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Secret and Sealed Attorney Discipline Case in SDFL

Florida attorney Kenneth Edward Walton II Suspended from the Practice of Law with immediate effect. It only took nearly a year from the complaint.

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Unknown Case Title

(1:22-mc-20028)

District Court, S.D. Florida

JAN 4, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JAN 4, 2022

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Jan 19, 2022

ORDER OF SUSPENSION

On December 20, 2021, the Supreme Court of Florida entered an Order of Suspension, suspending Kenneth Edward Walton, II from the practice of law.

See The Florida Bar v. Walton, No. SC21-243, 2021 WL 6013465 (Fla. Dec. 20, 2021) [ECF No. 1].

The suspension was predicated on an uncontested report of the referee, which was based upon an Unconditional Guilty Plea for Consent Judgment. (See [ECF No. 2]).

Rule 9(b) of the Rules Governing the Admission, Practice, Peer Review, and Discipline of Attorneys, Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, provides that “[a]n attorney . . . who shall be suspended . . . on consent . . . from the bar of any state . . . while an investigation into allegations of misconduct is pending shall . . . cease to be permitted to practice before this Court and be stricken from the roll of attorneys admitted to practice before this Court.” Id. (alterations added).

Under these circumstances involving suspension on consent, service of an order to show cause is unnecessary, and the attorney may be immediately suspended.

In accordance with Rule 9(b) and the inherent authority of this Court to oversee officers admitted to membership in its bar, see Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43 (1991) (“[A] federal court has the power to control admission to its bar and to discipline attorneys who appear before it.” (alteration added)),

IT IS ORDERED that Mr. Walton is suspended from practice in this Court, effective immediately.

Mr. Walton may not resume the practice of law before this Court until reinstated by court order. See Rule 12(a).

The Clerk of Court shall strike this attorney from the roll of attorneys eligible to practice in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida and shall also immediately revoke the attorney’s CM/ECF password.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Mr. Walton shall advise the Clerk of Court of all pending cases before this Court in which he is counsel or co-counsel of record.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court attempt to serve by certified mail a copy of this Order of Suspension upon Mr. Walton at his court record and Florida Bar addresses.

DONE AND ORDERED in Miami, Florida, this 19th day of January, 2022.

CECILIA M. ALTONAGA
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 

c:         All South Florida Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judges

All Southern District of Florida District Judges, Bankruptcy Judges, and Magistrate Judges United States Attorney

Circuit Executive Federal Public Defender

Clerks of Court – District, Bankruptcy, and 11th Circuit Florida Bar and National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank Library

Kenneth Edward Walton, II

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA

THE FLORIDA BAR,

Supreme Court Case No. SC-
Complainant,

The Florida Bar File Nos.

2019-70,668 (11P)
2020-70,037 (11P)

v.

KENNETH EDWARD WALTON II, 2020-70,203 (11P)

Respondent.
2020-70,204 (11P)

COMPLAINT

The Florida Bar, complainant, files this Complaint against Kenneth Edward Walton II, respondent, pursuant to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and alleges:

1. Respondent is and was at all times mentioned herein a member of The Florida Bar admitted on September 29, 1999, and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida.

2. Respondent practiced law in Miami-Dade County, Florida, at all times material to this complaint.

3. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee P 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.

COUNT I

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2019-70, 668

4. Salenna Burgess originally retained respondent for a file review related to a bankruptcy matter. Respondent completed the file review promptly and well by all accounts.

5. In or around April 2018, Ms. Burgess decided to retain respondent to handle her bankruptcy matter, following a bad experience with her prior attorney and based on recommendations respondent made during the file review.

6. Ms. Burgess paid respondent $6,000.00 for the representation.

7. Although communication was good at the outset of the representation, respondent became more difficult to reach as time went by.

8. On June 7, 2018, respondent forwarded correspondence dealing with Ms. Burgess’ matter to the client.

9. Roughly three months later, Ms. Burgess emailed respondent on September 5, 2018, requesting an update on the status of her case.

