida Bar Foundation as true and accurate, and therefore concludes that Respondent did not maintain a trust account during the time periods relevant to this case.
Richard Akin, Esq.

45. Mr. Akin is a partner at Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A.

46. Mr. Akin represented the Lee County School District and Rachel Gould in the case filed by Respondent for Ms. Neitzelt.

47. Mr. Akin testified that he filed a motion to dismiss the complaint that he believed identified a number of deficiencies in Ms. Neitzelt’s complaint, and that he believed the motion was well taken.

Mr. Akin also removed the case to Federal Court because it contained a Title VII claim; relevant Federal law required Mr. Akin to seek removal within 30 days.

48. Mr. Akin described the procedure for removal of the case to Federal Court and relevant local rules for the Middle District

49. Mr. Akin served notice of removal upon Respondent and described subsequent written communications between his office and Respondent, some of which were received in evidence (The Florida Bar Exhibits 16, 17, 18).

50. Mr. Akin became aware that Respondent was not admitted to practice in the Middle District and offered to agree to a specific extension of time to permit Respondent to gain admission.

Mr. Akin also offered to file a motion with the court for this purpose.

In addition to written communication Mr. Akin recalled several unsuccessful attempts to reach Respondent by phone to resolve the issue of an extension, including a specific recollection of a voice mail he left for Respondent on December 30, 2016.

Respondent did not reply to Mr. Akin’s requests to provide a date for the extension and no agreement was ever reached.

51. Mr. Akin received an email from Respondent that included the following language (The Florida Bar, Exhibit 17):

“At this point it’s just sanctionable it’s also an ethical [sic] if you do not withdraw your motions and pleadings. I want to [sic] response from you directly I don’t want to hear from your secretary to let me know if you’re going to withdraw them today by 5 PM. If not I won’t just contact the court I will also contact the Florida Bar next week to make a complaint against you…”

52. Mr. Akin testified about a motion seeking various relief including sanctions that was filed in the Middle District and included a certificate of service signed by Respondent.

(The Florida Bar Exhibit 19).

An order was subsequently entered denying the motion.

(The Florida Bar, Exhibit 20).

53. During February, 2017 Respondent emailed Mr. Akin to notify him that Ms. Neitzelt had retained new counsel and that Respondent “can no longer received pleadings from you or from the Court on this case.” (The Florida Bar, Exhibit 16).

54. During the pendency of the case in Federal Court Mr. Akin learned that Ms. Neitzelt was being represented by attorney Jason Gunter.

Thereafter, on February 28, 2017 Ms. Neitzelt executed a settlement agreement that called for a $2,500.00 payment to Ms. Neitzelt and contained general and specific releases.

(The Florida Bar, Exhibit 9).

55. Mr. Akin was cross-examined, however the Referee does not find that he was successfully impeached or that his credibility was otherwise diminished during cross-examination.

The Referee finds that Mr. Akin’s testimony was thoughtful and candid, and accepts his testimony as true.

Jason Gunter, Esq.

56. Jason Gunter, Esq. is an attorney practicing primarily in labor and employment law. Mr. Gunter was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1998 and has been board certified in labor and employment law since 1998. Mr. Gunter testified as both a fact witness and an expert witness in the area of labor and employment law.

The Referee finds that Mr. Gunter’s testimony was straightforward, credible and persuasive and accepts the opinions he offered as an expert.

57. Mr. Gunter was contacted by Ms. Neitzelt in connection with her pending employment discrimination case sometime after the case was removed to Federal Court.

58. After consultation with Ms. Neitzelt and a review of the pleadings in her pending case, Mr. Gunter identified that her pending claims were without merit.

Mr. Gunter observed that her claims included discrimination on the basis of sex and national origin, and a claim for retaliation.

Mr. Gunter recognized that neither the national origin claim, nor the retaliation claim were included in the original EEOC charge form letter, which would ultimately act as a bar to each of those claims.

59. Mr. Gunter described the necessary elements of an employment discrimination claim and explained that the facts underlying Ms. Neitzelt’s claims based on her sex would not support an such a claim and could not establish a prima facie case, because they were based primarily on a non-protected status related to her “wealth and vehicles and other things.”

60. Mr. Gunter discussed the remaining counts in Ms. Neitzelt’s complaint and the various reasons that none were viable. Mr. Gunter gave his opinion that Ms. Neitzelt’s case should not have progressed beyond an initial consultation, because there was no view of the facts that could support relief or “set an objective” for the client.

61. Mr. Gunter would only agree to represent Ms. Neitzelt with the understanding that his objective would be to settle the case for nothing and obtain a dismissal to avoid exposure to Ms. Neitzelt for opposing party attorneys’ fees.

Ultimately the case was settled for the “nuisance” value of $2,500.00 paid to Ms. Neitzelt; the parties executed a written settlement agreement and the case was dismissed.

62. Although he generally takes Plaintiff’s cases on a contingency fee basis, Mr. Gunter acknowledged that contingency, flat fee, hourly billing, or a hybrid arrangement could be acceptable depending on the circumstances.

63. Mr. Gunter opined that the fees charged by Respondent up to the time he was retained were excessive.

He recalled that the fees to that point were in excess of $40,000.00.

Mr. Gunter felt the fees charged were “unnecessary” because “there was going to be no viable opportunity ever to succeed on these claims against a public sector entity.”

Even if the claims had been viable, Mr. Gunter found that the fees charged by Respondent were beyond “not only what I would charge, but that I had ever heard of in my career.”

64. Mr. Gunter testified that he was “shocked” by the amounts billed by Respondent and that in the EEOC process the average fee would be $1,500.00 to $2,500.00.

Mr. Gunter testified that he could not think of a scenario, even the most complex, where the fees through the EEOC process would exceed $5,000.00.

Daniel Tarantur

65. Daniel Tarantur is a loss prevention advisor at PNC Bank. Mr. Tarantur appeared pursuant to a subpoena from Respondent regarding a trust account associated with Respondent and or her law firm.

Mr. Tarantur testified that based upon the information provided PNC Bank was unable to identify any trust account belonging to Respondent or her law firm.

Mr. Tarantur further testified that records pertaining to attorney trust accounts are typically retained for a minimum of eleven years.

Scott Atwood, Esq.

66. Attorney Scott Atwood currently represents Erin Neitzelt in a pending civil matter in which the Respondent is the opposing party.

The Referee granted the Respondent’s request to issue a subpoena to Mr. Atwood for the limited purpose of eliciting fact information that could impeach certain prior testimony in this case.

Mr. Atwood complied with the subpoena and appeared with counsel. At various times attorney-client and work product objections were raised and sustained by the Referee.

The Referee does not find that Mr. Atwood’s testimony resulted in the impeachment of any other testimony.

III. RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO GUILT

Based upon clear and convincing evidence presented at trial, including all permissible inferences derived therefrom, the Referee recommends that Respondent be found guilty of violating the following Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, discussed individually below.

4-1.1 Competence;
4-1.2 Scope and Objective of Representation;
4-1.5 Fees and Costs for Legal Services: a) Illegal, Prohibited, or Clearly Excessive Fees and Costs;
4-3.1 Meritorious Claims and Contentions;
4-3.4 Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel;
4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
4.8(d) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
5-1.1(a)(1) Nature of Money or Property Entrusted to Attorney, Trust Account Required: commingling prohibited;
5-1.2(b) Trust Account Records’ and
5-1.2(d) Minimum Trust Accounting Procedures. 3-4.3 Misconduct and Minor Misconduct;

The undersigned recommends that Respondent be found not guilty of violating the following rules, which the Referee finds were not proved by clear and convincing evidence, discussed in greater detail below:

4-1.3 Diligence;
4-3.5 Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal;

The Referee has reviewed relevant legal precedent, including all cases cited by the parties. Certain legal authority will be specifically cited within the discussion below.

Rule 4-1.1: A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

The Referee finds that Respondent, despite substantial experience, accepted representation in an area of law in which she lacked sufficient knowledge and skill.

As set forth in the comment to Rule 4-1.1, The Referee recognizes that “a lawyer need not necessarily have special training or prior experience to handle legal problems of a type with which the lawyer is unfamiliar.”

However, in undertaking such representation the Referee finds that a lawyer must engage in a fundamental analysis of the problems that such representation may present, an appropriate and thoughtful analysis of relevant legal precedent, and necessary study to ensure competent representation

The Respondent testified that she had only handled two employment discrimination cases in her career, that neither case went to trial, and neither case was removed to Federal Court. Respondent also testified that she had never handled a case against a School District.

The Referee finds that Respondent failed or refused to engage in the necessary preparation and thoughtful analysis to competently represent Ms. Neitzelt, and to the extent any such efforts were made those efforts were misguided and/or insufficient.

As a result of Respondent’s failure to achieve minimal competence Respondent counseled Ms. Neitzelt, at tremendous expense, to pursue claims that were unsupported by existing law and lacked merit or any reasonable possibility of success.

During her testimony, Respondent was unable to articulate the necessary elements of a cause of action for employment discrimination.

Although it is possible that Respondent learned the elements at some point during her representation of Ms. Neitzelt and simply did not remember them at the time of her testimony, the complaint that Respondent filed for Ms. Neitzelt speaks for itself.

Mr. Gunter, an experienced employment attorney, testified that after reviewing the allegations in the complaint and the underlying facts, the representation should not have progressed beyond an initial consultation because the underlying facts could not support a prima facie case of discrimination.

Mr. Gunter also recognized that certain claims included in the complaint would have been procedurally barred because they were not included in the original EEOC Charge Form letter.

With regard to the procedurally barred claims, Respondent testified that she counseled her client that she would try to “sneak it in” as justification for including them in the complaint.

If this statement was merely a cover by Respondent for unknowingly filing barred claims, this would also demonstrate a failure of competence.

On the other hand if this statement is accepted as true, then

Respondent knowingly filed a claim that was procedurally barred and therefore lacked a sufficient basis in law and fact.

After the case was removed to Federal Court Respondent improperly filed an “emergency motion” with the Middle District of Florida without being admitted to practice before that Court.

Amongst the relief Respondent sought was transfer of the case to State court and sanctions against opposing counsel; this relief was not supported by relevant legal authority and was denied by the United States District Judge.

In her order the United States District Judge also outlined various procedural rules that were violated by the filing of the emergency motion, including but not limited to the motion being improperly labeled as an “emergency,” failure to confer with opposing counsel and including a statement in the motion regarding the conference, and by requesting relief in a separate unauthorized letter to the court.

The Referee finds from the testimony and evidence presented that Respondent was aware that the “emergency motion” was not supported by application of existing law and the facts of the case.

However, even if the motion were unknowingly filed through ignorance of applicable law and/or rules of court, the filing would constitute further evidence of a failure of competence by Respondent.

Rule 4–1.2. Objectives and Scope of Representation

(a) Lawyer to Abide by Client’s Decisions. Subject to subdivisions (c) and (d), a lawyer must abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation, and, as required by rule 4–1.4, must reasonably consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued.

A lawyer may take action on behalf of the client that is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation.

A lawyer must abide by a client’s decision whether to settle a matter6.

The Referee’s analysis on the preceding section is incorporated by reference.

The Referee finds that Ms. Neitzelt initially consulted with Respondent to determine whether the facts of her case would support relief against the School District.

The Referee finds that in order to have any meaningful communication and reach an understanding with the client about the objectives of representation, it is the responsibility of the lawyer to understand applicable law and advise the client accordingly.

The Referee finds that Respondent failed to understand the necessary elements to support the relief requested by Ms. Neitzelt, and therefore failed to communicate any proper objective(s) of representation.

The Referee gives substantial weight to Mr. Gunter’s testimony that the representation should not have progressed beyond an initial consultation, because there was no view of the facts that could support relief or “set an objective” for the client.

Rule 4-3.1. Meritorious Claims and Contentions:

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.

A lawyer for the defendant in a criminal proceeding, or the respondent in a proceeding that could result in incarceration, may nevertheless so defend the proceeding as to require that every element of the case be established.

6 In this section, and others that may follow, only the most relevant language of the Rule is cited for discussion.

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference.

The Referee finds that Respondent filed a complaint on Ms. Neitzelt’s behalf that lacked a basis in law and fact, including but not limited to seeking relief for one or more claims that were procedurally barred.

Respondent also sought relief in the United States District Court that lacked any basis in law or fact; Respondent’s efforts to return the case to state court after its removal to Federal Court was not supported by application of existing law and the Referee finds that these efforts were frivolous.

The Referee was not presented with any specific evidence or argument in support of a good faith attempt to extend, modify or reverse existing law, and even if such argument were made, the Referee does not find that such an argument would be supported by the record.

Rule 4–1.5. Fees and Costs for Legal Services

(a) Illegal, Prohibited, or Clearly Excessive Fees and Costs. A lawyer must not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal, prohibited, or clearly excessive fee or cost, or a fee generated by employment that was obtained through advertising or solicitation not in compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. A fee or cost is clearly excessive when:

(1) after a review of the facts, a lawyer of ordinary prudence would be left with a definite and firm conviction that the fee or the cost exceeds a reasonable fee or cost for services provided to such a degree as to constitute clear overreaching or an unconscionable demand by the attorney;

or

(2) the fee or cost is sought or secured by the attorney by means of intentional misrepresentation or fraud upon the client, a nonclient party, or any court, as to either entitlement to, or amount of, the fee.

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference. It is undisputed that Respondent charged Ms. Neitzelt in excess of forty thousand dollars for representation up and through

November, 2016 for services billed by the hour7. Respondent’s billing statements also reflect fee retainer deposits and fee payments by Ms. Neitzelt totaling $41,708.458.

The Referee finds that the fees charged by Respondent were clearly excessive. The Referee gives substantial weight to the testimony of Mr.Gunter, who was “shocked” by the fees charged, both because of the total amount charged, and because the facts and circumstances could never have supported a viable claim.

The Referee finds that the billing records, on their face, demonstrate excessive fees; as a single example the Referee notes that Ms. Neitzelt was billed a total of sixty hours or more solely for the drafting her complaint.

Respondent requested that the Referee admit hundreds of pages of documents in evidence, in part to demonstrate that the “mountains of information” provided by Ms. Neitzelt forced respondent to expend substantial amounts of time that were ultimately billed to Ms. Neitzelt.

The Referee is not persuaded by this argument.

After a review of the billing history it appears to the Referee that the vast majority of fees were incurred for activities other than the review of unsolicited documents furnished by Ms. Neitzelt.

Moreover, even if that were the case, the Referee finds that it is the attorney’s obligation to bill only for time that is reasonably necessary for the representation, and that a client should reasonably expect an

7 The billing statements speak for themselves; the Referee has calculated the total fees billed through November (Invoice 101317) as $43,435.00.

8 Ms. Neitzelt’s complaint to the Florida Bar alleged that she had paid $58,395.00 to Respondent, but Ms. Neitzelt conceded on cross-examination that she could not locate canceled checks to support this amount, and claimed that the amount supported by canceled checks was slightly in excess of $47,800.00. Ms. Neitzelt testified that she paid all bills for services rendered through November, 2016 billed at an hourly rate pursuant to the original fee agreement and addendum thereto. Canceled checks or other documentation demonstrating the total sum paid were not received in evidence. Respondent’s billing statements are not entirely clear, but appear to reflect at least $41,708.45 for fee deposits and payments were received from Ms. Neitzelt.

attorney to use professional judgment in determining what documents may be relevant, and which documents require extensive review. At the very least, the Referee finds that an informed conversation between the attorney and client should be undertaken before the client is billed excessively for unrestricted review of any and all papers gathered by the client9.

The Referee also finds that Respondent violated Rule 4-1.5 by entering a contingency fee agreement that failed to provide a credit for or otherwise address the fees previously paid by the client in the case, and by billing the client at an hourly rate for services rendered after the contingency fee agreement was entered.

Although the contingency fee agreement contains a provision that would permit Respondent to recover fees on a quantum meruit basis if discharged, the Referee finds that such a right would only accrue after the contingency occurred, and would be limited by the maximum contract fee.

Moreover, the amount of the quantum meruit fee would be a matter for determination by the court, considering relevant factors such as time, the recovery sought, the skill demanded and the results obtained10.

Instead, Respondent billed total fees in the amount of $25,412.50 (Invoice 101423) for

“QUANTUM MERUIT SERVICES FROM NOVEMBER 28, 2016 UNTIL FEBRUARY 13, 2017 PER THE CONTINGENCY FEE AGREEMENT.”

These fees were billed at an increased rate of $500.00 per hour, which the Referee finds was tantamount to a penalty for discharge.

9 While lawyers are necessarily entitled to compensation for their services, they are also fiduciaries for their clients…

The ethics of the legal profession demand that the attorney’s right to bill a client for legal services rendered be exercised with a healthy restraint for the client’s economic interests, that doubts be resolved in favor of the client rather than the firm, and that lawyers charge no more than the circumstances and the standards under rule 4-1.5(b) will bear.

Haines v. Sophia, 711 So. 2d 209, 212 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998)

10 See, Rosenberg v. Levin, 409 So. 2d 1016, 1021 (Fla. 1982) and The Fla. Bar v. Hollander, 607 So. 2d 412, 415 (Fla. 1992).

Although they were not ultimately paid by Ms. Neitzelt, the Referee finds that Respondent’s attempt to collect the fees charged in Invoice 101423 was prohibited and unethical.

The Referee also notes that Respondent charged Ms. Neitzelt for basic office supplies such as file folders, pads and a hole punch.

The comment to Rule 4-1.5 indicates that “General overhead should be accounted for in a lawyer’s fee, whether the lawyer charges hourly, flat, or contingent fees.”

The Referee finds that basic office supplies are within the category of general overhead that should be accounted for in the lawyer’s fee, and are not properly billed to the client.

However, the Referee finds that this conduct is far less consequential than the other violations of Rule 4-1.5 described above.

Rule 4-3.4. Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel

A lawyer must not:

(h) present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present disciplinary charges under these rules solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference. In an email communication to Mr. Akin December 30, 2016, after Ms. Neitzelt’s case had been removed to Federal Court, Respondent demanded that Mr. Akin withdraw his recently filed “motions and pleadings” and that he contact her personally by 5 p.m. the same day to confirm they would be withdrawn.

Respondent threatened that if he failed to comply, she would not only contact the Court, but “will also contact the Florida Bar next week to make a complaint against you…”

The Referee finds that the threat of a Bar Complaint to gain compliance in the context of pending litigation is a clear violation of Rule 4-3.4.

Rule 4-8.4(c) Misconduct

A lawyer shall not:

(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation…

(d) engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage, humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic.

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference.

The Referee finds that in an email dated December 30, 2016 Respondent accused Mr. Akin of “sanctionable” and unethical conduct for filings he made in the Federal District Court. From the totality of the evidence the Referee finds that Respondent knew that these accusations were without basis or justification at the time they were made and were designed to gain leverage in litigation.

Respondent also threatened to file a Bar complaint against Mr. Akin if he failed to comply with her demands within the litigation.