10. When she did not hear from respondent for about ten days, Ms. Burgess followed up with him on September 13, 2018.

11. Respondent replied that same day and represented to Ms.Burgess that he would work on her case over the weekend. Notably, at that time, respondent apologized to Ms. Burgess for not being more prompt in his reply “or communicating better.” He stated in his email to her that his lack of communication was “unacceptable, inexcusable, and embarrassing.”

12. Afterward, respondent ceased communication with Ms. Burgess, even though Ms. Burgess emailed him on October 2, 2018; October 5, 2018; October 9, 2018; and October 22, 2018.

13. Months later, respondent finally replied to Ms. Burgess on December 21, 2018. Respondent wanted to discuss with his client what he characterized as “everything that has and hasn’t happened” in her case.

14. Following that email, Ms. Burgess and respondent spoke about her case. According to her bar grievance, Ms. Burgess said respondent apologized to her for what respondent described as his own unacceptable behavior.

15. Ms. Burgess communicated with respondent once more in January 2019. However, at the end of the month, when Ms. Burgess resumed requesting updates on her case, communication ceased until March 12, 2019.

16. In the March 12, 2019, email, respondent forwarded an email to Ms. Burgess regarding her bankruptcy case and stated he was on his way to court. He promised to download and email the docket to her that day.

17. When Ms. Burgess filed her grievance with the bar on May 7, 2019, she had still not heard from respondent regarding her case.

18. On January 15, 2020, respondent provided a statement to the bar where he admitted he “initially did a poor job of helping her understand that the work was completed and explaining the meaning of the all of the final documents we received back from the bankruptcy court.”

19. Additionally, respondent stated Ms. Burgess “successfully completed her 60 months in Chapter 13, however she could not enjoy it as soon as it happened because of my poor communication.”

20. Significantly, in that same January 15, 2020, communication to the bar, respondent stated he was medically incapacitated for the majority of his representation of Ms. Burgess. He stated to the bar, “[t]o this day, I am still under doctor’s care for one of the conditions that seriously affected how I represented Ms. Burgess and will be treating for the rest of my life it appears. Although, I am lightyears ahead of where I was most of the past two years, I am still improving as each week passes.”

21. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: 4-1.3 (Diligence); (4-1.4 Communication); and 4-1.16(a) (When Lawyer Must Decline or Terminate Representation).

COUNT II

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2020-70,037

22. Respondent was hired as the closing agent by the buyer for the preparation of documents related to a real estate transaction for 429 NW 43rd Street in Miami, Florida.

23. Sandor Urban was the realtor on behalf of the seller in this transaction.

24. Mr. Urban and his client were notified of the closing date, time and location. They went to respondent’s office at the agreed-upon time on or around October 18, 2019, at 4:00 p.m.

25. Respondent’s staff was unaware of the appointment.

Nonetheless, Mr. Urban and his client waited until 5:30 p.m., at which point office staff asked them to leave since the office was closing.

26. Respondent’s paralegal told them to wait in the lobby. Mr. Urban and his clients waited until 7:00 p.m., at which point the sellers decided to leave.

27. Respondent never made it to the agreed-upon appointment for the scheduled closing.

28. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Urban and the sellers were able to speak to respondent, who agreed to send the seller the documents to be signed and notarized. The seller printed and executed the documents.

29. As the closing agent, respondent was responsible for making sure all the funds were disbursed to finalize the transaction. Respondent was also responsible for sending Mr. Urban his commission as part of his duties as closing agent, as well as creating a closing statement, which turned out to be rife with errors.

30. Respondent completed the closing on October 18, 2018.

31. On October 22, 2018, respondent sent what appeared to be Mr.

Urban’s commission to him only to stop payment on the check minutes after Mr. Urban’s office received it.

32. Shortly after the closing, it was discovered that the closing statement had errors. Respondent overpaid the seller by approximately
$6,586.00, the approximate amount due Sandor Urban. Respondent produced the final corrected closing statement in May 2020, approximately 18 months later.

33. Between April 14, 2020, and August17, 2020, Mr. Urban sent no fewer than 14 requests for an update on the status of his payment for commission. Several of these emails also requested updates about the status of respondent’s corrections to the seller’s closing statement.

34. Respondent sporadically replied to Mr. Urban’s desperate requests eight times. Notably, respondent rarely gave updates other than to excuse himself by saying he was in the process of completing some task.

35. Respondent used the back and forth of the emails between himself and Mr. Urban to delay and string Mr. Urban along while he waited for payment for work, which had been completed, he was entitled to, and that respondent was obligated to provide.

36. Respondent never provided the payment to Mr. Urban.

37. Instead, Mr. Urban, through his office, requested his commission directly from the seller when Mr. Urban failed to keep his promises.

38. Ultimately, Mr. Urban received his commission from the seller after he sent his own demand letter.

39. Additionally, respondent failed to maintain technical trust accounting records. The bar served a subpoena upon respondent requesting the following documents covering the period of time between January 1, 2018, to February 29, 2020: copies of bank statements for two Bank of America bank accounts; copies of trust accounting records required by Rule 5-1.2 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar; copies of HUD-1 statements and balance sheets for all real estate transactions; and a complete copy of respondent’s closing file for the purchase/sale of the property that is the subject of this complaint.

40. Respondent’s response to the bar’s subpoena was deficient. He did not provide trust account bank statements and cancelled checks for January 1, 2018 through February 29, 2020; any client ledger cards, any cash receipts and disbursement journals; any trust account bank reconciliations; and any reconciliations of the trust account bank balances to the individual client ledger card balances.

41. Respondent is required on a monthly basis to maintain the records outlined in paragraph 36 of this complaint, and he failed to do so.

42. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: 4-4.4(a) (In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third or knowingly use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person); and 5-1.2 (Failure to maintain technical trust accounting records).

COUNT III

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2020-70,203

43. Dmitri Mikhailov and Maritza Lagos retained respondent in or about August 2018 to remove a lien over a Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, property for which they were being charged a daily $500.00 fine.

44. Respondent charged a $5,000.00 fee but failed to perform the agreed-upon services.

45. Ultimately, Mr. Mikhailov ended up owing the City of Sunny Isles Beach $700,000.00 in daily fines because of respondent’s failure to pursue the matter at all, let alone in a timely matter.

46. Between October 15, 2018, and July 1, 2019, Mr. Mikhailov initiated correspondence requesting status updates with respondent no fewer than 15 times only to encounter silence on respondent’s end.

47. The 15th email from Mr. Mikhailov on July 1, 2019, stated that he would initiate a complaint with The Florida Bar due to respondent’s failure to communicate with him throughout the case.

48. The next day, on July 2, 2019, respondent replied to Mr. Mikhailov. In that email, respondent apologized to Mr. Mikhailov.

49. Incredibly, after apologizing, respondent inappropriately thanks his client “for your email versus responding in a different manner, such as waiting in the shadows near my house or office with a baseball bat and then using it.”

50. After the July 2, 2019, correspondence, respondent was asked to draft and mail a proposal to Mr. Mikhailov indicating how he plans to resolve the matter he was retained for. Additionally, Mr. Mikhailov requested that respondent forward all communications between Sunny Isles Beach and respondent.

51. Respondent was given a deadline of July 8, 2019, to provide this information. He never responded to Mr. Mikhailov’s request.

52. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Mikhailov requested updates on his case no fewer than seven more times between July 11, 2019, and September 23, 2019, with no response from respondent, save for one letter respondent sent to Mr. Mikhailov on or around August 9, 2019, related to a conversation between respondent and another party in the matter.

53. After August 2019, respondent did not speak to Mr. Mikhailov again.

54. In a January 15, 2020, letter to the bar, respondent stated that he “[agreed] with Mr. Mikhailov that he should receive a refund of the money tendered to me.”