The Referee further finds that Respondent in her “emergency motion” to the Federal District Court alleged that the case should be returned to the Circuit Court because the Circuit Court did not first rule with regard to its concurrent jurisdiction.

This allegation was made in contrast to Respondent’s December 24, 2016 email to Ms. Neitzelt in which she stated: “…they do have the right to remove it if it has federal laws in it I just happened to prefer state court because we can make oral arguments…”

Thus the Referee concludes that Respondent was aware that a ruling from the Circuit Court was not necessary for removal contrary to the allegation in the emergency motion.

Toward the end of her representation of Ms. Neitzelt, and throughout these proceedings, including but not limited to the final hearing, Respondent has repeatedly accused Ms. Neitzelt, Mr. Gunter, Mr. Akin, Mr. Atwood and others of fraud, perjury, unethical conduct and participation in a massive conspiracy intended to harm Respondent.

Notwithstanding Respondent’s insistence that a wide-ranging conspiracy is obvious and can be easily identified, the Referee finds that there is no evidence in the record whatsoever from which a reasonable person could conclude that Respondent is the victim of a conspiracy.

The Referee finds that while insisting that she is the victim of a conspiracy, Respondent has repeatedly minimized her own prohibited conduct, offering unlikely explanations for her failure to maintain an active trust account, her pursuit of claims that lacked any possibility of success, filing frivolous motions, appearing in Federal District Court when not admitted to practice and excessively billing her client.

The Referee finds that Respondent has disparaged other professionals knowingly, or with callous indifference to the truth, and has on multiple occasions engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Rule 5-1.1. Trust Accounts

(a) Nature of Money or Property Entrusted to Attorney.

(1) Trust Account Required;

Location of Trust Account;

Commingling Prohibited.

A lawyer must hold in trust, separate from the lawyer’s own property, funds and property of clients or third persons that are in a lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation.

All funds, including advances for fees, costs, and expenses, must be kept in a separate federally insured bank, credit union, or savings and loan association account maintained in the state where the lawyer’s office is situated or elsewhere with the consent of the client or third person and clearly labeled and designated as a trust account…

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference.

Respondent did not maintain a trust account at any time relevant to her representation of Ms. Neitzelt, and specifically instructed Ms. Neitzelt to deposit retainer funds, cost deposits and fee payments to her firm’s operating account.

The initial retainer agreement called for a nonrefundable retainer of $6,000.00.

Aside from the determination of whether the fee was excessive, the Referee finds that a nonrefundable retainer belongs to the lawyer, and is properly deposited to the lawyer’s operating account11.

However the parties subsequently executed an addendum to the retainer agreement that called for an additional monthly fee retainer of
$3,000.00 which was “to cover the cost of the fees of the attorney only.”

The addendum does not identify the monthly retainer as being nonrefundable, and Respondent’s billing statements reflect that all payments made by Ms. Neitzelt were credited toward billed attorneys’ fees.

The Referee finds that any advance fee payments made by Ms. Neitzelt, other than the initial $6,000.00 nonrefundable retainer, remained the property of the client until earned, and should properly have been deposited in trust.

Respondent also collected deposits from Ms. Neitzelt for costs.

These sums also remained the property of the client and should have been deposited in trust.

11 See, Bain v. Weiffenbach, 590 So. 2d 544, 545 (Fla. 2d DCA 1991)

Any separate fee payments made by Ms. Neitzelt for fees already earned were the property of the Respondent, and would properly have been deposited to the operating account.

The Referee finds that the deposit of client funds to the firm operating account was a violation of Rule 5-1.1.

Also, because all payments and deposits by Ms. Neitzelt were placed in the same account, the Referee finds that Respondent commingled client funds with her firm’s funds in violation of Rule 5-1.1.

Respondent in her written closing argument has urged the court to find that any error with regard to her law firm’s bank accounts was “a technical error only” and has claimed that some ill-defined set of circumstances caused her firm trust account at PNC bank to be closed, when Respondent believed it to be open.

The Referee finds that the Florida Bar proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent and/or her firm did not maintain a trust account during the relevant time period.

Despite Respondent’s claim that she believed a firm trust account was open, there is no evidence in the record to support that claim.

The only evidence offered by Respondent on this subject was the testimony of Mr. Tarantur of PNC bank, which established that he was unable to locate any trust account belonging to Respondent or her firm.

It is clear that Respondent was attempting to provide a reasonable explanation for her failure to maintain a trust account, but the details of that explanation remain entirely unclear and were not supported by any record evidence.

The Referee finds that Respondent’s actions and communications with her client regarding payment were inconsistent with a genuine belief that she maintained an open and active trust account at a different bank, and the Referee does not accept this explanation as true.

Moreover, even if Respondent had a good faith belief that she maintained a trust account somewhere, her conduct would still constitute a violation of Rule 5-1.1; Ms. Neitzelt was specifically directed to make deposits for costs and unearned fees to a non-trust account, and her funds were commingled with Respondent’s funds within that account.

Rule 5-1.2(b) and (d). Trust Accounting Records and Procedures

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference.

The Referee finds that Respondent is guilty of violating Rules 5-1.2(b) and (d) and that extensive discussion is unnecessary.

Despite receiving client money that should have been placed in trust, Respondent failed to maintain a trust account.

By virtue of her failure to maintain a trust account, Respondent failed to comply with Rule 5-1.1(b) regarding minimum trust accounting records and 5-1.1(d) regarding minimum trust accounting procedures.

Rule 3-4.3. Misconduct and Minor Misconduct

The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all- inclusive, nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct to be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct.

The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference.

Without further discussion the Referee finds that Respondent is guilty of violating Rule 3-4.3.

IV. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FINDING OF NOT GUILTY

The Referee does not find that the following violations were proved by clear and convincing evidence presented at trial, and the Referee therefore recommends that Respondent be found not guilty of violating the following Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, as discussed individually below.

Rule 4-1.3: A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference. Despite the Referee’s recommendations as to guilt for the multiple violations described above, the Referee does not find that Respondent lacked diligence or promptness at any time during the representation.

Rule 4-3.5. Impartiality and decorum of the tribunal

(a) Influencing Decision Maker. A lawyer shall not seek to influence a judge, juror, prospective juror, or other decision maker except as permitted by law or the rules of court.

(b) Communication with Judge or Official. In an adversary proceeding a lawyer shall not communicate or cause another to communicate as to the merits of the cause with a judge or an official before whom the proceeding is pending except:

(1) in the course of the official proceeding in the cause;

(2) in writing if the lawyer promptly delivers a copy of the writing to the opposing counsel or to the adverse party if not represented by a lawyer;

(3) orally upon notice to opposing counsel or to the adverse party if not represented by a lawyer; or

(4) as otherwise authorized by law.

(c) Disruption of Tribunal. A lawyer shall not engage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal.

The Referee’s analysis in the preceding sections are incorporated herein by reference. This case does not implicate that portion of Rule 4-3.5 which prohibits improper contact with jurors.

The Referee does not find that there is clear and convincing evidence showing that Respondent engaged in improper ex-parte communication.

Although the Referee acknowledges that Respondent’s methods were often ineffective and misguided, and her conduct was at times improper, the Court does not find clear and convincing evidence showing that Respondent engaged in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal.

Respondent’s improper filing in the Federal District Court was certainly unauthorized, and without proper motive, but the Court does not find that Respondent made the filing with the intent to disrupt the tribunal nor that the Federal District Court or its proceedings were actually disrupted.

Throughout these bar proceedings Respondent has at times appeared disorganized, for example Respondent has frequently been unable to locate documents served electronically; however the Referee has not observed Respondent to be disruptive during these proceedings.

V. RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO SANCTIONS

The Referee has considered The Florida Bar Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions and the legal precedent set forth at the end of this opinion (hereinafter “the Standards”).

The Florida Bar seeks a suspension of a minimum length of one year.

Respondent has argued for a lesser sanction or no sanction.

The Florida Bar has argued that the Referee should apply the following aggravating factors:

1. Dishonest or selfish motive;

2. Bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceeding by intentionally failing to comply with rules or orders of the disciplinary agency;

3. Submission of false evidence, false statements or other deceptive practices during the disciplinary process;

4. Refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of the conduct; and

5. Substantial experience in the practice of law.

The Referee finds that the aggravating factors of bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceeding and submission of false evidence during the disciplinary process should not be applied.

The Referee finds that the remaining aggravating factors identified by the Florida Bar should be applied.

The Referee finds that the following additional aggravating factors should also be applied:

1. Multiple offenses; and

2. Indifference to making restitution.

The Florida Bar acknowledges that Respondent’s lack of a prior disciplinary record is a mitigating factor and the Referee finds that this mitigating factor should be applied.

As mentioned above, Respondent has at all times maintained that she is the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy, and has attempted to justify all of her actions with various explanations.

With the exception of her concession that her improper handling of client funds may have been a “technical error,” Respondent has refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of any of her conduct.

The Referee finds the following language from The Fla. Bar v. Rosenberg, 169 So. 3d 1155, 1158 (Fla. 2015) to be particularly relevant.

In its opinion the Court cited the following language from the report of referee:

“The Referee has strong doubts about the Respondent’s fitness to practice law.

It is obvious Respondent possesses above-average intelligence.

It appears, however, that he lacks either the common sense or the intellectual honesty to distinguish appropriate and rational arguments from inappropriate and irrational arguments.

The ability to read precedent, while a necessary condition for practicing law, is not sufficient.

A lawyer must be able to apply legal principles correctly and honestly.

There are times when a lawyer must yield to the facts, precedent, or court orders.

Respondent appears incapable of discerning when to yield a legally unsupportable position.”

Like the attorney in Rosenberg Respondent appears to be intelligent, but also appears to lack sufficient insight and common sense to distinguish appropriate and rational arguments from those that are inappropriate and irrational.

The Referee also notes that the Rosenberg Court cited Fla. Bar v. Adler, 126 So.3d 244, 247 (Fla. 2013) for the proposition that the Court has moved toward imposing stronger sanctions for unethical and unprofessional conduct.

In the absence of aggravating or mitigating factors, the Standards indicate that suspension is appropriate when a lawyer knows or should know that the lawyer is dealing improperly with client property and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

The Standards indicate that suspension is likewise appropriate when a lawyer engages in an area of practice in which the lawyer knowingly lacks competence and causes injury or potential injury to a client.

With regard to excessive fees, suspension is appropriate when a lawyer knowingly engages in conduct that is a violation of a duty owed as a professional and causes injury or potential injury to a client, the public, or the legal system

The Referee finds that suspension is necessary and appropriate in this case; however the Referee finds that a one year suspension would be insufficient given the nature and number of violations and the application of multiple aggravating factors.

The Referee hereby recommends the following:

1) that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years;
2) that Respondent be required to pay restitution in the amount of $41,708.45 together with prejudgment interest to Ms. Neitzelt as a condition of reinstatement;
3) The she provide proof of rehabilitation as a condition of reinstatement;
4) That Respondent pay the costs incurred by the Florida Bar as more particularly set forth below.

VI. STATEMENT OF COSTS AND MANNER IN WHICH COSTS SHOULD BE TAXED

The Referee finds that the following costs were reasonably incurred by the Florida Bar:
Administrative Fee $1,250.00
Investigative Costs $ 826.00
Court Reporter’s Fees $3,071.75
Witness Costs $ 244.40
TOTAL $5,392.15

It is recommended that the above costs be charged to Respondent and that interest at the statutory rate shall accrue and be deemed delinquent within 30 days after the judgment in this case becomes final unless paid in full or otherwise deferred by the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar.

VII. LEGAL AUTHORITY

The Referee has considered relevant legal authority, including but not limited to the following, in reaching the recommendations made herein:

The Fla. Bar v. Dupee, 160 So. 3d 838, 853 (Fla. 2015) citing Fla. Bar v. Maynard, 672 So.2d 530, 540 (Fla.1996); Fla. Bar v. Neu, 597 So.2d 266, 269 (Fla.1992); and Fla. Bar v. Lord, 433 So.2d 983, 986 (Fla.1983).

(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;

and

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

The Fla. Bar v. Smith, 866 So. 2d 41, 43 (Fla. 2004)

(one year suspension with multiple mitigating factors. Smith deposited clients’ $1665 check into her operating account rather than her trust account. She did not offer a valid explanation for depositing the filing fees in the operating account.)

The Fla. Bar v. Wolf, 930 So. 2d 574, 575 (Fla. 2006)

(two year suspension. Wolf had deposited funds into his operating account, which should have been held in trust. By placing such funds into his operating account, Wolf used his operating account as a trust account.

That account was not an interest-bearing trust account in compliance with The Florida Bar’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) program. During the investigation, Wolf cooperated with the Bar.

He waived a probable cause hearing, admitted he placed the funds into his operating account, and admitted he failed to comply with the trust account requirements of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.)

Rosenberg v. Levin, 409 So. 2d 1016, 1021 (Fla. 1982)

(An attorney employed under a valid contract who is discharged without cause before the contingency has occurred or before the client’s matters have concluded can recover only the reasonable value of his services rendered prior to discharge, limited by the maximum contract fee.

A cause of action in quantum meruit for payment of fees to the discharged attorney arises only after the successful occurrence of the contingency.)

The Fla. Bar v. Hollander, 607 So. 2d 412, 415 (Fla. 1992)

(Unlike Rosenberg, the instant case involves an agreement between the client and attorney that allows the attorney to be paid twice for the same work.

Additionally, the language of both clauses fails to support Hollander’s argument that the agreement provided for a quantum meruit determination of fees between the client and his law firm.

Neither clause contains language referring to a court determination of quantum meruit in setting fees with clients.

Thus, we find that the instant case is distinguishable from this Court’s decision in Rosenberg.)

The Fla. Bar v. Forrester, 656 So. 2d 1273 (Fla. 1995)

(Charging excessive fees, writing check to self from trust account, and failing to timely prepare monthly comparisons and reconciliations of trust account funds that does not involve misappropriation of any funds from trust account warrants public reprimand, and 90–day suspension, and subsequent indefinite suspension until repayment of amount of excessive fees is completed, in light of lack of prior disciplinary violations.)

Fla. Bar v. Dinin, No. SC20-884, 2020 WL 3618889 (Fla. July 2, 2020)

(Eighteen month suspension pursuant to consent judgment with several mitigating factors for various violations including competence, fees and costs for legal services, meritorious claims and contentions.)

The Fla. Bar v. Jasperson, 625 So. 2d 459, 463 (Fla. 1993)

(one year suspension for attorney who failed to properly advise clients, missed a filing deadline, made fraudulent statements to the bankruptcy court in both cases, improperly entered into a business transaction with his clients, and continued with unnecessary litigation to protect his own interests.

As indicated in The Florida Bar v. Neu, 597 So.2d 266 (Fla.1992), discipline must protect the public from unethical conduct, must be fair to a respondent yet be sufficient to punish the breach and encourage reformation and rehabilitation, and must be severe enough to deter others who might beprone or tempted to become involved in like violations. A one-year suspension fulfills those objectives.)

Automatic Data Processing v. Scarberry, 412 So. 2d 927, 928 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1982)

(ethical considerations implicated when an attorney advances a position that is unwarranted, or knowingly makes a false statement of fact.)

The Fla. Bar v. Broome, 932 So. 2d 1036, 1044 (Fla. 2006)

(one-year suspension followed by probation for three years with conditions for multiple violations.)

The Fla. Bar v. Head, 27 So. 3d 1, 10 (Fla. 2010)

(one year suspension for various serious violations with prior admonishment for minor misconduct.)

The Fla. Bar v. Rosenberg, 169 So. 3d 1155 (Fla. 2015)

(One year suspension for multiple violations including competence, by attorney with substantial experience who failed to acknowledge the wrongful nature of the misconduct.

Also, the Court has moved toward imposing stronger sanctions for unethical and unprofessional conduct.

Id., citing See Fla. Bar v. Adler, 126 So.3d 244, 247 (Fla.2013).)

The Fla. Bar v. Richardson, 591 So. 2d 908, 911 (Fla. 1991)

(Sixty day suspension for violation of 4-3.1 Meritorious Claims and Contentions with no other violations and no disciplinary history.)

The Fla. Bar v. Picon, 205 So. 3d 759, 766 (Fla. 2016)

(one year suspension for multiple violations, including competence, with prior disciplinary history.)

The Fla. Bar v. Gwynn, 94 So. 3d 425, 433 (Fla. 2012)

(91 day suspension for multiple violations including misrepresentations and making frivolous claims.)

The Fla. Bar v. Watson, 76 So. 3d 915, 922 (Fla. 2011)

(In order to satisfy the element of intent it must only be shown that the conduct was deliberate or knowing.

The motive behind the attorney’s action is not the determinative factor. Rather, the issue is whether the attorney deliberately or knowingly engaged in the activity in question.)

citing Fla. Bar v.Nicnick, 963 So.2d at 223–24; Fla. Bar v. Brown, 905 So.2d 76, 81 (Fla.2005); Fla. Bar v. Barley, 831 So.2d 163, 169 (Fla.2002). Fla. Bar v. Riggs, 944 So.2d 167, 171 (Fla.2006); Fla. Bar v. Brown, 905 So.2d at 81; Fla. Bar v. Smith, 866 So.2d 41 (Fla.2004); Fla. Bar v. Lanford, 691 So.2d 480, 481 (Fla.1997).

The Fla. Bar v. Carlon, 820 So. 2d 891, 900 (Fla. 2002)

(91 day suspension for charging excessive fees, with requirement that excessive fee be paid to client as restitution before reinstatement to the practice of law.)

The Fla. Bar v. Committe, 136 So. 3d 1111, 1119 (Fla. 2014)

(three year suspension for multiple violations including meritorious Claims and Contentions with prior disciplinary history.)

The Fla. Bar v. Bischoff, 212 So. 3d 312, 319 (Fla. 2017)

(one-year suspension for attorney who failed to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, failed to adequately research his client’s causes of action to know what elements were required, and filed baseless objections and appeals not supported by applicable law.)

The Fla. Bar v. Bailey, 803 So. 2d 683, 692 (Fla. 2001)

(if money is given to a client to be applied to fees when they become earned, much like a retainer, these monies cannot be withdrawn from a trust account and spent until they are earned.)

The Fla. Bar v. Brutus, 216 So. 3d 1286, 1291 (Fla. 2017) citing Fla. Bar v. Mason, 826 So.2d 985, 986–87 (Fla. 2002).

(One year suspension after recommendation for 91 day suspension. Court finds negligence in maintaining a trust account warrants a lengthier suspension requiring proof of rehabilitation.)

The Fla. Bar v. Nowacki, 697 So. 2d 828, 833 (Fla. 1997)

(91 day suspension for multiple violations, and noting that evidence of unethical conduct, not squarely within the scope of the Bar’s accusations, is admissible, and such unethical conduct, if established by clear and convincing evidence, should be reported because it is relevant to the question of the respondent’s fitness to practice law and thus relevant to the discipline to be imposed.)
Dated this 8th day of March, 2021, in Bradenton, Manatee County, Florida.