55. Respondent in that letter to the bar also stated he suffered from “multiple medical conditions that rendered me unable to fully complete services and to stay in close communication with Mr. Mikhailov.”

56. However, respondent neither communicated any limitation to rendering services to his client nor withdrew from the representation.

57. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: 4-1.3 (Diligence); 4-1.4 (Communication); 4-1.5 (Fees and Costs for Legal Services); and 4-1.16(a) (When Lawyer Must Decline or Terminate Representation).

COUNT IV

THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO. 2020-70,204

58. Roy Collins retained respondent in or about June 2019 to represent him in a foreclosure defense case and to provide him with potential bankruptcy assistance.

59. Mr. Collins paid respondent a $5,000.00 retainer fee on June 18, 2019. Mr. Collins did not hear from respondent again until late August 2019.

60. Between August 10, 2019, and August 17, 2019, Mr. Collins attempted communication with respondent by calling his office and mobile phone, sending emails and text messages, and leaving several messages every day during that time period.

61. On August 16, 2019, Mr. Collins emailed respondent and terminated their relationship. He requested a refund in that email.

62. On August 21, 2019, respondent sent Mr. Collins a text message apologizing to him for being “out of pocket,” explaining that he had been “recovering from an injury.” He asked if he could call Mr. Collins around 8:00 p.m. that evening.

63. However, respondent did not call. Instead, respondent sent a text message to Mr. Collins at 10:39 p.m. with a promise to call the next day.

64. That was the last time Mr. Collins ever heard from respondent.

65. In a letter to the bar, dated February 27, 2020, respondent admits he did not communicate with Mr. Collins as he should have.

66. In that letter, respondent also admitted he was not healthy enough to represent Mr. Collins, stating that he “probably should not have accepted Mr. Collis [sic] case at that time [sic] I see that I was overly optimistic that I would soon make a full recovery.”

67. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: 4-1.4 (Communication); 4-1.5 (Fees and Costs for Legal Services); and 4-1.16(a) (When Lawyer Must Decline or Terminate Representation).

WHEREFORE, The Florida Bar prays respondent will be appropriately disciplined in accordance with the provisions of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar as amended.

Rita Elizabeth Florez,

Bar Counsel The Florida Bar
Miami Branch Office 444 Brickell Avenue
Rivergate Plaza, Suite M-100 Miami, Florida 33131-2404
(305) 377-4445
Florida Bar No. 1011307 rflorez@floridabar.org

Patricia Ann Toro Savitz, Staff Counsel The Florida Bar
651 E. Jefferson Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300
(850) 561-5839
Florida Bar No. 559547 psavitz@floridabar.org

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I certify that this document has been efiled with The Honorable John A. Tomasino, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida, with a copy provided via email to Kenneth Edward Walton II, at kenneth@waltonlawfirm.com; and that a copy has been furnished by United States Mail via certified mail No. 7017 1450 0000 7821 0285, return receipt requested to Kenneth Edward Walton II, whose record bar address is Bank of America Financial Center, 701 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1550, Miami, FL 33131-2824 and via email to Rita Elizabeth Florez, Bar Counsel, rflorez@floridabar.org, on this 16th day of February, 2021.

Patricia Ann Toro Savitz Staff Counsel

NOTICE OF TRIAL COUNSEL AND DESIGNATION OF PRIMARY EMAIL ADDRESS

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the trial counsel in this matter is Rita Elizabeth Florez, Bar Counsel, whose address, telephone number and primary email address are The Florida Bar, Miami Branch Office, 444 Brickell Avenue Rivergate Plaza, Suite M-100Miami, Florida 33131-2404,
(305) 377-4445 and rflorez@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 E Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300, psavitz@floridabar.org.

Jan 4, 2022

SYSTEM ENTRY – Docket Entry 1 restricted/sealed until further notice. (tah)

SYSTEM ENTRY – Docket Entry 2 restricted/sealed until further notice. (tah)

Order (none of these entries or the order are available on PACER).