/s/ Charles Sniffen . CHARLES SNIFFEN
Circuit Judge/Referee
Manatee County Judicial Center
1051 Manatee Avenue West, 9th Floor Bradenton, Florida 34205

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I HEREBY CERTIFY that the original of the foregoing Report of Referee has been e-mailed to The Honorable John A. Tomasino, Clerk, Supreme Court of Florida, at e-file@flcourts.org, and mailed to 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32301; a copy has been e-mailed to Shanee L. Hinson, Bar Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399; a copy has been e-mailed to Catherine Elizabeth Czyz, catherineczyz@icloud.com; and a copy has been e-mailed to Patricia Ann Toro Savitz, Staff Counsel, psavitz@floridabar.org, and The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-6584 this 8th day of March, 2021, in Bradenton, Manatee County, Florida.

/s/ Charles Sniffen

CHARLES SNIFFEN
Circuit Judge/Referee
Manatee County Judicial Center
1051 Manatee Avenue West, 9th Floor Bradenton, Florida 34205

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY

APPELLATE DIVISION

DOCKET NO. A-0

ANTHONY CZYZ and

CATHERINE CZYZ,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

CARRINGTON MORTGAGE

SERVICES, LLC,

Defendant-Respondent.

May 2, 2017

Submitted March 28, 2017 Decided

Before Judges Yannotti and Gilson.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Docket No. L-1391-15.

Anthony Czyz and Catherine Czyz, appellants pro se.

McCabe, Weisberg & Conway, P.C., attorneys for respondent (Joseph F. Riga, on the brief).

PER CURIAM

Plaintiffs Anthony Czyz and Catherine Czyz appeal from an order of the Law Division, dated November 6, 2015, which dismissed their claims against defendant Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC. We affirm.

I.

This appeal arises from the following facts. Mr. Czyz is the owner of real property in Bloomingdale, New Jersey.

On October 7, 2005, Mr. Czyz borrowed $408,000 from New Century Mortgage Corporation (New Century), the repayment of which was secured by a mortgage on the Bloomingdale property.

The loan had an adjustable interest rate with an initial rate of 7.95%.

Thereafter, New Century transferred the loan to defendant.

In 2007, defendant refused to approve a so-called short sale of the property from Mr. Czyz to Catherine Caucci, who became Catherine Czyz when plaintiffs married.1

Mr. Czyz defaulted on the loan and on August 5, 2008, he entered into a loan modification agreement with defendant, in which all amounts due were capitalized into a new loan having a principal balance of $458,659.40, with interest at a fixed rate of 6.75%.

Mr. Czyz defaulted on the modified loan agreement.

According to plaintiffs, on February 9, 2009, defendant’s employees entered the home to winterize it and allegedly damaged the pipes. Plaintiffs claimed that because of the negligent winterization, the pipes burst and the home sustained water damage.

In March 2009, Mr. Czyz filed an action against defendant in the Florida courts.

Apparently at that time, plaintiffs were residing in Florida.

They asserted fraud claims arising from defendant’s alleged refusal to permit a short sale of the Bloomingdale, New Jersey property from Mr. Czyz to Ms. Czyz (then Ms. Caucci), and the loan modification agreement.

The Florida trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant, and Mr. Czyz’s appeal was not successful.

In 2012, plaintiffs filed an action in the Law Division, asserting the same claims that Mr. Czyz raised in the Florida action.

They also asserted claims for property damage, misapplication of casualty insurance proceeds, and a violation of the federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C.A. 1601 to 1693. This action also was unsuccessful.

In April 2015, plaintiffs filed this action against defendant. In their complaint, plaintiffs asserted a claim for negligence, alleging that defendant’s employees had entered the home in February 2009 without permission.

Plaintiffs claimed that several days later as a result of defendant’s negligence, the pipes burst and flooded the home.

Plaintiffs further alleged that the pipes burst again in December 2011, and caused additional damage.

Plaintiffs claimed that in 2009 and 2011, they paid to repair the damage to the home.

Plaintiffs also allege that after the pipes in the home burst in December 2011, they submitted a claim to an insurance company to compensate them for the loss.

According to plaintiffs, defendant directed the insurance company to make the check for the damage payable to defendant. Plaintiffs claim that defendant fraudulently cashed the check and refused to tender any payment to them.

Plaintiffs also asserted a claim of fraud with regard to the original loan.

Plaintiffs allege that the loan agreement was void or voidable.

Plaintiffs claim that at the time Mr. Czyz entered into the original loan agreement, he was mentally and physically impaired as a result of having been struck by a cement truck in 2002.

Plaintiffs allege that New Century falsely represented that the loan was a sound agreement, and that Mr. Czyz would be able to keep his home.

Plaintiffs assert that Mr. Czyz relied to his detriment upon these false representations.

In addition, plaintiffs asserted a claim of fraud regarding the modified loan agreement;

a claim that the original loan violated the TILA;

a claim that defendant and New Century fraudulently failed to disclose certain material terms of the original loan;

and a claim that defendant breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing with regard to the original loan.

In lieu of an answer, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 4:6-2(e).

Defendant argued that the claims regarding the alleged negligent winterization of the home and all claims related to the original loan were barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

Defendant further argued that claims relating to the alleged flooding of the home in December 2011 were not properly pled as tort claims since they are contract-based claims.

In addition, defendant asserted that Ms. Czyz’s claims should be dismissed because she did not have standing to pursue any of the claims in the complaint.

The trial court entered an order dated September 11, 2015, which denied the motion without prejudice, because the motion papers had not been served upon Ms. Czyz in the manner required by the court rules.

On October 19, 2015, defendant re-filed its motion.

The court entered an order dated November 6, 2015, which granted defendant’s motion to dismiss Ms. Czyz’s claims because she lacked standing.

The order also dismissed the complaint because it did not assert any claim upon which relief could be granted.

This appeal followed.

On appeal, plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred by finding that Ms. Czyz lacked standing to pursue the claims in the complaint. They also argue that the court erred by dismissing their claims.

II.

We first consider plaintiffs’ contention that Ms. Czyz had standing to assert the claims in the complaint.

Plaintiffs contend that Ms. Czyz became an owner of the mortgaged property on April 27, 2007, when she married Mr. Czyz.

Plaintiffs therefore argue that Ms. Czyz had standing to assert the claims.

Here, the trial court correctly found that Ms. Czyz did not have standing to assert the claims in the complaint.

The claims are tort claims, but relate to and arise from the original note/mortgage and the loan modification agreement. It is undisputed that Ms. Czyz is not a party to those agreements. Ms. Czyz cannot assert claims based on those agreements.

The test for determining whether a third-party may bring an action under a contract is whether the parties to the agreement intended that a third-party “should receive a benefit that might be enforced in court.”

GE Capital Mortg. Servs., Inc. v. Privetera, 346 N.J. Super. 424, 434 (App. Div. 2002).

“The contractual intent to recognize a right to performance in the third person is the key.” Ibid.

(quoting Broadway Maint. Corp. v. Rutgers, The State Univ., 90 N.J. 253, 259 (1982)).

In this case, there is no allegation that when Mr. Czyz entered into the subject agreements, he and the other parties to the agreements intended to confer some benefit upon Ms. Czyz that could be enforced in court.

Since Ms. Czyz does not have the right to pursue any contract-based claims against defendant, she also does not have the right to assert tort claims related to the making and performance of those agreements.

Moreover, Ms. Czyz did not have an interest in the property that would give her standing to pursue the claims in the complaint.

Ms. Czyz alleges she became an owner of the property based upon a quitclaim deed in which Mr. Czyz transferred the property to her.

The deed includes a certification from a notary, which stated that Mr. Czyz signed and delivered the deed on April 18, 2011.

However, in the original note/mortgage, Mr. Czyz agreed that he would not transfer any interest in the collateral property without the lender’s prior consent.

Plaintiffs do not claim that defendant ever consented to the transfer of the property to Ms. Czyz.

Indeed, plaintiffs have acknowledged that in 2007, defendant refused to approve a short sale of the property from Mr. Czyz to Ms. Czyz (then Ms. Caucci).

Furthermore, although plaintiffs apparently were married in April 2007, the marriage did not give Ms. Czyz standing to assert the claims in the complaint.

Under N.J.S.A. 3B:28-3, a spouse has a right of joint possession to the principal marital residence.

However, that right is subject to the lien of a mortgage, if placed on the residence before the marriage. N.J.S.A. 3B:28-3.1; see also Wamco XV Ltd. v. Farrell, 301 N.J. Super. 73, 79 (App. Div. 1997) (noting that under N.J.S.A. 3B:28-3.1, in order to avoid the spouse’s right to joint possession, the encumbrance must be placed on the property before the marriage).

Ms. Czyz may have a right of joint possession to the marital residence. However, such a right of possession does not give her standing to assert claims arising from the original loan and loan modification agreements.

III.

Next, we consider plaintiffs’ contention that the trial court erred by dismissing their claims.

Plaintiffs contend defendant’s motion was procedurally defective;

defendant waived the grounds upon which it sought dismissal;

the claims were not time-barred because they allegedly relate back to earlier-filed litigation;

the claims arising in 2011 were properly pled;

and

defendant’s motion to dismiss should have been denied based on considerations of equity and public policy.

We are convinced that these arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion.R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

However, we add the following comments.

Here, defendant moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims pursuant to Rule 4:6-2(e), arguing that in their complaint, plaintiffs failed to assert claims upon which relief can be granted.

In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 4:6-2(e), the court must determine if a cause of action is suggested by the facts alleged.

Printing Mart-Morristown v. Sharp Electronics Corp., 116 N.J. 739, 746 (1989)

(citing Velantzas v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 109 N.J. 189, 192 (1988)).

Generally, the “inquiry is limited to examining the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged on the face of the complaint.” Ibid.

(citing Rieder v. Dep’t of Transp., 221 N.J. Super. 547, 552 (App. Div. 1987)).

We reject plaintiffs’ contention that defendant’s motion was procedurally defective because defendant did not submit a certification or affidavit in support of its motion.

In the motion, defendant relied upon the facts as alleged in the complaint, as well as the documents referred to in the pleadings.

See Myska v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co., 440 N.J. Super. 458, 482 (App. Div.)

(noting that in ruling on a Rule 4:6-2(e) motion to dismiss, the court may consider documents referred to in the pleadings), appeal dismissed, 224 N.J. 523 (2016).

Therefore, defendant was not required to submit a certification or affidavit to establish any relevant facts.

We also reject plaintiffs’ argument that the trial court erred by finding that their claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitation.

Here, plaintiffs asserted a claim of negligence, based upon damage defendant’s employees allegedly caused to the pipes in the mortgaged property.

According to the complaint, defendant’s employees damaged the pipes on February 9, 2009, when they entered the home to winterize it.

A claim for tortious injury to real property must be filed within six years after the cause of action has accrued.

N.J.S.A. 2A:14 1. Although plaintiffs claim that due to the negligence of defendant’s employees, the house sustained damage in 2009 and 2011, the cause of action accrued at the time of the alleged negligent act, which plaintiffs claim occurred on February 9, 2009.

The trial court correctly found that the negligence claim was not timely filed.

Plaintiffs also asserted claims of fraud with regard to the original note dated October 7, 2005, and the loan modification agreement dated August 5, 2008.

A cause of action for fraud also is subject to N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1, and must be filed within six years after the cause of action has accrued.

In this case, plaintiffs claim that when Mr. Czyz made the original loan, New Century represented to him that the mortgage was “a normal enforceable mortgage” with a non-usurious rate of interest, and that he would be able to “keep his home.”

As noted, plaintiffs claim that New Century knew these representations were false, and Mr. Czyz relied upon them to his detriment.

However, Mr. Czyz obviously knew about the rate of interest on the loan when he made the original loan.

Moreover, Mr. Czyz knew or should have known of any alleged misrepresentations at least by 2007 when he went into default.

The trial court correctly determined that plaintiffs did not file the fraud claims regarding the original loan within the time required by N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1.

Plaintiffs also alleged that Mr. Czyz was under duress and/or undue influence of highly intoxicating medications when he entered into the loan modification agreement.

He claims that defendant made certain false representations at that time.

Specifically, Mr. Czyz alleges that defendant falsely claimed it had a valid foreclosure action on the property; it would approve a short sale of the property; and the refinancing was the only way to avoid the sheriff’s sale.

As noted, Mr. Czyz executed the loan modification agreement on August 5, 2008.

The fraud claims regarding the loan modification argument accrued at that time, or when Mr. Czyz defaulted on the modified agreement, which was sometime before February 2009.

The trial court correctly determined that these claims were not filed within six years of their accrual, as required by N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1.

In addition, plaintiffs asserted a claim under the TILA, with regard to New Century’s alleged failure to make required disclosures in connection with the original loan.

A claim for money damages under the TILA must be asserted within one year after the date upon which the loan is closed. 15 U.S.C.A. 1640(e).

The original loan closed on October 7, 2005.

Plaintiffs’ TILA claim was not filed within one year of that date, as required by 15 U.S.C.A. 1640(e).

Plaintiffs also asserted a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which is subject to the six-year limitations period in N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1.

The claim pertains to the alleged false and misleading disclosures made in October 2005, when the original loan was made.

The trial court correctly found that this claim was not asserted within the time required by N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1.

We find no merit in plaintiffs’ contention that the relevant statutes of limitations did not bar their claims because they filed lawsuits in 2009 and 2012, which raised the same or similar claims.

The relation-back doctrine in Rule 4:9-3 applies when a pleading is amended and adds a claim that “arose out of the conduct, transaction or occurrence” asserted in the original complaint.

The rule does not, however, apply to earlier-filed complaints in other actions.

In their complaint, plaintiffs also claimed that defendant fraudulently retained insurance proceeds that were paid as a result of damage to the property sustained in 2009 and/or 2011.

Even if this claim had been timely filed, the facts as alleged do not support a claim of fraud.

The record indicates that at the time of the alleged improper diversion of funds, Mr. Czyz was in default, and the subject agreements did not preclude defendant from retaining the insurance proceeds and applying them to the amounts that Mr. Czyz owed.

Affirmed.

1 According to defendant, a short sale is sometimes offered by a lender when a borrower owes more than the value of the collateral property securing the loan.

A short sale is usually an arm’s length transaction that establishes the market value of the collateral.

The lender agrees to accept the sale proceeds as full payment of the loan.

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South Florida attorneys stealing, working when suspended, not working after being paid

Lawyers in over their head and incarcerated are among those from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach County on the Florida Bar’s most recent list of attorneys disciplined by the state Supreme Court.

By David J. Neal | Feb. 9, 2022

Article by Miami Herald opens with the facts about Catherine Czyz’s suspension and restitution order by the Florida Bar…

Catherine Czyz, West Palm Beach For her employment discrimination suit against Mariner Middle School in Cape Coral in March 2016, teacher Erin Neitzelt reached out to Czyz (admitted to the Bar in 1997), a high school acquaintance with whom she had occasional online contact.

Believing she was about to be fired after only seven months, according to her testimony before the disciplinary case referee, Neitzelt resigned in March 2016.

Her issues with Mariner included being excluded from the talent pool being considered for the principal position, though she’d been a principal elsewhere from 1997 through 2007.

Neitzelt said Czyz claimed the $350 per hour she was charging Neitzelt was a friend rate, half her usual $700 per hour.

After Neitzelt paid $6,000 non-refundable retainer and a $1,500 cost retainer, Neitzelt told Czyz

“she did not know why she was being mistreated at Mariner, but suggested that it could have been because of “the way I looked or the car I drove or because of the jewelry that I wore or where our home was located…””

The EEOC Charge Form Letter Czyz prepared alleged discrimination based on Neitzelt’s gender “and, more specifically, a good-looking, blonde, white woman with a stellar education … and I have a certain amount of wealth from hard work.”

The looks and money references made Neitzelt uneasy, but Czyz told here they were necessary and what was in the letter formed “legitimate basis to file suit.” Czyz also made references to Neitzelt’s Irish and Italian lineage in the filed complaint, to Neitzelt’s surprise.

The case was moved to federal court in the Middle District of Florida, where Czyz wasn’t admitted. Eventually, they brought on attorney Jason Gunter, board certified in labor and employment law.

Neitzelt got a $2,500 “nuisance payment” and her claims were dismissed with prejudice.

Gunter told the referee that Neitzelt’s case was so weak, that it shouldn’t have gone past an initial consultation. He only agreed to represent her if she agreed to a goal of settling the case with a dismissal that wouldn’t leave her on the hook for the school’s attorney’s fees.

Speaking of attorney’s fees, the referee’s report said Gunter called Czyz’s fees, which reached over $40,000, “unnecessary” because “there was going to be no viable opportunity ever to succeed on these claims against a public sector entity.”

Even if the claims had been viable, Mr. Gunter found that the fees charged by [Czyz] were beyond “not only what I would charge, but that I had ever heard of in my career.”

The referee found that Czyz

“despite substantial experience, accepted representation in an area of law in which she lacked sufficient knowledge and skill.”

Czyz’s two-year suspension started Saturday. She’s also ordered to pay restitution of $41,798 with interest to Neitzelt.

Boca Raton attorney banned from practicing law by Florida Supreme Court

Feb. 2, 2022 | Jane Musgrove

Extract from the Palm Beach Post

Catherine Elizabeth Czyz, who had an office on Village Boulevard in West Palm Beach, was ordered to pay nearly $42,000 in restitution to a Lee County teacher she represented in a discrimination lawsuit.

The high court also suspended her law license for two years, finding that she excessively billed her client. Further, she continued to represent the teacher even after the case was moved to U.S. District Court. Czyz wasn’t licensed to practice in federal court yet continued to handle the case, according to a release from the Florida Bar.

Response to Czyz/Caucci

From: Catherine E. Czyz <catherineczyz@icloud.com>

Date: April 23, 2022, 1.13 pm

Subject: Article “Rogue Lawyer Catherine Czyz…”

Message Body:

Catherine E. Czyz
931 Village Boulevard, Suite 905-242
West Palm Beach, FL 33409
E-mail: catherinexliv@gmail.com
Telephone: 561-502-1542

April 23, 2022

Lawsinflorida.com
Blogger, Inc. (published owner of lawsinflorida.com) c/o Registered Agent: Agents and Corporations, Inc.
1201 Orange St., Suite 600
One Commerce Center
Wilmington, DE 19801
SENT VIA US MAIL AND TO ONLINE CONTACT AT LAWSINFLORIDA.COM

NOTICE OF INTENT TO SUE

Dear Blogger, Inc. ( a/k/a lawsinflorida.com):

Please be advised that lawsinflorida.com published a defamatory article about me titled, “Rogue Lawyer Catherine Czyz aka Caucci Receives Two Year Suspension for Outrageous Employment Discrimination Case”, which contained false and misleading information and omissions of information, which was done by you to place me in a false light to the public or third parties, and as a result, I have suffered loss of reputation, loss of income, an inability to be employed or attain employment and other damages due to the acts of this defamatory publication.

Currently, there is a lawsuit against Erin Neitzelt’s attorneys, law firms, and Erin Neitzelt in Palm Beach County, Czyz et al. v. Atwood et al., 2021 CA 2874.

To mitigate damages, please immediately remove any and all publishing of this article about me and any related articles published by your company/publisher. If this article is not removed by Monday, May 2, 2022, then I may make a request to the Court for additional damages, including punitive damages.

Please e-mail proof of the removal of this defamatory article to me at catherinexliv@gmail.com and catherineczyz@icloud.com, and you may contact me at these e-mails for any correspondence regarding this matter.

PLEASE GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.

Very truly yours,
Catherine E. Czyz


This e-mail was sent from a contact form on Laws In Texas (https://lawsintexas.com)

Czyz Office "Suite"

From: Catherine Czyz <catherineczyz@icloud.com>

Subject: The article published about me titled “Rogue Attorney…”

Message Body:

This is my second request through this contact area on your site for the name of the reporter/author of this article you published about me and the name of the editor or person in charge to speak to regarding this and the person’s contact information. Please provide this to me at catherineczyz@icloud.com.  This is a defamatory article and I want it removed from publication immediately.

This e-mail was sent from a contact form on Laws In Texas (https://lawsintexas.com)

From: Catherine E. Czyz <catherineczyz@icloud.com>

Date: April 20, 2022, 1.04 pm

Subject: Article “Rogue Attorney…”

Message Body:

I would like to know the name of the reporter who wrote this article about me, and the name and contact information of the editor or person who is in charge of publishing this article. Please contact me today with thi information at catherineczyz@icloud.com.  Thank you.

This e-mail was sent from a contact form on Laws In Texas (https://lawsintexas.com)

RESPONDENT’S/APPELLANT’S AMENDED EMERGENCY MOTION FOR RETROACTIVE APPLICATION OF SUSPENSION, MOTION TO ABATE, MOTION FOR CLARIFICATION OF ORDER AND MOTION AND MOTION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, MOTION TO VACATE ORDER AND DISMISS THE COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE

Respondent/Appellant, files this, her Emergency Motion for Retroactive Application of Suspension, Motion to Abate, and Motion for Clarification of Order, and states as follows:

1. This Honorable Court’s issued an Order on January 6, 2022 suspending her from the practice of law for two years in Florida.

2. The Respondent/Appellant, files this Amended Emergency Motion herself, individually, to request more time to comply with the Order issued by this Honorable Court, and for other relief.

3. On January 2, 2022, Respondent/Appellant tested positive for COVID-!9 and has undergone treatment by doctors since that time until present.

4. As such, Respondent/Appellant requests an extension of time of thirty (30) days to comply with the Order.

5. Furthermore, upon receipt of the Order, Respondent/Appellant began assigning her active law firm’s clients to another attorney.

6. Respondent/Appellant has not retained counsel for herself, her dissolved companies, nor her active law firm for personal cases in Florida Courts.

7. Respondent/Appellant filed two motions after receiving the Order from this Honorable Court and then filed the emergency motion combining the motions but omitted the request for more time to comply.

8. The Florida Bar Association filed this action in 2019 against Respondent/Appellant as a result of a Florida Bar Complaint/Inquiry filed by Erin Neitzelt in or about May, 2017 and payment was made by Erin Neitzelt in 2016 for representation.

9. As a result, Respondent/Appellant was unable to attain work as an attorney and did not represent clients in the two year period from the date of filing, other than representing herself and her law firm’s claims against Erin Neitzelt.

10. The litigation and decision by the Referee in the present case was delayed and extended multiple times due to the Referee requesting extensions of time to the Court.

11. As such, Respondent/Appellant requests this Honorable Court to deem the two year suspension period to have been served from 2019, retroactively, from when the action was filed, to 2021, and that she will not be penalized for any representations of being in good standing during that time period, and to have a waiver of any required paperwork of application for re-instatement and/or to continue as instated as an attorney to practice law as of present date.

12. Also, Respondent/Appellant requests this Honorable Court to abate the payment to Erin Neitzelt and to The Florida Bar Association for costs, as cases are pending in Circuit Courts involving the same issues and Respondent/Appellant may receive a judgment in her favor and/or evidence in these cases may reveal addition new evidence for a pleading to be filed for a dismissal of this action by The Florida Bar Association.

13. The case styles are: Neitzelt v. Czyz / Czyz v. Neitzelt, 2018 CA 1244; Czyz v. Neitzelt, 2022-0063
(appeal of non-final Order in Czyz v. Neitzelt / Neitzelt v Czyz based upon Venue and/or Jurisdiction);

and

Czyz v. Atwood, et al., 2021 CA 2874.

14. Florida law holds that the Referee’s decision will be abated for good cause shown, The Florida Bar v. Lusskin, 661 So.2nd 1211 (Fla., 1995).

15. It was held that in Florida Bar v. Winn, 593 So.2d 1047 (Fla.1992), “we refused to hold disbarment proceedings in abeyance pending the respondent’s federal appeal. We felt that “this would entangle this Court in speculation about the outcome of a federal proceeding.” Id. at 1048. While we refused to abate the proceedings in Winn, this Court clearly has authority to abate any disciplinary proceeding if good cause is shown. How… The Florida Bar v. Lusskin, 661 So.2d 1211 (Fla. 1995), See also the Reply filed by Respondent/Appellant.

16. In the present case, evidence of this representation of Erin Neitzelt for an employment law case and the Complaint / Inquiry filed by her, as part of an orchestrated fraud, in part, by the witnesses used by the Florida Bar Association in the present case, biases of the attorneys involved may be found, and/or a money judgment or settlement in Respondent’s/Appellant’s favor would be good cause to set-aside the Referee’s findings.

17. Further, Florida law holds that suspensions may be retroactively applied, The Florida Bar v. Milan, 499 So.2d 829 (Fla., 1986).

18. As such, Respondent/Appellant moves for her suspension to be retroactively applied under the circumstances and for an abatement, in part, for the money payments, or an abatement in whole.

19. If Respondent/Appellant motion to retroactively apply the suspension or for abatement is denied, she requests direction as to whether she may represent herself pro se for any past, present or future claim in Florida Courts during the suspension period and of herself and the dissolved companies and active law firm in the above mentioned cases and in Czyz and Royal Atlantic Title v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 4D21-2967.

20. Respondent/Appellant does not want to be found as violating the Order or practicing law without a license by pro se representation.

21. The Czyz Law Firm, P.A. is a dissolved Florida Professional Association or law firm, where Respondent/Appellant was the sole owner, shareholder, officer, and representative of it and it is named in the above lawsuit(s).

22. Respondent/Appellant moves for clarification as to whether she may represent her dissolved law firm, The Czyz Law Firm, P.A., pro se, for any past, present or future claim in Florida Courts during the suspension period.

23. The Czyz Law Firm, PLLC is an active Professional Limited Liability Company and law firm, and Respondent/Appellant is the sole member, and it is named in the above referenced law suits.

24. Respondent/Appellant moves for clarification as to whether she may represent her active law firm, The Czyz Law Firm, PLLC, pro se, for any past, present or future claim in Florida Courts during the suspension period.

25. Royal Atlantic Title, LLC is a dissolved Florida Limited Liability Company and Respondent/Appellant was the sole member of the company, and it is named in the above referenced law suits.

26. Respondent/Appellant moves for clarification as to whether she may represent her dissolved title company, Royal Atlantic Title, LLC, pro se, for any past, present or future claim in Florida Courts during the suspension period.

27. Respondent/Appellant re-registered as an individual with the Florida Courts e-portals for state filings and Federal Southern District of Florida filings, and she seeks clarification as to whether she may file during the suspension period.

28. In the alternative, Respondent / Appellant moves to vacate the Order issued by this Honorable Court on January 6, 2022, and to dimiss the case with prejudice as The Florida Bar Association went forward with this action based upon the Complaint / Inquiry filed by Erin Beth Neitzelt knowing that Respondent / Appellant had contacted the F.B.I. and that she filed a police report in New Jersey, and it knew that Judge Wubbenhorst did not issue the warrant for Erin Beth Neitzelt’s arrest nor issue the Complaint, based upon lack of jurisdiction only, and in support of this motion to Vacate and Dismiss with Prejudice, Respondent/Appellant files the Affidavit of Catherine E. Czyz, Esq. for Omnibus Use, etc., as Respondent’s / Appellant’s Exhibit “A”, the Amended Complaint with Exhibits attached thereto in Czyz et.al. v. Atwood, et.al., 2021 CA 2874, as Respondent’s/Appellant’s Exhibit “B” and letter from the Office of Judge Wubbenhorst, as Respondent’s/Appellant’s Exhibit “C” are submitted separately as an Exhibit List with this Amended Emergency Motion.

29. Respondent / Appellant also certifies that this is an emergency as the Florida 4th DCA and the Florida 2nd DCA have Ordered that the appeals of Respondent/Appellant and her dissolved company and dissolved corporation shall be dismissed without a new attorney appearing on the cases, stripping her of her rights to appear pro se, See Exhibit List Exhibit “D” and Exhibit “E”..

30. Respondent / Applicant certifies that in accordance with the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, she requested The Florida Bar Association to advise whether it objects to this motion, and it does.

WHEREFORE, the Respondent / Appellant requests this Honorable Court to issue an Order retroactively applying the suspension, abating the Referee’s findings and holding in part or in whole, and clarifying the Order issued on January 6, 2022, allowing Respondent / Appellant thirty (30) more days to comply with the Order, or in the alternative, Vacate the Order and Dismiss the Case with Prejudice, and any other relief this Honorable Court feels is just and proper.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,

/s/ Catherine E. Czyz

Catherine E. Czyz
PRO SE
USPS Mailing Address:
931 Village Boulevard, Suite 905-242
West Palm Beach, FL 33409
CatherineXLIV@gmail.com,
and
prosecatherine@gmail.com
561-502-1542 – direct

I HEREBY CERTIFY that a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been furnished by e-courts on February 10, 2022 to:

Shanee L. Hinson, Esq.
and
Tiffany Roddenberry, Esq.
and
Kevin Cox, Esq.
and/or
the attorneys listed as counsel of record at this time.

By: /s/ Catherine E. Czyz
PRO SE

USPS Mailing Address:

931 Village Boulevard, Suite 905-242
West Palm Beach, FL 33409
CatherineXLIV@gmail.com,
and
prosecatherine@gmail.com
561-502-1542

Supreme Court of Florida
THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2022

CASE NO.: SC19-1545
Lower Tribunal No(s).: 2017-00,628(2A)

THE FLORIDA BAR vs. CATHERINE ELIZABETH CZYZ

Complainant(s) Respondent(s) Respondent’s Motion for Retroactive Application of Suspension, dated January 10, 2022, and Amended Emergency Motion for Retroactive Application of Suspension, Motion to Abate, Motion for Clarification of Order and Motion for Extension of Time, or in the Alternative, Motion to Vacate Order and Dismiss the Complaint with Prejudice, dated February 10, 2022, are hereby denied.

Respondent’s reply to The Florida Bar’s response to the amended emergency motion is hereby stricken as unauthorized. No motion for rehearing will be entertained by this Court.

CANADY, C.J., and POLSTON, LABARGA, LAWSON, MUÑIZ, COURIEL, and GROSSHANS, JJ., concur.

A True Copy Test:

as Served:

TIFFANY A. RODDENBERRY

SHANEÉ L. HINSON

CATHERINE ELIZABETH CZYZ

KEVIN W. COX

PATRICIA ANN TORO SAVITZ

Re: Czyz Threats to Sue LIF Notice on Twitter (Apr. 23, 2022)

Bankruptcy

Florida Bar versus Criminal Lawyer Allan Campbell’s Fictitiousness

In the interim, Lawyer Allan Campbell is now working for Governor Ron DeSantis’s Florida Department of Children and Families.

Published

on

LIF COMMENTARY AND UPDATE (MAY 20, 2022)

A couple of tweets with the words Allan Campbell to Gov. Ron ‘The Unwanted Dictor’ Desantis and two week after publishing this article, the Fl. Supreme Court has suspended Campbell for 3 years, and as an aside, Fl. lawyer Christopher Lim for one year.

We’ll be commenting on the suspensions for Campbell and Lim as we release the other articles, which perhaps was why Florida acted swiftly. It’s certainly an improvement and at LIF we acknowledge that advancement.

However, as par for the course, y’all reverse on the good work by refusing to publish the suspension order on the Florida Bar member’s profile and claiming there is no disciplinary documents available – which is clearly a falsehood.

Supreme Court of Florida

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2022

CASE NO.: SC21-1495
Lower Tribunal No(s).:
2019-30,317 (5B); 2019-30,392 (5B);
2019-30,608 (5B); 2019-30,726 (5B);
2020-30,084 (5B); 2020-30,781 (5B)

THE FLORIDA BAR vs. ALLAN CAMPBELL

Complainant(s)                                   Respondent(s)

The uncontested report of the referee is approved and respondent is suspended from the practice of law for three years, effective thirty days from the date of this order so that respondent can close out his practice and protect the interests of existing clients.

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

Respondent shall fully comply with Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 3-5.1(h).

Respondent shall also fully comply with Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 3-6.1, if applicable.

In addition, respondent shall accept no new business from the date this order is filed until he is reinstated.

Respondent is further directed to attend The Florida Bar’s Ethics School under the terms and conditions set forth in the report and consent judgment.

Judgment is entered for The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300, for recovery of costs from Allan Campbell in the amount of $11,105.46, for which sum let execution issue.

Not final until time expires to file motion for rehearing, and if filed, determined. The filing of a motion for rehearing shall not alter the effective date of this suspension.

CANADY, C.J., and POLSTON, LABARGA, LAWSON, MUÑIZ, COURIEL, and GROSSHANS, JJ., concur.

A True Copy Test:

as Served:

PATRICK JOHN MCGINLEY LAURA N. GRYB
HON. ALICIA WASHINGTON, JUDGE PATRICIA ANN TORO SAVITZ

This is an evolving article, bookmark for updates as it forms part of a series of articles by LIF in a complex and lengthy scheme.

What is known is that if the courts had sentenced Roderic ‘Roddy’ Boling to the 25 years the Department of Justice suggest could have been applied, rather than a slap on the wrist of 60 months probation with 8 months in a halfway house, lawyer Allan Campbell would never have met Roddy Boling, a relationship which has wreaked havoc in Florida.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA

THE FLORIDA BAR,

Complainant,

v.

ALLAN CAMPBELL,

Respondent.

Supreme Court Case No. SC-
The Florida Bar File Nos.

2019-30,317 (5B);
2019-30,392 (5B);
2019-30,726 (5B);
2020-30,084 (5B);
2019-30,608 (5B);
2020-30,781 (5B)

COMPLAINT

Oct 29, 2021

The Florida Bar, complainant, files this Complaint against Allan Campbell, respondent, pursuant to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and alleges:

THE CAST OF KEY PLAYERS

LAWYERS

ALLAN CAMPBELL, [FORMALLY CHARGED]

ANDREA ROEBUCK [SUSPENDED WITH CONDITIONS]

[ADMONISHED] R. CHRISTOPHER A. LIM [ HAS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE TENDENCIES]

STAFFORD SHEALY [PERMANENTLY RETIRED]

KELLEY BOSECKER [PERMANENTLY DISBARRED ATTORNEY]

DANIEL BRODERSON [DISCIPLINARY REVOCATION]

KATHLEEN ACHILLE

PATRICK THOMPSON [PUBLIC REPRIMAND]

NON-LAWYERS

WILLIAM PICKARD,

RODDY BOLING – ANNA BOLING – KATIE BOLING

WILLIAM HOWELL

DARRIN LAVINE – LINA OLARTE-LAVINE

AND

KEY ENTITIES

ALLAN CAMPBELL ATTORNEY AT LAW LLC FICTITIOUSLY TRADING AS ‘BEST DEFENSE LAW’ [CAMPBELL],

BEST DEFENSE LAW, P.A. [ROEBUCK]

ORLANDO VENTURES [HOWELL],

TITANS RESERVE GROUP PMA [LAVINE],

THE RESILIENT GROUP INC., OTHERWISE KNOWN AS RESILIENT GROUP PMA. [BOLING]

TIMESHARE LAWYERS INC. / TIMESHARE LAWYERS, P.A.

CAMPBELL'S LOGO

“The Key to Your Criminal Defense”

1. Respondent is and was at all times mentioned herein a member of The Florida Bar, admitted on September 21, 1990, and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida.

2. Respondent resided in Seminole County, Florida, and practiced law in Orange and Seminole Counties, Florida, at all times material.

3. The Fifth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee “B” found probable cause to file this complaint pursuant to Rule 3-7.4, of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, and this complaint has been approved by the presiding member of that committee.

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

4. In January 2017, respondent created a Florida business entity named Allan Campbell Attorney at Law LLC.

The entity was registered to do business in the State of Florida under the fictitious name of Best Defense Law.

5. Respondent was a sole practitioner and wanted to set up a law office with his associate, William Glenn Pickard, a nonlawyer, to expand his practice.

6. Respondent agreed that one of Pickard’s responsibilities as office manager of Best Defense Law was to bring in business for the firm.

7. Pickard introduced respondent to Roderic Boling, a nonlawyer, who wanted to be a silent investor in Best Defense Law.

8. Boling provided office space to Best Defense Law in the same building where Boling maintained an office.

9. Boling was associated with William Howell, a nonlawyer who owned Orlando Ventures and several other affiliated businesses that were involved in timeshare divestment.

10. Boling and Howell provided financial assistance to get Best Defense Law’s office up and running.

11. Howell’s businesses solicited timeshare owners to hire his businesses to divest their timeshare interests.

12. Howell also purchased timeshare divestment cases from other timeshare exit companies, acquiring those contracts without the clients’ knowledge or consent.

13. Howell and Boling approached respondent about taking over their timeshare divestment cases, and respondent accepted.

14. Howell was seeking a new law firm to handle the matters after having severed his relationship with Timeshare Lawyers, Inc/Timeshare Lawyers, P.A.

15. Respondent had the timeshare clients execute limited powers of attorney authorizing respondent to negotiate on behalf of the clients with the respective time share resorts or time share companies.

16. None of Howell’s timeshare divestment companies were registered lawyer referral services in accordance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

17. Respondent delegated virtually all of the work on the timeshare cases to case managers, who were nonlawyers, and exercised no meaningful supervision over them.

18. Howell and/or Boling provided the case managers to handle the timeshare divestment work and exercised ultimate control over them.

19. Respondent admitted that he did not talk to all of the timeshare customers.

20. The case managers negotiated with the timeshare resorts, usually by letter or phone.

21. The case managers used form letters and affixed respondent’s signature with a stamp, with respondent’s knowledge and consent.

22. The timeshare owners and resorts were located nationwide, and, in some instances, resorts were located in foreign countries.

23. Respondent became aware that Howell had sent out solicitations using his name and Best Defense Law without his knowledge.