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U.S. District Court
Southern District of Florida (Miami)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:22-mc-20028

 

Assigned to: Attorney Discipline
Cause: Attorney Discipline
Date Filed: 01/04/2022
Jury Demand: None
Nature of Suit: 890 Other Statutory Actions
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
In Re
2022-AD-01

U.S. District Court
Southern District of Florida (Miami)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:22-mc-20028

Create an Alert for This Case on RECAP

Assigned to: AttorneyDiscipline
Cause: Attorney Discipline
Date Filed: 01/04/2022
Jury Demand: None
Nature of Suit: 890 Other Statutory Actions
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
In Re
2022-AD-01

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
01/19/2022 4 Administrative Order 2022-10 In re Order of Suspension of Attorney Kenneth Edward Walton, II, Florida Bar #183997. Signed by Chief United States District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga on 1/19/2022. See attached document for full details. (cw) (Entered: 01/19/2022)

Florida

The Unwanted Dictator Gov Ron DeSantis Employs a Foreign Agent For His Presidential Campaign

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media.

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DeSantis spokeswoman belatedly registers as agent of foreign politician

Christina Pushaw’s disclosure of work for Mikheil Saakashvili came after contact from the Justice Department, her attorney said

JUN 8, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 9, 2022

A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) this week registered as a foreign agent of a former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, belatedly detailing work she performed for the politician between 2018 and 2020.

The spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, made the disclosure following contact from the Justice Department, according to her attorney, Michael Sherwin.

She began her work in 2018 as a volunteer in the post-Soviet country, Sherwin said, and was ultimately paid $25,000 over the course of two years.

She received her first payment, of $10,000 in October 2018, in cash, according to her filing.

She stayed for free for six weeks in an apartment owned by a Saakashvili associate in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

“Her efforts included writing op-eds, reaching out to supporters and officials, and advocating on his behalf in Georgia and in the United States,”

Sherwin said.

“The work ended in 2020. Ms. Pushaw was notified recently by the DOJ that her work on behalf of Mr. Saakashvilli likely required FARA registration. Ms. Pushaw filed for the registration retroactively as soon as she was made aware.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The episode reflects standard enforcement practices under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), said Joshua Ian Rosenstein, an expert on the 1938 law at D.C.-based Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein and Birkenstock.

A letter of inquiry may prompt a voluntary registration, he said, to “short-circuit a more formal determination of a failure to comply.”

Enforcement can take place years after the activity in question if authorities receive a complaint or simply act on a public news item, he said. Though the methods are standard, Rosenstein added, there is an increased willingness to use them.

Last month, the Justice Department sued Steve Wynn, a developer and Republican megadonor, seeking to compel him to register as an agent of China.

Days before that, a Washington lobbying firm said a probe into its work for Burisma Holdings concluded when it submitted a new filing retroactively detailing its activities on behalf of the Ukrainian oil and natural gas company, which once counted Hunter Biden as a board member.

Pushaw, a year into her tenure as DeSantis’s press secretary, has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media. Twitter briefly locked her account last year after the Associated Press said the criticism she directed at a reporter caused him to receive death threats.

She has written openly on social media of her work for Saakashvili, who was arrested last year when he returned to Georgia after eight years in exile.

Associated with factions critical of the Kremlin, Saakashvili led Georgia from 2004 until 2013 and entered Ukrainian politics after that country removed a pro-Russian president in 2014.

A court in Georgia, now controlled by Saakashvili’s political opponents, convicted him in absentia in 2018. He faced arrest three years later when he made a theatrical return to his country, posting a copy of his plane ticket on social media.

According to Pushaw’s LinkedIn profile, she joined the governor’s office in May 2021 after her time as director of a nonprofit “focused on empowering youth through education and professional development opportunities” based in Tbilisi.

She also lists experience as a campaign strategist for a Georgian opposition party and, on other social media, has identified that party as the United National Movement, which Saakashvili once chaired.