24. Respondent also learned that at least some of the timeshare clients had paid more money to Howell’s businesses than respondent was being paid to work on their cases.

25. Respondent was paid $500.00 per timeshare case by Howell and/or Boling and became aware that at least one timeshare customer paid Howell’s business $2,400.00.

26. In late 2017, respondent confronted Howell about the misleading direct solicitation and his concerns about fee sharing.

27. However, respondent continued to work for Howell and/or Boling representing the timeshare cases that they had until approximately March 2018.

28. In late 2017, Howell and Boling again came to respondent to start doing foreclosure defense and bankruptcy cases.

29. Respondent testified that he made it clear he was not comfortable doing foreclosure defense cases but that he wanted to learn bankruptcy.

30. They all agreed that they would bring on two attorneys, Andrea Roebuck and R. Christopher A. Lim, to do the foreclosure defense cases.

31. Roebuck and Lim were given office space in the same building as Best Defense Law and where Boling maintained an office.

32. At the time they associated with Best Defense Law in or around November 2017, Roebuck and Lim were handling foreclosure defense cases for a private member association, Titans Reserve Group PMA, operated by Darrin Lavine, a nonlawyer.

33. Around the time that Roebuck and Lim associated with Best Defense Law, Lavine ceased operations of Titans Reserve Group PMA and became involved with The Resilient Group Inc., often referred to as Resilient Group PMA, a corporation in which Boling served as President of Trustees.

34. Lavine referred members of Titans Reserve Group PMA to Resilient Group.

35. Best Defense Law took foreclosure defense cases from members of Resilient Group.

36. Resilient Group was a private member association that focused on defending foreclosure cases by claiming the mortgage notes were fraudulent.

37. Resilient Group purported to have a scientific process of examining notes to determine whether they were original or re-created.

38. Resilient Group offered its members pro se support, such as motions and legal research.

39. The website refers to its experienced team of foreclosure lawyers.

40. Resilient Group accepted payments from its members for legal services and utilized Best Defense Law to provide those services.

Members were not permitted to choose which attorney represented them.

41. Members paid Resilient Group an initial fee of $1,000.00 per property and $600.00 per month per property until the foreclosure case was completed.

42. Neither Resilient Group PMA nor The Resilient Group, Inc., were registered lawyer referral services in accordance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

43. When Roebuck and Lim began working with Best Defense Law, it was decided that all cases would be filed with the courts using respondent’s name and e-filing credentials.

44. Respondent’s password for both state and federal court e-portal filing systems were available to office staff to allow office staff to file documents on his behalf.

45. In foreclosure cases, after respondent filed his notice of appearance or other document in a case, Lim and/or Roebuck would handle the case going forward.

46. Further, it was agreed that Lim would assist respondent in becoming competent to handle bankruptcy cases.

47. Because respondent continued his full-time [criminal] court-appointed work he was not present in the office of Best Defense Law on a daily basis.

48. Respondent delegated all handling of the law firm’s finances to Pickard without exercising meaningful supervision and relied on Pickard to handle all agreements with Boling regarding the loan that Boling made to fund Best Defense Law.

For instance, respondent was not completely aware of who he was paying as employees of the firm or whether Best Defense Law was repaying the initial loan it received from Boling.

49. Respondent also relied heavily on Pickard for the day-to-day operations of the firm, including to bring pleadings to be filed to respondent’s attention.

50. In December 2017, Pickard abruptly left Best Defense Law after a confrontation with Boling.

51. Boling exercised considerable influence over the operation of Best Defense Law prior to Pickard’s departure.

52. Boling exerted increasing control over the operations and employees of Best Defense Law and respondent after Pickard’s departure.

53. After Pickard’s departure, Boling installed a new office manager Danny Johnson, who reported to Boling rather than to respondent.

54. Boling then offered respondent a salary increase as an incentive to prevent respondent’s departure from Best Defense Law.

55. Respondent testified that due to his discomfort with the increasingly hostile work environment, he spent less time at the Best Defense Law office, further exacerbating the issue with a nonlawyer controlling and directing a law firm without any supervision.

56. The employees of Best Defense Law, including the case managers and paralegals, took direction from Boling rather than from respondent.

57. The manner in which cases were managed provided Boling with access to attorney-client privileged information.

58. Boling routinely was included in law firm meetings where client matters were discussed, including attorney-client privileged information.

59. Boling routinely reviewed respondent’s letters, discarding them if the language was not to Boling’s liking, and directed the staff to send out a new version of the letters that Boling authored under respondent’s name.

60. Respondent testified that he was told by staff that if clients complained about the quality of their legal representation, Boling handled those communications and advised those clients that respondent had 30 years of legal experience.

61. Respondent testified that he discovered in late 2017 that some foreclosure filings were made under his name and with his filing credentials without his prior knowledge or consent.

62. Respondent further testified that he confronted Roebuck and Lim about the unauthorized filings and directed them to cease using his e- filing credentials for the foreclosure cases.

63. Respondent acknowledged that he had no proof that either Roebuck or Lim were responsible for the filings rather than the nonlawyer staff who also had access to respondent’s e-filing credentials.

64. The calendar and tickler system for Best Defense Law was created by Roebuck to automatically notify the nonlawyer staff of filing deadlines.

65. The staff routinely drafted and filed documents using respondent’s signature and filing credentials without supervision.

66. In or around March 2018, after a confrontation with Boling over respondent’s growing concern about the manner in which Best Defense Law was being operated, Boling banned respondent from re-entering the office of Best Defense Law and told respondent he was changing the locks.

67. With respondent’s abrupt departure, Boling assumed virtually all control over the operations of respondent’s law firm.

68. Due to concerns that respondent might leave Best Defense Law, Roebuck incorporated the similarly named law firm of Best Defense Law, P.A. on December 28, 2017.

69. The name of the new law firm was dictated by Boling, who desired that the clients not become aware of the change in the law firm.

70. Best Defense Law, P. A., became operational after respondent’s departure.

71. Because respondent’s name was on pleadings in some of the foreclosure defense and bankruptcy cases, respondent continued receiving copies of filings from the court in those cases after he left Best Defense Law.

72. If respondent perceived that the foreclosure cases were being actively litigated, respondent took no action to withdraw and permitted the court records to reflect him as counsel of record.

73. In cases where respondent perceived that Roebuck and/or Lim were not engaged with the clients or that the case was not being actively litigated, respondent filed a motion to withdraw and noticed the clients.

74. However, respondent did not set his motions for hearing or take the necessary steps to ensure he had been removed from the cases.

75. On the occasions when respondent was contacted by opposing counsel in a foreclosure case, respondent directed the attorney to Roebuck or Lim.

76. In one instance, opposing counsel refused to contact Roebuck because respondent was the attorney of record and informed respondent that she was seeking sanctions for having to defend a frivolous matter.

77. In response, respondent filed a dismissal instead of a motion seeking permission to withdraw from the case without consulting with the client prior to filing the motion for dismissal.

78. On March 29, 2018, respondent filed for an emergency injunction against Best Defense Law, of which he was the sole owner, officer, manager, and attorney of record, to stop the day-to day operations until he could bring all actions under his direct control.

79. The motion was denied on April 4, 2018, and a notice of lack of prosecution was entered in the case on February 21, 2019.

80. Respondent’s lack of control over his law firm enabled Boling and Howell to use Best Defense Law to achieve their own business objectives, all of which, if engaged in by an attorney, would be a violation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2019-30,317 (5B)

The Florida Bar re-alleges paragraphs 4 through 80 as if set forth fully herein and further alleges:

81. Beginning in or around August 2016, Thousand Hills Golf Resort, located in Missouri, began receiving letters from attorney Patrick Thompson of Timeshare Lawyers regarding Donald and Margaret Donovan, who allegedly owned a timeshare at the resort.

82. Daniel C. Ruda, president of Thousand Hills Golf Resort, notified Thompson repeatedly that Thompson was addressing the wrong entity as the resort did not engage in the timeshare business and the Donovans did not own a unit at this resort. Thompson failed to correct the misidentification issue, resulting in Ruda issuing a cease a desist letter to Timeshare Lawyers.

83. After Howell transferred the Donovan case to respondent’s Best Defense Law, respondent wrote to Thousand Hills Golf Resort on January 15, 2018, reasserting the same allegations on behalf of the same clients that were previously proclaimed by Thompson in 2016.

84. Then in May 2018, a letter was sent to Thousand Hills Golf Resort with Roebuck’s signature on it, stating that Best Defense has been unable to successfully attain the resort’s cooperation on behalf of the Donovans and their alleged timeshare.

85. Ruda repeatedly advised each of the ensuing attorneys by telephone, postal letter, fax, and email that Thousand Hills Golf Resort was a whole-ownership resort with no timeshare option available and had no connection with the Donovans.

86. In June 2018, Ruda wrote a letter to respondent to cease and desist from contacting the resort to avoid legal action against Best Defense Law, the Donovans, and all others associated with this claim.

87. Ruda again advised that more accurate research by respondent’s office should be conducted and that this could be considered as defamation of his company name.

88. At the time of the June 2018 letter from Ruda, respondent had left Best Defense Law, without notice, and Andrea Marie Roebuck had assumed responsibility for the timeshare cases. Ruda was not provided with notice of the change in attorneys or law firms.

89. Despite Ruda’s June 2018 letter, other attorneys associated with Howell, who handled the timeshare cases after respondent’s departure, continued sending correspondence to the resort on behalf of the non-existent owners demanding relief.

90. Respondent’s lack of supervision of his case managers resulted in respondent not being made aware of the Donovans’ competence, understanding or their wishes as to the legal services being provided, including disclosure of their health conditions.

91. The Donovans’ timeshare divestment case was purchased by Howell’s company and eventually assigned to Best Defense Law years after the Donovans started the timeshare divestment process.

92. Respondent was not aware of Ruda’s cease and desist letters.

93. Respondent never communicated with the Donovans and was not aware of their existence as his clients.

94. Because respondent had no communication with the Donovans, he was not aware whether they still required divestment services, whether they were competent, whether the information provided was accurate, or whether they were still alive, given that his letter indicated that they were experiencing life-threatening medical issues.

95. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar:

(a) 3-4.3 (1993) The standards of professional conduct to be observed by members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration herein of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline shall not be deemed to be all-inclusive nor shall the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance thereof. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice, whether the act is committed in the course of the attorney’s relations as an attorney or otherwise, whether committed within or outside the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or misdemeanor, may constitute a cause for discipline.

(b) 3-4.3 (2018) The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all-inclusive nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.

(c) 4-1.1 A lawyer must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

(d) 4-1.4 (a) Informing Client of Status of Representation. A lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in terminology, is required by these rules; (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and (5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. (b) Duty to Explain Matters to Client. A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

(e) 4-1.5(a) (2012, 2018) An attorney shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal, prohibited, or clearly excessive fee or cost, or a fee generated by employment that was obtained through advertising or solicitation not in compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

(f) 4-1.6(a) A lawyer must not reveal information relating to representation of a client except as stated in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d), unless the client gives informed consent.

(g) 4-1.6(e) A lawyer must make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

(h) 4-1.8(f) (2010) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

(i) 4-1.8(f) (2018) A lawyer is prohibited from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client- lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

(j) 4-5.3 (a) A person who uses the title of paralegal, legal assistant, or other similar term when offering or providing services to the public must work for or under the direction or supervision of a lawyer or law firm. (b) With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer or an authorized business entity as defined elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: (1) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; (2) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and (3) a lawyer is responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if the lawyer: (A) orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or (B) is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action. (c) Although paralegals or legal assistants may perform the duties delegated to them by the lawyer without the presence or active involvement of the lawyer, the lawyer must review and be responsible for the work product of the paralegals or legal assistants.

(k) 4-5.4(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that: (1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to 1 or more specified persons; (2) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer; (3) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, in accordance with the provisions of rule 4- 1.17, pay to the estate or other legally authorized representative of that lawyer the agreed upon purchase price; (4) bonuses may be paid to nonlawyer employees for work performed, and may be based on their extraordinary efforts on a particular case or over a specified time period. Bonus payments shall not be based on cases or clients brought to the lawyer or law firm by the actions of the nonlawyer. A lawyer shall not provide a bonus payment that is calculated as a percentage of legal fees received by the lawyer or law firm; and (5) a lawyer may share court-awarded fees with a nonprofit, pro bono legal services organization that employed, retained, or recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter.

(l) 4-5.4(c) A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.

(m) 4-5.4(d) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

(n) 4-5.4(e) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a business entity authorized to practice law for a profit if: (1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or (2) a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof or occupies the position of similar responsibility in any form of association other than a corporation; or (3) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

(o) 4-5.5(a) A lawyer may not practice law in a jurisdiction other than the lawyer’s home state, in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in the lawyer’s home state or assist another in doing so.

(p) 4-5.7 (a) A lawyer who provides nonlegal services to a recipient that are not distinct from legal services provided to that recipient is subject to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar with respect to the provision of both legal and nonlegal services. (b) A lawyer who provides nonlegal services to a recipient that are distinct from any legal services provided to the recipient is subject to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar with respect to the nonlegal services if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the recipient might believe that the recipient is receiving the protection of a client-lawyer relationship. (c) A lawyer who is an owner, controlling party, employee, agent, or otherwise is affiliated with an entity providing nonlegal services to a recipient is subject to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar with respect to the nonlegal services if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the recipient might believe that the recipient is receiving the protection of a client-lawyer relationship that the recipient is receiving the protection of a client-lawyer relationship.

(q) 4-7.18(a) (2013) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes any written form of communication, including any electronic mail communication, directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4–7.11 through 4–7.17 of these rules.
(2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

(r) 4-7.18(a) (2018) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit in person, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit in person on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, by electronic means that include realtime communication face-to-face such as video telephone or video conference, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient that does not meet the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

(s) 4-7.22 (2013) (a) A lawyer may not accept referrals from a lawyer referral service, and it is a violation of these Rules Regulating the Florida Bar to do so, unless the service: (1) engages in no communication with the public and in no direct contact with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if the communication or contact were made by the lawyer; (2) receives no fee or charge that constitutes a division or sharing of fees, unless the service is a not-for-profit service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules; (3) refers clients only to persons lawfully permitted to practice law in Florida when the services to be rendered constitute the practice of law in Florida; (4) carries or requires each lawyer participating in the service to carry professional liability insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 per claim or occurrence; (5) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names and Florida bar membership numbers of all lawyers participating in the service; (6) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names of all persons authorized to act on behalf of the service; (7) responds in writing, within 15 days, to any official inquiry by bar counsel when bar counsel is seeking information described in this subdivision or conducting an investigation into the conduct of the service or a lawyer who accepts referrals from the service; (8) neither represents nor implies to the public that the service is endorsed or approved by The Florida Bar, unless the service is subject to chapter 8 of these rules; (9) uses its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name in all communications with the public; (10) affirmatively states in all advertisements that it is a lawyer referral service; and (11) affirmatively states in all advertisements that lawyers who accept referrals from it pay to participate in the lawyer referral service. (b) A lawyer who accepts referrals from a lawyer referral service is responsible for ensuring that any advertisements or written communications used by the service comply with the requirements of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, including the provisions of this subchapter. (c) A “lawyer referral service” is: (1) any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives a fee or charge for referring or causing the direct or indirect referral of a potential client to a lawyer drawn from a specific group or panel of lawyers; or (2) any group or pooled advertising program operated by any person,group of persons, association, organization, or entity wherein the legal services advertisements utilize a common telephone number or website and potential clients are then referred only to lawyers or law firms participating in the group or pooled advertising program. A pro bono referral program, in which the participating lawyers do not pay a fee or charge of any kind to receive referrals or to belong to the referral panel, and are undertaking the referred matters without expectation of remuneration, is not a lawyer referral service within the definition of this rule.

(t) 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.

(u) 4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

(v) 4-8.6(b) No authorized business entity may engage in the practice of law in the state of Florida or render advice under or interpretations of Florida law except through officers, directors, partners, managers, agents, or employees who are qualified to render legal services in this state.

(w) 4-8.6(c) No person may serve as a partner, manager, director or executive officer of an authorized business entity that is engaged in the practice of law in Florida unless such person is legally qualified to render legal services in this state. For purposes of this rule the term “executive officer” includes the president, vice-president, or any other officer who performs a policy-making function.

(x) 4-8.6(d) A lawyer who, while acting as a shareholder, member, officer, director, partner, proprietor, manager, agent, or employee of an authorized business entity and engaged in the practice of law in Florida, violates or sanctions the violation of the authorized business entity statutes or the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar will be subject to disciplinary action.

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2019-30,392 (5B)

The Florida Bar re-alleges paragraphs 4 through 80 as if set forth fully herein and further alleges:

96. On or about May 31, 2017, Joseph L. Cobb and his wife, residents of Louisiana, entered into a contract with respondent and Best Defense Law to provide legal services with respect to divesting the Cobbs’ interest in a Wyndham Resorts timeshare property located in Florida.

The Cobbs also executed a Limited and Specific Power of Attorney with respondent.

The contract stated that Timeshare Lawyer Services was paying all fees on behalf of the Cobbs.

97. In support of their hardship claim, the Cobbs provided respondent with confidential medical information.

98. Respondent permitted a situation to exist whereby the Cobbs’ confidential health information was available to third parties.

99. Cobb paid $2,400.00 for this service.

100. Best Defense Law wrote only one letter to Wyndham Resorts during a twenty-month period.

101. Virtually all communication from Best Defense Law was from nonlawyers over whom respondent exercised little meaningful supervision.

102. By November 2018, it appeared to the Cobbs that Best Defense Law had ceased operations and no refund of the unearned fees could be obtained.

103. According to respondent, the fee paid by the Cobbs was not made to him or Best Defense Law, but rather to a third-party timeshare exit company that referred timeshare owners to Best Defense Law.

104. Best Defense Law was paid a flat fee for each referral.

105. Respondent left Best Defense Law in March 2018.

106. Respondent explained that the client files remain the property of the various third parties who made the referrals to Best Defense Law. As a result, respondent had no access to the Cobbs’ file.