In her filing with the Justice Department, dated June 6, she wrote that her activities “included perception management, public relations, and preparation and dissemination of informational materials to an international audience, including U.S. persons and entities.”

Pushaw’s work for Saakashvili involved going toe-to-toe in 2018 with W. Samuel Patten, a political consultant who had just pleaded guilty to not registering as an agent of a Ukrainian political party.

As part of his plea deal, Patten agreed to assist special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation of foreign influence in the 2016 election.

In communication reproduced at the time by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, Pushaw claims to have contacted the Justice Department about messages allegedly sent by Patten to a former aide to Saakashvili before the Georgian exile’s appearance on CNN.

In the appearance, which included discussion of Patten’s case, Saakashvili read aloud the messages said to have come from Patten, including a warning to “call off your trolls now, or I’ll start releasing things about Misha he’d prefer I didn’t.”

“Today, I contacted the DOJ to report Sam’s threat and send over the screenshots,”

Pushaw wrote to Turley, who appeared on CNN after Saakashvili.

“I believe Sam knew [Saakashvili] would talk about the case on CNN yesterday, since I announced it on Facebook a few hours beforehand. I think Sam sent the threat right before the interview to coerce him into silence.”

Patten called the suggestion that he was bullying Saakashvili or his associates “absurd, backwards and disproven.”

Turley said he reproduced Pushaw’s message with her permission.

Sherwin, her attorney, did not respond to a question about the 2018 episode.

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Florida

Disgraced and Disbarred: Why Are Former Judges and Lawyers Working as Mediators in Our Courts?

LIF questions the standards applied for allowing former disgraced and disbarred lawyers and judges to become mediators in Florida Courts.

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Ex Con and Disgraced Lawyer Steven Lippman is Working as a Mediator in Florida Courts

We detail Lippman’s criminal past and current employment in our Allan Campbell Pen Name Series here.

Greedy Former Judge and Lawyer Laura Watson is Working as a Mediator in Florida Courts and disavowing She was Ever a Judge On Her Linkedin Profile

Laura Watson was a Judge for a short time, most of it under investigation by the JCQ. She was officially on the bench from January 2013 until around June 2015. This is not shown on her Linkedin resume.

Laura Marie Watson was a Judge of the Seventeenth Circuit Court in Broward County, Florida.

She was elected in 2012 and began serving on the court in January of 2013.

She was removed from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court in June 2015

Reason: Finchin’ $2.5M of a $3M group settlement for herself and her former hubby, Darin Lentner.

No criminal charges were filed against either Watson or Lentner.

The Conflicting Mediator Resume for Laura Watson

LIF Commentary: If you’re lyin’ and hidin’ on your resume, you cannot be trusted, especially as a mediator in Florida courts.

Former Broward County judge disbarred for her conduct as attorney

Laura Watson removed from office in 2015

May 1, 2017

A former Broward County judge has been disbarred for her conduct before she wore a robe.

Laura Watson is no longer entitled to practice law in the state of Florida, the Florida Bar announced Friday.

Watson was removed from office by the Florida Supreme Court in June 2015 because of her actions as an attorney before she was elected judge.

The Florida Bar said Watson violated numerous bar rules, including failing to fully inform clients, not giving clients sufficient information to make decisions and failing to provide closing statements and place disputed funds in escrow.

A 16-page decision by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission said Watson “sold out her clients, her co-counsel and ultimately herself” while she was an attorney involved in insurance litigation involving Progressive, Gold Coast Orthopedics and her personal injury protection clients.

Watson was accused of secretly negotiating a settlement with Progressive that paid her firm $3 million, improperly cutting out fellow lawyers and shortchanging her clients, who received just $361,000.

The other attorneys sued Watson and won.

Watson was elected to the Broward County circuit court in 2012 and took office in 2013. She was first admitted to the Florida Bar in 1985.

Court Rules Ousted Broward Judge Can’t Sue JQC Members, Bar Prosecutors

July 31, 2017

Former Broward Circuit Judge Laura Watson lost her case against members of the Judicial Qualifications Commission and Florida Bar lawyers whose work led to her disbarment.

Watson alleged the attorneys violated her constitutional rights and conspired against her in judicial and attorney disciplinary proceedings. She was removed from the bench in 2015 for unethical work during her private-practice days, and the Florida Bar permanently revoked her license earlier this year.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke dismissed Watson’s lawsuit Friday, ruling JQC members and Florida Bar prosecutors are immune to lawsuits over work they do in those roles, just as judges and criminal prosecutors are.

Watson “does nothing to show that the JQC investigative panel members’ functions were not similar to the role of prosecutors, or that the defendants stepped outside their roles such that absolute immunity would not attach to that action,” Cooke wrote.

The former judge’s allegations that her rights were violated were not sufficient to pierce the veil of that immunity, Cooke added.

The discipline against Watson stemmed from her involvement in a secret insurance litigation settlement that didn’t designate any money for several other attorneys retained on the case.

Her firm, Watson & Lentner, was one of the recipients of a $14.5 million settlement from Progressive Insurance Co. on behalf of health care providers.

Watson & Lentner paid clients $361,000 and kept more than $2.5 million for itself, leaving out other attorneys who later sued Watson, her firm and anyone else who received attorney fees.

A judge then reallocated $3 million for the other attorneys at Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain in Miami and two solo practitioners.

Stewart Tilghman attorney Larry Stewart filed complaints with the JQC and the Florida Bar, and the saga ended in disbarment for Watson, her ex-husband and former law partner Darin Lentner, and father-and-son attorneys Charles and Harley Kane.

In her lawsuit against the JQC members and bar prosecutors, Watson claimed Stewart exercised undue influence over the proceedings against her. His law partner was friends with a JQC lawyer, who then withheld emails from Watson that could have helped her defense, she alleged in the 99-page complaint that included 1,800 pages of appendices.

But Cooke ruled the emails are protected by prosecutorial immunity and did not appear to include exculpatory evidence.

“The emails certainly show that Mr. Stewart was immensely interested in [Watson]’s case before the JQC and constantly communicated with members of the JQC and the Florida Bar,” Cooke wrote. “However, the emails contain nothing about the underlying charges for which [Watson] was removed from judicial office being false.”

Tampa attorney Lanse Scriven, a partner at Trenam who is on the Florida Bar board of governors, represented the 19 defendants from both the JQC and the bar. He declined to comment on Cooke’s order. His Trenam colleague Anne Connelly Leonard also represented the JQC defendants, and Michael Moody of Greenberg Traurig in Tallahassee defended the Florida Bar lawyers.

Watson, who represented herself, did not respond to a request for comment.

The order closes a three-year battle that included a failed attempt by Watson to get her case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Federal Judges

Lawyer Calvin Curtis Stole Over $13M Sentenced to 8 Years in Jail. He Wants a Favor from The Florida Bar.

Attorney Calvin Carl Curtis submitted a request for disciplinary revocation, with the caveat he can reapply in 5 years.

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LIF Commentary

“It is unbelievable and painful that Mr. Curtis continues to spend potential restitution to support a lavish lifestyle for his girlfriend in Orlando while his disabled victims are unable to pay rent on their mobile homes or afford basic necessities.

Apparently stealing more than $12,700,000 [corrected sum by LIF] isn’t shameful enough,”

said Kelly White, an attorney who is representing several of Curtis’ victims.

On May 24, Despicable Utah Attorney Calvin Carl Curtis, who is also a member of the Florida Bar, submitted a request for disciplinary revocation, with the caveat he can reapply in 5 years.

Salt Lake City Estate Planning Attorney Sentenced to 97 Months in Prison and Ordered to Pay over $12.7 Million Dollars to 26 Victims

MAY 6, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

FBI agents went to Curtis’ office late last month and found a $2,000 check for legal work he provided, according to the report.