107. By reason of the forgoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar:

a. 3-4.3 (1993) The standards of professional conduct to be observed by members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration herein of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline shall not be deemed to be all-inclusive nor shall the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance thereof. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice, whether the act is committed in the course of the attorney’s relations as an attorney or otherwise, whether committed within or outside the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or misdemeanor, may constitute a cause for discipline.

b. 3-4.3 (2018) The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all-inclusive nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.

c. 4-1.1 A lawyer must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

d. 4-1.4 (a) Informing Client of Status of Representation. A lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in terminology, is required by these rules; (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and (5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. (b) Duty to Explain Matters to Client. A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

e. 4-1.5(a) (2012, 2018) An attorney shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal, prohibited, or clearly excessive fee or cost, or a fee generated by employment that was obtained through advertising or solicitation not in compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

f. 4-1.6(a) A lawyer must not reveal information relating to representation of a client except as stated in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d), unless the client gives informed consent.

g. 4-1.6(e) A lawyer must make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

h. 4-1.8(f) (2010) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

i. 4-1.8(f) (2018) A lawyer is prohibited from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client- lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

j. 4-5.3 (a) A person who uses the title of paralegal, legal assistant, or other similar term when offering or providing services to the public must work for or under the direction or supervision of a lawyer or law firm. (b) With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer or an authorized business entity as defined elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: (1) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; (2) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and (3) a lawyer is responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if the lawyer: (A) orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or (B) is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action. (c) Although paralegals or legal assistants may perform the duties delegated to them by the lawyer without the presence or active involvement of the lawyer, the lawyer must review and be responsible for the work product of the paralegals or legal assistants.

k. 4-5.4(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that: (1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to 1 or more specified persons; (2) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer; (3) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, in accordance with the provisions of rule 4- 1.17, pay to the estate or other legally authorized representative of that lawyer the agreed upon purchase price; (4) bonuses may be paid to nonlawyer employees for work performed, and may be based on their extraordinary efforts on a particular case or over a specified time period. Bonus payments shall not be based on cases or clients brought to the lawyer or law firm by the actions of the nonlawyer. A lawyer shall not provide a bonus payment that is calculated as a percentage of legal fees received by the lawyer or law firm; and (5) a lawyer may share court-awarded fees with a nonprofit, pro bono legal services organization that employed, retained, or recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter.

l. 4-5.4(c) A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.

m. 4-5.4(d) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

n. 4-5.4(e) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a business entity authorized to practice law for a profit if: (1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or (2) a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof or occupies the position of similar responsibility in any form of association other than a corporation; or (3) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

o. 4-5.5(a) A lawyer may not practice law in a jurisdiction other than the lawyer’s home state, in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in the lawyer’s home state or assist another in doing so.

p. 4-5.7 (a) A lawyer who provides nonlegal services to a recipient that are not distinct from legal services provided to that recipient is subject to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar with respect to the provision of both legal and nonlegal services. (b) A lawyer who provides nonlegal services to a recipient that are distinct from any legal services provided to the recipient is subject to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar with respect to the nonlegal services if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the recipient might believe that the recipient is receiving the protection of a client-lawyer relationship. (c) A lawyer who is an owner, controlling party, employee, agent, or otherwise is affiliated with an entity providing nonlegal services to a recipient is subject to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar with respect to the nonlegal services if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the recipient might believe that the recipient is receiving the protection of a client-lawyer relationship.

q. 4-7.18(a) (2013) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes any written form of communication, including any electronic mail communication, directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4–7.11 through 4–7.17 of these rules.
(2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

r. 4-7.18(a) (2018) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit in person, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit in person on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, by electronic means that include realtime communication face-to-face such as video telephone or video conference, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient that does not meet the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

s. 4-7.22 (2013) (a) A lawyer may not accept referrals from a lawyer referral service, and it is a violation of these Rules Regulating the Florida Bar to do so, unless the service: (1) engages in no communication with the public and in no direct contact with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if the communication or contact were made by the lawyer; (2) receives no fee or charge that constitutes a division or sharing of fees, unless the service is a not-for-profit service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules; (3) refers clients only to persons lawfully permitted to practice law in Florida when the services to be rendered constitute the practice of law in Florida; (4) carries or requires each lawyer participating in the service to carry professional liability insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 per claim or occurrence; (5) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names and Florida bar membership numbers of all lawyers participating in the service; (6) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names of all persons authorized to act on behalf of the service; (7) responds in writing, within 15 days, to any official inquiry by bar counsel when bar counsel is seeking information described in this subdivision or conducting an investigation into the conduct of the service or a lawyer who accepts referrals from the service; (8) neither represents nor implies to the public that the service is endorsed or approved by The Florida Bar, unless the service is subject to chapter 8 of these rules; (9) uses its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name in all communications with the public; (10) affirmatively states in all advertisements that it is a lawyer referral service; and (11) affirmatively states in all advertisements that lawyers who accept referrals from it pay to participate in the lawyer referral service. (b) A lawyer who accepts referrals from a lawyer referral service is responsible for ensuring that any advertisements or written communications used by the service comply with the requirements of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, including the provisions of this subchapter. (c) A “lawyer referral service” is: (1) any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives a fee or charge for referring or causing the direct or indirect referral of a potential client to a lawyer drawn from a specific group or panel of lawyers; or (2) any group or pooled advertising program operated by any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity wherein the legal services advertisements utilize a common telephone number or website and potential clients are then referred only to lawyers or law firms participating in the group or pooled advertising program. A pro bono referral program, in which the participating lawyers do not pay a fee or charge of any kind to receive referrals or to belong to the referral panel, and are undertaking the referred matters without expectation of remuneration, is not a lawyer referral service within the definition of this rule.

t. 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.

u. 4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

v. 4-8.6(b) No authorized business entity may engage in the practice of law in the state of Florida or render advice under or interpretations of Florida law except through officers, directors, partners, managers, agents, or employees who are qualified to render legal services in this state.

w. 4-8.6(c) No person may serve as a partner, manager, director or executive officer of an authorized business entity that is engaged in the practice of law in Florida unless such person is legally qualified to render legal services in this state. For purposes of this rule the term “executive officer” includes the president, vice-president, or any other officer who performs a policy-making function.

x. 4-8.6(d) A lawyer who, while acting as a shareholder, member, officer, director, partner, proprietor, manager, agent, or employee of an authorized business entity and engaged in the practice of law in Florida, violates or sanctions the violation of the authorized business entity statutes or the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar will be subject to disciplinary action.

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2019-30,608 (5B)

The Florida Bar re-alleges paragraphs 4 through 80 as if set forth fully herein and further alleges:

108. Joseph and Jodell Altier were members of Resilient Group PMA.

109. The Altiers had foreclosure and bankruptcy cases.

110. In Jodell Altier v. Goshen Mortgage, LLC, Case Number 6:18- cv-00438-JA, Jodell Altier sought an appeal of an order entered by the bankruptcy court in the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida.

111. The notice of appeal was filed on March 7, 2018, using respondent’s e-filing credentials and his signature was affixed to the pleading.

112. The notice of appeal was filed around the time that respondent’s association with Boling ended and he left Best Defense Law.

113. On or about July 7, 2018, Jodell Altier filed a pro se response to a motion to dismiss and motion for additional time to file an appeal prepared by Kelley Andrea Bosecker, a disbarred attorney, associated with Lavine, Roebuck, and Lim.

114. Goshen Mortgage, LLC filed a response in opposition stating that respondent did not know or represent Jodell Altier based on a telephone call opposing counsel received from respondent.

115. On September 7, 2018, the court held a status conference hearing in the matter. Roebuck appeared as counsel for Jodell Altier after being contacted by either Boling and/or Lavine.

116. When the issue was raised in court that respondent was not Jodell Altier’s attorney and that the notice of appeal may have been fraudulently filed in his name, the court ordered an evidentiary hearing in an attempt to discover the truth of the matter.

117. In addition, the parties conducted discovery and held depositions on the matter.

118. On January 8, 2019, Roebuck and attorney Stafford Shealy appeared at the evidentiary hearing on behalf of Jodell Altier.

119. At the evidentiary hearing, respondent testified that he knew Roebuck and Lim had used both his state and federal court e-filing logins without his permission to file pleadings in his name.

120. Later, during respondent’s sworn statement taken in connection with this disciplinary matter, respondent testified that he did not know whether Roebuck or Lim filed pleadings in his name, explaining that he was upset about what was happening when he testified during the hearing in Jodell Altier’s case in federal court.

121. During his sworn statement, respondent testified that he did not know how the unauthorized filing occurred in Jodell Altier’s case and, therefore, he did not report either Roebuck or Lim to the Bar.

122. Respondent also later testified that there had been an agreement, at least in the beginning, that all Best Defense cases would be filed in his name.

123. Respondent further acknowledged that office staff had access to his login credentials for both state and federal court.

124. Although respondent was aware by the time that the notice of appeal was filed on behalf of Jodell Altier that his filing credentials were being used by staff in filing documents with state court, respondent did not change his password for the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida e-filing system.

125. Respondent permitted a situation to exist whereby his federal court e-filing credentials and login information were used by others to file documents in Jodell Altier’s case without his knowledge or approval.

126. It was established at the January 8, 2019, evidentiary hearing in Jodell Altier’s case that Lim met with respondent after a bankruptcy hearing for Jodell Altier in February 2018 to discuss whether Altier should appeal the bankruptcy court’s decision.

127. Respondent could not explain why Lim met with him after the hearing other than to say that they worked in the same office.

128. Respondent denied sending Lim to cover the Altier bankruptcy hearing.

129. The deadline for filing the appeal in Jodell Altier’s case was calendared by Best Defense Law staff who Roebuck, Lim and respondent shared.

130. One of the issues being considered in allowing Jodell Altier to file a belated appellate brief was whether she missed the deadline because she did not have adequate legal representation in this matter. The court was unable to discern who filed the notice of appeal using respondent’s credentials.

131. At the January 8, 2019, hearing, the court ultimately granted Jodell Altier an extension of time to file an appellate brief with the judge stating: “I think under these circumstances I have to give a layperson who’s dealing with the lawyers in this case the benefit of the doubt.”

132. During the January 8, 2019, evidentiary hearing, it also came to light that Bosecker, a disbarred attorney, had drafted documents for Jodell Altier to file pro se in the matter at a time when Bosecker was suspended but not yet disbarred.

133. Jodell Altier testified that Bosecker called her after Jodell Altier missed the deadline and offered to file something to prevent dismissal of her case.

134. Both of the Altiers testified that they believed respondent ultimately was responsible for the legal representation because it was his name that appeared on all of the pleadings filed in Jodell Altier’s bankruptcy appeal case.

135. Both of the Altiers testified that they relied on Resilient Group to provide them with competent legal services.

136. Furthermore, Daniel Newton Brodersen, who gave up his right to practice law in 2017, sent Joseph Altier a copy of the membership agreement for Resilient Group from an email address associated with Best Defense Law.

137. In this email, sent in February 2018, Brodersen stated: “Remember, those PMA fees contemplate our lawyers, as well as Roddy [Boling] and I, doing a great deal of work on the bankruptcy appeal, which is not normally something that the PMA deals with.”

138. Both Joseph Altier and Brodersen signed the agreement for Resilient Group.

139. Respondent testified during his sworn statement taken in connection with these disciplinary proceedings that he was concerned about Brodersen being a “disbarred” attorney who was drafting pleadings and suggesting courses of legal actions.

140. On January 23, 2019, Jodell Altier filed Appellant’s Opening Brief pro se. A conference hearing was set for February 4, 2019. During the hearing, it came to light that an unknown nonlawyer at Resilient Group helped Jodell Altier draft the brief.

141. Jodell Altier testified that there was no attorney involved and that she believed a secretary or paralegal helped her.

142. Although respondent was aware of the multiple allegations of professional misconduct in connection with the Altier case, Resilient Group and Best Defense Law, respondent did not report the attorneys and the former attorneys involved to The Florida Bar.

143. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar:

a. 3-4.3 (1993) The standards of professional conduct to be observed by members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration herein of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline shall not be deemed to be all-inclusive nor shall the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance thereof. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice, whether the act is committed in the course of the attorney’s relations as an attorney or otherwise, whether committed within or outside the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or misdemeanor, may constitute a cause for discipline.

b. 3-4.3 (2018) The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all-inclusive nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.

c. 4-1.1 A lawyer must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

d. 4-1.4(a) A lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in terminology, is required by these rules; (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and (5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

e. 4-1.5(a) A lawyer must not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal, prohibited, or clearly excessive fee or cost, or a fee generated by employment that was obtained through advertising or solicitation not in compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

f. 4-1.6(a) A lawyer must not reveal information relating to representation of a client except as stated in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d), unless the client gives informed consent.

g. 4-1.6(e) A lawyer must make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

h. 4-1.8(f) (2010) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

i. 4-1.8(f) (2018) A lawyer is prohibited from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client- lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

j. 4-1.16(a)(1) Except as stated in subdivision (c), a lawyer shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if the representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or law.

k. 4-3.3(a) 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; (2) fail to disclose a material fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by the client; (3) fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel; or (4) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. A lawyer may not offer testimony that the lawyer knows to be false in the form of a narrative unless so ordered by the tribunal. If a lawyer, the lawyer’s client, or a witness called by the lawyer has offered material evidence and the lawyer comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. A lawyer may refuse to offer evidence that the lawyer reasonably believes is false.

l. 4-3.4(c) A lawyer must not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal except for an open refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists.

m. 4-5.1 (a) A partner in a law firm, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers therein conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (b) Any lawyer having direct supervisory authority over another lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other lawyer conforms to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (c) A lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if: (1) the lawyer orders the specific conduct or, with knowledge thereof, ratifies the conduct involved; or (2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.

n. 4-5.3 (a) A person who uses the title of paralegal, legal assistant, or other similar term when offering or providing services to the public must work for or under the direction or supervision of a lawyer or law firm. (b) With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer or an authorized business entity as defined elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: (1) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; (2) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and (3) a lawyer is responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if the lawyer: (A) orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or (B) is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action. (c) Although paralegals or legal assistants may perform the duties delegated to them by the lawyer without the presence or active involvement of the lawyer, the lawyer must review and be responsible for the work product of the paralegals or legal assistants.

o. 4-5.4(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that: (1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to 1 or more specified persons; (2) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer; (3) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, in accordance with the provisions of rule 4- 1.17, pay to the estate or other legally authorized representative of that lawyer the agreed upon purchase price; (4) bonuses may be paid to nonlawyer employees for work performed, and may be based on their extraordinary efforts on a particular case or over a specified time period. Bonus payments shall not be based on cases or clients brought to the lawyer or law firm by the actions of the nonlawyer. A lawyer shall not provide a bonus payment that is calculated as a percentage of legal fees received by the lawyer or law firm; and (5) a lawyer may share court-awarded fees with a nonprofit, pro bono legal services organization that employed, retained, or recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter.

p. 4-5.4(c) A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.

q. 4-5.4(d) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

r. 4-5.4(e) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a business entity authorized to practice law for a profit if: (1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or (2) a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof or occupies the position of similar responsibility in any form of association other than a corporation; or (3) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

s. 4-7.18(a) (2013) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes any written form of communication, including any electronic mail communication, directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4–7.11 through 4–7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

t. 4-7.18(a) (2018) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit in person, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit in person on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, by electronic means that include realtime communication face-to-face such as video telephone or video conference, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient that does not meet the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

u. 4-7.21(f) A name, letterhead, business card or advertisement may not imply that lawyers practice in a partnership or authorized business entity when they do not.

v. 4-7.22 (2013) (a) A lawyer may not accept referrals from a lawyer referral service, and it is a violation of these Rules Regulating the Florida Bar to do so, unless the service: (1) engages in no communication with the public and in no direct contact with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if the communication or contact were made by the lawyer; (2) receives no fee or charge that constitutes a division or sharing of fees, unless the service is a not-for-profit service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules; (3) refers clients only to persons lawfully permitted to practice law in Florida when the services to be rendered constitute the practice of law in Florida; (4) carries or requires each lawyer participating in the service to carry professional liability insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 per claim or occurrence; (5) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names and Florida bar membership numbers of all lawyers participating in the service; (6) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names of all persons authorized to act on behalf of the service; (7) responds in writing, within 15 days, to any official inquiry by bar counsel when bar counsel is seeking information described in this subdivision or conducting an investigation into the conduct of the service or a lawyer who accepts referrals from the service; (8) neither represents nor implies to the public that the service is endorsed or approved by The Florida Bar, unless the service is subject to chapter 8 of these rules; (9) uses its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name in all communications with the public; (10) affirmatively states in all advertisements that it is a lawyer referral service; and (11) affirmatively states in all advertisements that lawyers who accept referrals from it pay to participate in the lawyer referral service. (b) A lawyer who accepts referrals from a lawyer referral service is responsible for ensuring that any advertisements or written communications used by the service comply with the requirements of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, including the provisions of this subchapter. (c) A “lawyer referral service” is: (1) any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives a fee or charge for referring or causing the direct or indirect referral of a potential client to a lawyer drawn from a specific group or panel of lawyers; or (2) any group or pooled advertising program operated by any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity wherein the legal services advertisements utilize a common telephone number or website and potential clients are then referred only to lawyers or law firms participating in the group or pooled advertising program. A pro bono referral program, in which the participating lawyers do not pay a fee or charge of any kind to receive referrals or to belong to the referral panel, and are undertaking the referred matters without expectation of remuneration, is not a lawyer referral service within the definition of this rule.

w. 4-8.3(a) (2006, 2012, 2018) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate professional authority.

x. 4-8.3(a) (2019) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects must inform the appropriate professional authority.

y. 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.

z. 4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

aa. 4-8.4(d) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

bb. 4-8.6(b) No authorized business entity may engage in the practice of law in the state of Florida or render advice under or interpretations of Florida law except through officers, directors, partners, managers, agents, or employees who are qualified to render legal services in this state.

cc. 4-8.6(c) No person may serve as a partner, manager, director or executive officer of an authorized business entity that is engaged in the practice of law in Florida unless such person is legally qualified to render legal services in this state. For purposes of this rule the term “executive officer” includes the president, vice-president, or any other officer who performs a policy-making function.

dd. 4-8.6(d) A lawyer who, while acting as a shareholder, member, officer, director, partner, proprietor, manager, agent, or employee of an authorized business entity and engaged in the practice of law in Florida, violates or sanctions the violation of the authorized business entity statutes or the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar will be subject to disciplinary action.

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2019-30,726 (5B)

The Florida Bar re-alleges paragraphs 4 through 80 as if set forth fully herein and further alleges:

144. Attorney Kathleen Achille’s firm represented the defendants in the following lawsuits:

Russell Shrewsbury v. Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB, et al., in Brevard County Circuit Court Case No. 2018-CA- 12016

and

Krieger v. U.S. Bank, N.A., as Legal Title Trustee for Truman, et al., in Orange County Circuit Court Case No. 2018-CA-003193.

145. Respondent was listed as counsel of record for the plaintiffs in both cases.

146. In the Shrewsbury case in Brevard County, a hearing was held on March 6, 2019 on Achille’s Motion to Quash Service of Process and Motion to Vacate Default where respondent failed to appear.

147. Instead, respondent sent an ex parte email to the presiding judge advising that he could not be appear at the hearing due to a conflict with another matter in Lake County, Florida, that required his attendance.

148. Respondent further advised the judge that he did not represent the plaintiff, Russell Shrewsbury, and never had contact with Shrewsbury.

149. The morning of the hearing respondent filed a Motion to Discharge or Withdraw citing that respondent did not practice in the area of business torts or civil litigation, that he had not met the plaintiff, and that attorneys at Best Defense Law “behaved in a manner not consistent with [respondent’s] understanding and expectations from representations previously made.”

150. Despite respondent’s assertion, all pleadings filed in both the Shrewsbury and Krieger cases bore respondent’s signature block, his electronic signature, and his Florida Bar attorney number.

151. Further, with respect to the Shrewsbury case, Achille’s client was not properly served with process, yet a default was entered against the client.

152. Achille’s firm discovered the default by chance while conducting a routine docket check.

153. Respondent permitted a situation to exist whereby others were able to access his e-filing credentials and file pleadings in respondent’s name in cases where respondent was not representing the clients and had no knowledge of the cases.

154. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar:

a. 3-4.3 (1993) The standards of professional conduct to be observed by members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration herein of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline shall not be deemed to be all-inclusive nor shall the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance thereof. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice, whether the act is committed in the course of the attorney’s relations as an attorney or otherwise, whether committed within or outside the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or misdemeanor, may constitute a cause for discipline.

b. 3-4.3 (2018) The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all-inclusive nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.

c. 4-1.1 A lawyer must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

d. 4-1.4(a) A lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in terminology, is required by these rules; (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and (5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

e. 4-1.8(f) (2010) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

f. 4-1.8(f) (2018) A lawyer is prohibited from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client- lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

g. 4-1.16(a)(1) Except as stated in subdivision (c), a lawyer shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if the representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or law.

h. 4-3.5(b) In an adversary proceeding a lawyer shall not communicate or cause another to communicate as to the merits of the cause with a judge or an official before whom the proceeding is pending except: (1) in the course of the official proceeding in the cause; (2) in writing if the lawyer promptly delivers a copy of the writing to the opposing counsel or to the adverse party if not represented by a lawyer; (3) orally upon notice to opposing counsel or to the adverse party if not represented by a lawyer; or (4) as otherwise authorized by law.

i. 4-4.1 In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by rule 4-1.6.

j. 4-5.1 (a) A partner in a law firm, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers therein conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (b) Any lawyer having direct supervisory authority over another lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other lawyer conforms to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (c) A lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if: (1) the lawyer orders the specific conduct or, with knowledge thereof, ratifies the conduct involved; or (2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.

k. 4-5.3 (a) A person who uses the title of paralegal, legal assistant, or other similar term when offering or providing services to the public must work for or under the direction or supervision of a lawyer or law firm. (b) With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer or an authorized business entity as defined elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: (1) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; (2) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and (3) a lawyer is responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if the lawyer: (A) orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or (B) is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action. (c) Although paralegals or legal assistants may perform the duties delegated to them by the lawyer without the presence or active involvement of the lawyer, the lawyer must review and be responsible for the work product of the paralegals or legal assistants.

l. 4-5.4(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that: (1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to 1 or more specified persons; (2) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer; (3) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, in accordance with the provisions of rule 4- 1.17, pay to the estate or other legally authorized representative of that lawyer the agreed upon purchase price; (4) bonuses may be paid to nonlawyer employees for work performed, and may be based on their extraordinary efforts on a particular case or over a specified time period. Bonus payments shall not be based on cases or clients brought to the lawyer or law firm by the actions of the nonlawyer. A lawyer shall not provide a bonus payment that is calculated as a percentage of legal fees received by the lawyer or law firm; and (5) a lawyer may share court-awarded fees with a nonprofit, pro bono legal services organization that employed, retained, or recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter.

m. 4-5.4(c) A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.

n. 4-5.4(d) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

o. 4-5.4(e) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a business entity authorized to practice law for a profit if: (1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or (2) a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof or occupies the position of similar responsibility in any form of association other than a corporation; or (3) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

p. 4-8.3(a) (2006, 2012, 2018) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate professional authority.

q. 4-8.3(a) (2019) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects must inform the appropriate professional authority.

r. 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.

s. 4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

t. 4-8.4(d) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

u. 4-8.6(b) No authorized business entity may engage in the practice of law in the state of Florida or render advice under or interpretations of Florida law except through officers, directors, partners, managers, agents, or employees who are qualified to render legal services in this state.

v. 4-8.6(c) No person may serve as a partner, manager, director or executive officer of an authorized business entity that is engaged in the practice of law in Florida unless such person is legally qualified to render legal services in this state. For purposes of this rule the term “executive officer” includes the president, vice-president, or any other officer who performs a policy-making function.

w. 4-8.6(d) A lawyer who, while acting as a shareholder, member, officer, director, partner, proprietor, manager, agent, or employee of an authorized business entity and engaged in the practice of law in Florida, violates or sanctions the violation of the authorized business entity statutes or the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar will be subject to disciplinary action.

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2020-30,084 (5B)

The Florida Bar re-alleges paragraphs 4 through 80 as if set forth fully herein and further alleges:

155. William Hammond, a resident of Montana, owned a timeshare at a resort known as Festiva, located in Maryland.

156. Although Hammond never retained respondent or Best Defense Law, Festiva resort was advised otherwise.

157. Hammond advised that he was told that the resort had received an injunction from Best Defense Law Team on March 7, 2018.

158. As a result of the apparent legal dispute, Festiva resort refused to permit Hammond use of his timeshare located at a resort property in Maryland.

159. When Hammond attempted to contact respondent and/or Best Defense Law Team, he was unable to reach anyone. Best Defense Law Team’s website was no longer operational, and Hammond was unable to leave a message at the phone number listed.

160. Respondent’s failure to exercise supervision and control over the case managers, lawyers and non-lawyers working with Best Defense Law resulted in respondent being unaware he was representing Hammond.

161. Respondent permitted a situation to exist whereby William Howell was able to use respondent’s law firm to solicit timeshare owners and to lead the owners to believe they were receiving legal services from respondent.

162. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar:

a. 3-4.3 (1993) The standards of professional conduct to be observed by members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration herein of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline shall not be deemed to be all-inclusive nor shall the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance thereof. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice, whether the act is committed in the course of the attorney’s relations as an attorney or otherwise, whether committed within or outside the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or misdemeanor, may constitute a cause for discipline.

b. 3-4.3 (2018) The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all-inclusive nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.

c. 4-1.1 A lawyer must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

d. 4-1.4 (a) Informing Client of Status of Representation. A lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in terminology, is required by these rules; (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and (5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law. (b) Duty to Explain Matters to Client. A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

e. 4-1.5(a) (2012, 2018) An attorney shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal, prohibited, or clearly excessive fee or cost, or a fee generated by employment that was obtained through advertising or solicitation not in compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

f. 4-1.6(a) A lawyer must not reveal information relating to representation of a client except as stated in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d), unless the client gives informed consent.

g. 4-1.6(e) A lawyer must make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

h. 4-1.8(f) (2010) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

i. 4-1.8(f) (2018) A lawyer is prohibited from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client- lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

j. 4-4.1 In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by rule 4-1.6.

k. 4-5.1 (a) A partner in a law firm, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers therein conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (b) Any lawyer having direct supervisory authority over another lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other lawyer conforms to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (c) A lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if: (1) the lawyer orders the specific conduct or, with knowledge thereof, ratifies the conduct involved; or (2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.

l. 4-5.3 (a) A person who uses the title of paralegal, legal assistant, or other similar term when offering or providing services to the public must work for or under the direction or supervision of a lawyer or law firm. (b) With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer or an authorized business entity as defined elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: (1) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; (2) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and (3) a lawyer is responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if the lawyer: (A) orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or (B) is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action. (c) Although paralegals or legal assistants may perform the duties delegated to them by the lawyer without the presence or active involvement of the lawyer, the lawyer must review and be responsible for the work product of the paralegals or legal assistants.

m. 4-5.4(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that: (1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to 1 or more specified persons; (2) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer; (3) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, in accordance with the provisions of rule 4- 1.17, pay to the estate or other legally authorized representative of that lawyer the agreed upon purchase price; (4) bonuses may be paid to nonlawyer employees for work performed, and may be based on their extraordinary efforts on a particular case or over a specified time period. Bonus payments shall not be based on cases or clients brought to the lawyer or law firm by the actions of the nonlawyer. A lawyer shall not provide a bonus payment that is calculated as a percentage of legal fees received by the lawyer or law firm; and (5) a lawyer may share court-awarded fees with a nonprofit, pro bono legal services organization that employed, retained, or recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter.

n. 4-5.4(c) A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.

o. 4-5.4(d) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

p. 4-5.4(e) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a business entity authorized to practice law for a profit if: (1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or (2) a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof or occupies the position of similar responsibility in any form of association other than a corporation; or (3) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

q. 4-5.5(a) A lawyer may not practice law in a jurisdiction other than the lawyer’s home state, in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in the lawyer’s home state or assist another in doing so.

r. 4-7.18(a) (2013) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes any written form of communication, including any electronic mail communication, directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4–7.11 through 4–7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

s. 4-7.18(a) (2018) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit in person, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit in person on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, by electronic means that include realtime communication face-to-face such as video telephone or video conference, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient that does not meet the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

t. 4-7.22 (2013) (a) A lawyer may not accept referrals from a lawyer referral service, and it is a violation of these Rules Regulating the Florida Bar to do so, unless the service: (1) engages in no communication with the public and in no direct contact with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if the communication or contact were made by the lawyer; (2) receives no fee or charge that constitutes a division or sharing of fees, unless the service is a not-for-profit service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules; (3) refers clients only to persons lawfully permitted to practice law in Florida when the services to be rendered constitute the practice of law in Florida; (4) carries or requires each lawyer participating in the service to carry professional liability insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 per claim or occurrence; (5) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names and Florida bar membership numbers of all lawyers participating in the service; (6) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names of all persons authorized to act on behalf of the service; (7) responds in writing, within 15 days, to any official inquiry by bar counsel when bar counsel is seeking information described in this subdivision or conducting an investigation into the conduct of the service or a lawyer who accepts referrals from the service; (8) neither represents nor implies to the public that the service is endorsed or approved by The Florida Bar, unless the service is subject to chapter 8 of these rules; (9) uses its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name in all communications with the public; (10) affirmatively states in all advertisements that it is a lawyer referral service; and (11) affirmatively states in all advertisements that lawyers who accept referrals from it pay to participate in the lawyer referral service. (b) A lawyer who accepts referrals from a lawyer referral service is responsible for ensuring that any advertisements or written communications used by the service comply with the requirements of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, including the provisions of this subchapter. (c) A “lawyer referral service” is: (1) any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives a fee or charge for referring or causing the direct or indirect referral of a potential client to a lawyer drawn from a specific group or panel of lawyers; or (2) any group or pooled advertising program operated by any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity wherein the legal services advertisements utilize a common telephone number or website and potential clients are then referred only to lawyers or law firms participating in the group or pooled advertising program. A pro bono referral program, in which the participating lawyers do not pay a fee or charge of any kind to receive referrals or to belong to the referral panel, and are undertaking the referred matters without expectation of remuneration, is not a lawyer referral service within the definition of this rule.

u. 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.

v. 4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

w. 4-8.6(b) No authorized business entity may engage in the practice of law in the state of Florida or render advice under or interpretations of Florida law except through officers, directors, partners, managers, agents, or employees who are qualified to render legal services in this state.

x. 4-8.6(c) No person may serve as a partner, manager, director or executive officer of an authorized business entity that is engaged in the practice of law in Florida unless such person is legally qualified to render legal services in this state. For purposes of this rule the term “executive officer” includes the president, vice-president, or any other officer who performs a policy-making function.

y. 4-8.6(d) A lawyer who, while acting as a shareholder, member, officer, director, partner, proprietor, manager, agent, or employee of an authorized business entity and engaged in the practice of law in Florida, violates or sanctions the violation of the authorized business entity statutes or the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar will be subject to disciplinary action.

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2020-30,781 (5B)

The Florida Bar re-alleges paragraphs 4 through 80 as if set forth fully herein and further alleges:

163. Joseph Nemchik believed he retained respondent through his membership in Resilient Group, PMA to represent him as the plaintiff in a civil case filed in Orange County Circuit Court, Nemchik v. Parablis, et. al., Case No. 2016-CA-010177.

164. Respondent explained that his involvement in this case was limited to filing a motion to continue on January 15, 2018, after being approached by a shared administrative person that neither attorney Roebuck or Lim were available to cover a hearing that was set.

165. However, respondent’s motion to continue filed on January 15, 2018, stated that respondent’s law firm had just been retained by Nemchik on January 12, 2018, and that he was requesting to reschedule the hearing within the next thirty days to competently prepare to argue opposing counsel’s motions.

166. Respondent’s motion indicated that it was submitted by Allan Campbell, Esq., with Best Defense Law.

167. Furthermore, a Notice of Appearance was filed on January 10, 2018, also stating that it was submitted by respondent and that Allan Campbell, Esq., with Best Defense Law was entering his appearance as counsel of record.

168. Prior to respondent entering his notice of appearance, Nemchik was pro se.

169. Respondent received an Order Setting Status Hearing approximately 20 months later and realized he remained counsel of record in Nemchik’s case.

170. Upon receiving this order setting a status hearing for January 10, 2020, respondent promptly filed a Motion to Withdraw from Continued Representation on November 22, 2019.

171. In his motion to withdraw, respondent stated that he was no longer associated with Best Defense Law and had not been since March 2018.

172. Respondent further stated that he had not met with and did not know nor have any attorney-client relationship with Nemchik since having left Best Defense Law.

173. Finally, respondent stated that he had no independent means of contacting Nemchik about the case and the hearing.

174. Respondent did not set his motion to withdraw for hearing, and the court did not enter an order granting respondent’s withdrawal.

175. When respondent and Nemchik failed to appear for the status hearing on January 10, 2020, the case was dismissed.

176. Respondent believed he did not need to appear at the January 10, 2020, hearing because he could offer no information about the case and expected that Nemchik would be present as he was noticed about the hearing.

177. Nemchik has stated that he had met with respondent many times and that respondent had all of his contact information.

178. After learning the case was dismissed, Nemchik filed a motion to vacate the dismissal. The court then set a hearing on Nemchik’s motion for January 30, 2020.

179. Thereafter, Nemchik contacted respondent and insisted that respondent file a motion to correct the dismissal.

180. On January 29, 2020, respondent filed a Motion to Hear Motion to Withdraw First and a Cross-Notice of Hearing to have his motion to withdraw heard at the January 30 hearing.

181. Both respondent and Nemchik appeared at the January 30, 2020, hearing.

182. Respondent stated that the court did not hear argument on respondent’s motion to withdraw and found that because Nemchik had counsel, his pro se motions were moot.

183. Respondent then filed a Motion to Correct Mistake based on the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, realizing that he needed the case reopened for the court to hear his motion to withdraw.

184. A hearing was held on respondent’s motion on March 3, 2020.

The court denied respondent’s motion to correct mistake but granted his amended motion to withdraw.

185. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar:

a. 3-4.3 (1993) The standards of professional conduct to be observed by members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration herein of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline shall not be deemed to be all-inclusive nor shall the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance thereof. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice, whether the act is committed in the course of the attorney’s relations as an attorney or otherwise, whether committed within or outside the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or misdemeanor, may constitute a cause for discipline.

b. 3-4.3 (2018) The standards of professional conduct required of members of the bar are not limited to the observance of rules and avoidance of prohibited acts, and the enumeration of certain categories of misconduct as constituting grounds for discipline are not all-inclusive nor is the failure to specify any particular act of misconduct be construed as tolerance of the act of misconduct. The commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice may constitute a cause for discipline whether the act is committed in the course of the lawyer’s relations as a lawyer or otherwise, whether committed within Florida or outside the state of Florida, and whether the act is a felony or a misdemeanor.

c. 4-1.1 A lawyer must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

d. 4-1.4(a) A lawyer shall: (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in terminology, is required by these rules; (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and (5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

e. 4-1.5(a) A lawyer must not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal, prohibited, or clearly excessive fee or cost, or a fee generated by employment that was obtained through advertising or solicitation not in compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

f. 4-1.8(f) (2010) A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

g. 4-1.8(f) (2018) A lawyer is prohibited from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless: (1) the client gives informed consent; (2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client- lawyer relationship; and (3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.

h. 4-1.16(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interest, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled, and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred. The lawyer may retain papers and other property relating to or belonging to the client to the extent permitted by law.

i. 4-3.3(a) 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; (2) fail to disclose a material fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by the client; (3) fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel; or (4) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. A lawyer may not offer testimony that the lawyer knows to be false in the form of a narrative unless so ordered by the tribunal. If a lawyer, the lawyer’s client, or a witness called by the lawyer has offered material evidence and the lawyer comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. A lawyer may refuse to offer evidence that the lawyer reasonably believes is false.

j. 4-3.4(c) A lawyer must not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal except for an open refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists.

k. 4-5.1 (a) A partner in a law firm, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers therein conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (b) Any lawyer having direct supervisory authority over another lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other lawyer conforms to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (c) A lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if: (1) the lawyer orders the specific conduct or, with knowledge thereof, ratifies the conduct involved; or (2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.

l. 4-5.3 (a) A person who uses the title of paralegal, legal assistant, or other similar term when offering or providing services to the public must work for or under the direction or supervision of a lawyer or law firm. (b) With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer or an authorized business entity as defined elsewhere in these Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: (1) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; (2) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and (3) a lawyer is responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if the lawyer: (A) orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or (B) is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action. (c) Although paralegals or legal assistants may perform the duties delegated to them by the lawyer without the presence or active involvement of the lawyer, the lawyer must review and be responsible for the work product of the paralegals or legal assistants.

m. 4-5.4(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that: (1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to 1 or more specified persons; (2) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer that proportion of the total compensation that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer; (3) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, in accordance with the provisions of rule 4- 1.17, pay to the estate or other legally authorized representative of that lawyer the agreed upon purchase price; (4) bonuses may be paid to nonlawyer employees for work performed, and may be based on their extraordinary efforts on a particular case or over a specified time period. Bonus payments shall not be based on cases or clients brought to the lawyer or law firm by the actions of the nonlawyer. A lawyer shall not provide a bonus payment that is calculated as a percentage of legal fees received by the lawyer or law firm; and (5) a lawyer may share court-awarded fees with a nonprofit, pro bono legal services organization that employed, retained, or recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter.

n. 4-5.4(c) A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.

o. 4-5.4(d) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

p. 4-5.4(e) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a business entity authorized to practice law for a profit if: (1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or (2) a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof or occupies the position of similar responsibility in any form of association other than a corporation; or (3) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

q. 4-7.18(a) (2013) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship, in person or otherwise, when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, telegraph, or facsimile, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient and includes any written form of communication, including any electronic mail communication, directed to a specific recipient and not meeting the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4–7.11 through 4–7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

r. 4-7.18(a) (2018) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this rule, a lawyer may not: (1) solicit in person, or permit employees or agents of the lawyer to solicit in person on the lawyer’s behalf, professional employment from a prospective client with whom the lawyer has no family or prior professional relationship when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain. The term “solicit” includes contact in person, by telephone, by electronic means that include realtime communication face-to-face such as video telephone or video conference, or by other communication directed to a specific recipient that does not meet the requirements of subdivision (b) of this rule and rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.17 of these rules. (2) enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect a fee for professional employment obtained in violation of this rule.

s. 4-7.21(f) A name, letterhead, business card or advertisement may not imply that lawyers practice in a partnership or authorized business entity when they do not.

t. 4-7.22 (2013) (a) A lawyer may not accept referrals from a lawyer referral service, and it is a violation of these Rules Regulating the Florida Bar to do so, unless the service: (1) engages in no communication with the public and in no direct contact with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if the communication or contact were made by the lawyer; (2) receives no fee or charge that constitutes a division or sharing of fees, unless the service is a not-for-profit service approved by The Florida Bar pursuant to chapter 8 of these rules; (3) refers clients only to persons lawfully permitted to practice law in Florida when the services to be rendered constitute the practice of law in Florida; (4) carries or requires each lawyer participating in the service to carry professional liability insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 per claim or occurrence; (5) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names and Florida bar membership numbers of all lawyers participating in the service; (6) furnishes The Florida Bar, on a quarterly basis, with the names of all persons authorized to act on behalf of the service; (7) responds in writing, within 15 days, to any official inquiry by bar counsel when bar counsel is seeking information described in this subdivision or conducting an investigation into the conduct of the service or a lawyer who accepts referrals from the service; (8) neither represents nor implies to the public that the service is endorsed or approved by The Florida Bar, unless the service is subject to chapter 8 of these rules; (9) uses its actual legal name or a registered fictitious name in all communications with the public; (10) affirmatively states in all advertisements that it is a lawyer referral service; and (11) affirmatively states in all advertisements that lawyers who accept referrals from it pay to participate in the lawyer referral service. (b) A lawyer who accepts referrals from a lawyer referral service is responsible for ensuring that any advertisements or written communications used by the service comply with the requirements of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, including the provisions of this subchapter. (c) A “lawyer referral service” is: (1) any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity that receives a fee or charge for referring or causing the direct or indirect referral of a potential client to a lawyer drawn from a specific group or panel of lawyers; or (2) any group or pooled advertising program operated by any person, group of persons, association, organization, or entity wherein the legal services advertisements utilize a common telephone number or website and potential clients are then referred only to lawyers or law firms participating in the group or pooled advertising program. A pro bono referral program, in which the participating lawyers do not pay a fee or charge of any kind to receive referrals or to belong to the referral panel, and are undertaking the referred matters without expectation of remuneration, is not a lawyer referral service within the definition of this rule.

u. 4-8.3(a) (2006, 2012, 2018) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate professional authority.

v. 4-8.3(a) (2019) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects must inform the appropriate professional authority.

w. 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.

x. 4-8.4(c) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

y. 4-8.4(d) A lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

z. 4-8.6(b) No authorized business entity may engage in the practice of law in the state of Florida or render advice under or interpretations of Florida law except through officers, directors, partners, managers, agents, or employees who are qualified to render legal services in this state.

aa. 4-8.6(c) No person may serve as a partner, manager, director or executive officer of an authorized business entity that is engaged in the practice of law in Florida unless such person is legally qualified to render legal services in this state. For purposes of this rule the term “executive officer” includes the president, vice-president, or any other officer who performs a policy-making function.

bb. 4-8.6(d) A lawyer who, while acting as a shareholder, member, officer, director, partner, proprietor, manager, agent, or employee of an authorized business entity and engaged in the practice of law in Florida, violates or sanctions the violation of the authorized business entity statutes or the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar will be subject to disciplinary action.

WHEREFORE, The Florida Bar prays respondent will be appropriately disciplined in accordance with the provisions of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar as amended.

LAURA N. GRYB,
Bar Counsel The Florida Bar
1000 Legion Place, Suite 1625
Orlando, Florida 32801-1050
(407) 425-5424
Florida Bar No. 89047
lgryb@floridabar.org
orlandooffice@floridabar.org
dsullivan@floridabar.org

PATRICIA ANN TORO SAVITZ
Staff Counsel The Florida Bar
651 E. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
(850) 561-5839
Florida Bar No. 559547
psavitz@floridabar.org

I certify that this document has been efiled with The Honorable John A. Tomasino, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida, using the e-filing portal, and that a copy has been furnished by United States Mail via certified mail No. 7017 1450 0000 7821 0827, return receipt requested to Allan Campbell, Respondent, whose record Bar address is The Law Office of Allan Campbell, Post Office Box 953724, Lake Mary, Florida 32795- 3724, and via email at attyacampbell@aol.com; and to Laura N. Gryb, Bar Counsel, The Florida Bar, 1000 Legion Place, Suite 1625, Orlando, Florida 32801-1050, via email at lgryb@floridabar.org, orlandooffice@floridabar.org, on this 29th day of October, 2021.

Patricia Ann Toro Savitz

Staff Counsel

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the trial counsel in this matter is Laura N. Gryb, Bar Counsel, whose address, telephone number and primary email address are The Florida Bar, 1000 Legion Place, Suite 1625, Orlando, Florida 32801-1050, (407) 425-5424 and lgryb@floridabar.org, orlandooffice@floridabar.org, dsullivan@floridabar.org. Respondent need not address pleadings, correspondence, etc. in this matter to anyone other than trial counsel and to Staff Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399, psavitz@floridabar.org.

RULE 3-7.6(h)(2), RULES REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR, PROVIDES THAT A RESPONDENT SHALL ANSWER A COMPLAINT.

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Bankruptcy

Florida Foreclosures and The Allan Campbell Pen Name Series: Titan Lavine

Darrin Lavine, Lina Lavine and their Relationship with Allan Campbell, Roddy Boling and Chris Lim et al, is detailed in this LIF exclusive series.

Published

on

LIF Reviews and Investigates D. C. Lavine and his wife, Lina Lavine, et al.

This is an evolving article, bookmark for updates as it forms part of a series of articles by LIF in a complex and lengthy scheme.

Seminole Court Record Search for Darrin Lavine

The Foreclosure Defender Darrin Lavine is Defending his Own Residence from Foreclosure

U.S. Bank, National Association v. Titans Group of Seminole County, Florida

(6:21-cv-00715-WWB-EJK)

District Court, M.D. Florida

OCT 26, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 4, 2022

U.S. Bank, National Association v. Titans Group of Seminole County, Florida

(6:19-cv-01434)

District Court, M.D. Florida

AUG 5, 2019 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 4, 2022

DARRIN C LAVINE -VS- CHRISTIANA TRUST

Case Number: 2019CA003134

OCT 10, 2019 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 21, 2022

Closed, 19 Apr. 2021

ORDER ON DEFTS US BANK NA AS LEGAL TITLE TRUSTEE FOR TRUMAN 2016 SC6 TRUST & MTG ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC AMENDED MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT – GRANTED – JUDGE STACY 4/18/21

DARRIN C LAVINE -VS- US BANK NATL ASSN

Case Number: 2020CA000289

JAN 31, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 21, 2022

Vol. Dismissal, May 2020

3314 Sunset Ridge Ct, Longwood, Fl. 32779

US BANK NATL ASSN -VS- TITANS GROUP A TEXAS JOINT STOCK

Case No. 2019CA002063 [Active Foreclosure Case]

Tim Quinones. Florida Foreclosure Defense Lawyer

UPDATED DOCKET (11 MAY LAST ENTRY)

Original Complaint and Petition for Foreclosure by US Bank.

Multi-Tasker Lina Lavine - Coldwell Banker Realtor..and....

Extract from Fl. Bar complaint against Florida Lawyer Andrea Marie Roebuck

Nov. 10, 2021

7. Initially, respondent was employed directly by Titans Reserve Group, where she worked under Darrin Lavin and his wife, Lina Lavine, both of whom were nonlawyers.

8. Respondent testified during a sworn statement in this disciplinary matter that Titans Reserve Group did “pro se handling of issues” and “case law education.”

9. Kelley Andrea Bosecker provided members of Titans Reserve Group with legal services until her suspension from the practice of law effective May 27, 2016.

10. During this time, respondent opened her own law firm, Allegiant Law, P.A., on or about May 5, 2017, naming herself as vice president and Lina Lavine, as secretary.

11. Lina Lavine handled the bookkeeping for Allegiant Law, P.A. and Titans Reserve Group.

12. After forming Allegiant Law, P.A., respondent continued to work with Titan Reserve providing legal services to its members.

13. The members would pay Titans Reserve Group for legal services, and Titans Reserve Group would pay respondent’s salary as it had previously done…

JPMORGAN CHASE BANK NATL ASSN -VS- KENNETH E TAYLOR

Case Number: 2019CA001478 [Active Foreclosure]

644 W Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32804 (Lot/Land)

Original Complaint and Petition for Foreclosure by JPMorgan Chase.

Despite an order to show cause, the list of Boling defendants (Roddy Boling is the grandmaster of this foreclosure defense scheme and the address to where all summons and correspondence goes to – his mortgaged residence which is in pre-foreclosure itself) combined with the fact that Lavine is accepting mail via his lawyer in his own residential foreclosure case as detailed above, they have managed to spin the wheels on this foreclosure case for years without even effectively starting the lawsuit (due to aforementioned service issues).

It should also be noted that Boling is also accessible for service by the courts, he’s never out of them [except for his jail and halfway house stints] and has many ongoing cases where service could be effected, the most obvious is the jeep insurance payout dispute lawsuit.

Darrin Lavine et al as Defendant(s) to a "Members" Foreclosure Case

THE BANK OF NEW YORK -VS- BEVERLY MULLINGS

Case No. 2018CA003330 [Active Foreclosure Case]

829 Eagle Claw Ct, Lake Mary, FL 32746

In this foreclosure, we have ‘pro se’ defendant Lavine stating he needs an extension of time to file a response after the case was removed by Mullings and remanded to the State by the federal court, middle district (sounds familiar).

Original Complaint and Petition for Foreclosure by BONY.

US BANK NATL ASSN -VS- SANDRA L THOMAS

Case No. 2018CA003066 [Fraudulent transfer for no monetary value by the Lavines.]

702 Lighthouse Ct, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

Judge Stacy’s Order Voiding Transfer as Fraudulent

Here we have admonished attorney Chris Lim moving in to represent the Lavines’ and also the shell game of companies, e.g. Resilient Roofing, Inc...

WELLS FARGO BANK NA -VS- DANIEL RODRIGUEZ

Case No. 2017CA001773 [Foreclosure Sale Canceled Pending Loan Mod etc.]

1344 Holly Glen Run, Apopka, FL 32703

Judge Debra Nelson found for Wells Fargo and then left the Bench. Judge Christopher Sprysenski replaced her in this case.

Court Hearing Transcript Judge Debra Nelson in Wells Fargo v Rodriguez

The homeowners won judgment in the first Wells Fargo lawsuit. Not this time.

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Appellate Circuit

Foreclosure Sanctions Maxed Out After Lapin And Leichtling Rip Opposing Counsel

Julio Marrero and Marrero Law continue to file patently frivolous removals and in bad faith sayeth Associate Jan Williams of LL-Lawfirm.com

Published

on

Third District Court of Appeal
State of Florida

Opinion filed April 20, 2022.
Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

Nos. 3D21-0373 & 3D21-0668
Lower Tribunal No. 16-28602

Max Kraushaar, et al.,
Appellants, vs.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., etc.,
Appellee.

APR 20, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: APR 27, 2022

Appeals from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Barbara Areces, Judge.

Marrero, Chamizo, Marcer Law, LP, and Julio C. Marrero, for appellants.

Lapin & Leichtling, LLP, and Justin G. Prociv, for appellee.

Before FERNANDEZ, C.J., and LINDSEY, and MILLER, JJ. PER CURIAM.

Affirmed.

See Tillman v. State, 471 So. 2d 32, 35 (Fla. 1985);

Person v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon Tr. Co., 201 So. 3d 842, 843 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).

Wells Fargo Bank N.A. v. Kraushaar

(1:21-cv-21156)

District Court, S.D. Florida

MAR 26, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: APR 25, 2022

ORDER

THIS CAUSE comes before the Court on Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank N.A.’s Motion to Remand, for Sanctions Pursuant to the Court’s Inherent Power to Sanction, and for Reasonable Fees and Costs (the “Motion”) [ECF No. 6].

The Court has reviewed the Motion and the record and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.

On November 4, 2016, Plaintiff, as Trustee for AEGIS Asset Backed Securities Trust Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2004-4, brought a mortgage foreclosure action against Defendants in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida (“State Circuit Court”).1

On March 26, 2021, Defendants Max Kraushaar and Olinda Kraushaar removed this action from the State Circuit Court (the “Notice of Removal”). [ECF No. 1]. On April 5, 2021,

1 The Court takes judicial notice of the State Circuit Court’s online docket and the documents therein in the original state action titled Wells Fargo Bank N.A. v. Max Kraushaar et al., Case No. 2016-028602-CA-01. See Fed. R. Evid. 201; United States v. Rey, 811 F.2d 1453, 1457 n.5 (11th Cir. 1987) (“A court may take judicial notice of its own records and the records of inferior courts.”).

Plaintiff filed the instant motion, arguing that Defendants’ Notice of Removal is facially deficient and fails to show that removal is proper. [ECF No. 6].

Plaintiff also argues that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action. Id.

In addition, the Motion details the recent string of improper removals in state post-judgment foreclosure actions by Julio Marrero, Esq., and the law firm Marrero, Chamizo, Marcer Law LP, who represent Defendants. Id.

Defendants failed to timely respond to the Motion.

This error is fatal for Defendants because “on a motion to remand, the removing party bears the burden of showing the existence of federal subject matter jurisdiction.”

Williams v. Aquachile, Inc., 470 F. Supp. 3d 1277, 1279 (S.D. Fla. 2020) (quoting Conn. State Dental Ass’n v. Anthem Health Plans, Inc., 591 F.3d 1337, 1343 (11th Cir. 2009)).

Because Defendants failed to timely respond to the Motion, they fail to establish the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction.

Accordingly, it is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED as follows:

1. Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank N.A.’s Motion to Remand, for Sanctions Pursuant to the Court’s Inherent Power to Sanction, and for Reasonable Fees and Costs, [ECF No. 6], is GRANTED.

2. The above-styled case is REMANDED to Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida.

3. Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank N.A. shall be awarded $500.00 as reasonable costs and attorney’s fees, which Plaintiff shall recover from Defendants Max Kraushaar and Olinda Kraushaar and their counsel, Julio Marrero, Esq., of the law firm Marrero, Chamizo, Marcer Law LP, jointly and severally.

4. Any pending motions are DENIED as moot.

5. This case is CLOSED.

DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers in Miami, Florida, this 21st day of April, 2021.

 

 

 

 

JUDGE DARRIN P. GAYLES, SD FL.

Motion for Sanctions

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• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

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Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



U.S. District Court
Southern District of Florida (Miami)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:21-cv-21156-DPG

Wells Fargo Bank N.A. v. Kraushaar et al
Assigned to: Judge Darrin P. Gayles

Case in other court:  Miami-Dade County Circuit State Court, 16-028602-CA-01

Cause: 12:1441 Federal Mortgage Foreclosure

Date Filed: 03/26/2021
Date Terminated: 04/21/2021
Jury Demand: None
Nature of Suit: 220 Real Property: Foreclosure
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
Plaintiff
Wells Fargo Bank N.A.
as Trustee for AEGIS Assest Backed Securities Trust Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2004-4
represented by Jan Timothy Williams
Lapin & Leichtling, LLP
255 Alhambra Circle
Suite 1250
Coral Gables, FL 33134
3058300421
Email: jwilliams@ll-lawfirm.com
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED
V.
Defendant
Max Kraushaar represented by Julio Cesar Marrero
Marrero, Chamizo, Marcer Law, LP
3850 Bird Road, Suite 902
Coral Gables, FL 33146
305-446-0163
Email: eqramul@marrerorealestatelaw.com
LEAD ATTORNEY
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED
Defendant
Olinda Kraushaar represented by Julio Cesar Marrero
(See above for address)
ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
03/26/2021 1 NOTICE OF REMOVAL (STATE COURT COMPLAINT – Complaint for Foreclosure) Filing fee $ 402.00 receipt number AFLSDC-14555290, filed by Olinda Kraushaar, Max Kraushaar.(Marrero, Julio) (Entered: 03/26/2021)
03/26/2021 2 Clerks Notice of Judge Assignment to Judge Darrin P. Gayles.Pursuant to 28 USC 636(c), the parties are hereby notified that the U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres is available to handle any or all proceedings in this case. If agreed, parties should complete and file the Consent form found on our website. It is not necessary to file a document indicating lack of consent.

Pro se (NON-PRISONER) litigants may receive Notices of Electronic Filings (NEFS) via email after filing a Consent by Pro Se Litigant (NON-PRISONER) to Receive Notices of Electronic Filing. The consent form is available under the forms section of our website. (scn) (Entered: 03/26/2021)

03/26/2021 3 Clerks Notice to Filer re: Electronic Case. State Court Records not included. Filer is instructed to file a Notice (Other) with the State Court Records attached within 24 hours. (scn) (Entered: 03/26/2021)
03/26/2021 4 Clerks Notice to Filer re: Electronic Case. No Civil Cover Sheet. Filer is instructed to file a Notice (Other) with the Civil Cover Sheet attached within 24 hours of the notice. (scn) (Entered: 03/26/2021)
04/05/2021 5 NOTICE OF COURT PRACTICE. Unless otherwise specified by the Court, every motion shall be double-spaced in Times New Roman 12-point typeface. Multiple Plaintiffs or Defendants shall file joint motions with co-parties unless there are clear conflicts of position. If conflicts of position exist, parties shall explain the conflicts in their separate motions. Failure to comply with ANY of these procedures may result in the imposition of appropriate sanctions, including but not limited to, the striking of the motion or dismissal of this action. Signed by Judge Darrin P. Gayles (jsi) (Entered: 04/05/2021)
04/05/2021 6 Plaintiff’s MOTION to Remand to State Court for Sanctions Pursuant to the Court’s Inherent Power to Sanction, and for Reasonable Fees and Costs by Wells Fargo Bank N.A.. Attorney Jan Timothy Williams added to party Wells Fargo Bank N.A.(pty:pla). (Williams, Jan) (Entered: 04/05/2021)
04/21/2021 7 Order Granting 6 Plaintiff’s MOTION to Remand to State Court for Sanctions Pursuant to the Court’s Inherent Power to Sanction, and for Reasonable Fees and Costs filed by Wells Fargo Bank N.A. The above-styled case is REMANDED to Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida. Closing Case. Signed by Judge Darrin P. Gayles on 4/21/2021. See attached document for full details. (scn) (Entered: 04/21/2021)
04/21/2021 8 Transmittal Letter Sent with DE#7 to: Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida. State Court Case Number: 16-028602-CA-01. (scn) (Entered: 04/21/2021)
05/10/2021 9 ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF RECEIPT as to 8 Transmittal Letter Sent. (scn) (Entered: 05/10/2021)
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