Prosecutors also asked a judge to clarify that Curtis’ restriction on performing legal work is already in effect and he should cease any work as a lawyer.

Prosecutors asked a judge to require Curtis to get a full-time job immediately.”

SALT LAKE CITY – Attorney Calvin Curtis, 61, of Salt Lake City, was sentenced to serve 97 months in federal prison by a U.S. District Court Judge today. Curtis was ordered to pay $12,779,496 in restitution to the 26 victims of his crimes and sentenced to an additional three years of supervised release upon his release from federal prison.

Curtis previously pleaded guilty in November of 2021, to embezzling millions of dollars from clients of his estate planning law firm based in Salt Lake City, known as Calvin Curtis Attorney at Law PLLC, and Curtiselderlaw.com.

By the time of his sentencing, it had been discovered that Curtis had embezzled over $12 million dollars from his former clients who prosecutors say are elderly, incapacitated, or disabled individuals.

In the plea agreement, Curtis admitted that he is an attorney who specialized in special needs trusts and that beginning in January 2008, he began a fraudulent scheme to defraud a client known as “G.M.” out of money. Curtis admitted that due to his role, he had access to millions of dollars in two different trust accounts belonging to victim G.M., and that he transferred at least $9,500,000 intended for the care of G.M. into his own accounts, and then used this money for his own personal use. Curtis admitted that he also created fake financial statements and submitted these to the court ordered conservator of G.M. to conceal the fraud.

In pleading guilty to the wire fraud charge, Curtis admitted that on January 25, 2018, that he caused a wire communication from a Schwab Investment Account to his own Wells Fargo account, resulting in a transfer of $1,485,000.

Curtis admitted that he used the money for his own personal benefit to make mortgage payments on his combined home and office located on South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah; to support a lavish lifestyle with frequent travel; to purchase tickets to basketball and football games; to give lavish gifts to others; and to support the operations of his law firm.

In pleading guilty to the money laundering count, Curtis admitted that he fraudulently caused $135,000 to be transferred online from G.M. to his own Wells Fargo account, and that he used these funds to wire $95,000 to The Fechtel Company for the remodel of his home in Tampa, Florida.

Curtis admitted that he knew these transactions were illegal at the time they occurred, and that the money was not used for the benefit of G.M.

Assistant United States Attorneys prosecuted the cases against Curtis and Special Agents from the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation.

Topic(s):
Financial Fraud
Component(s):
USAO – Utah

United States v. Curtis

(2:21-cr-00464)

District Court, D. Utah

NOV 8, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

Curtis’ South Temple mansion has been sold to House of Hope, which provides services to women with substance abuse disorders.

1135 E South Temple Salt Lake City, UT 84102 (Office Property)

JUDGMENT as to Calvin Curtis (1), Count(s) 1, BOP 97 months.

36 months probation with standard and special conditions as stated on the record.

No fine.

SPA $200.

Restitution of $12,779,496.51 as stated on the record.

Forfeiture of real property located at 1135 East South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah;

a money judgment equal to the value of any property, real or personal, constituting or derived from proceeds traceable to the scheme to defraud and not available for forfeiture as a result of any act or omission of the defendant(s) for one or more of the reasons listed in 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

substitute property as allowed by 28 U.S.C. 2461(c) and 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

funds in the amount of $384,919.04 seized from Wells Fargo Bank account ending in 3424;

jewelry purchased at Summit Diamond for $73,935.;

Count(s) 2, BOP 97 months.

36 months probation with standard and special conditions as stated on the record.

No fine. SPA $200.

Restitution of $12,779,496.51 as stated on the record.

Forfeiture of real property located at 1135 East South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah;

a money judgment equal to the value of any property, real or personal, constituting or derived from proceeds traceable to the scheme to defraud and not available for forfeiture as a result of any act or omission of the defendant(s) for one or more of the reasons listed in 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

substitute property as allowed by 28 U.S.C. 2461(c) and 21 U.S.C. 853(p);

funds in the amount of $384,919.04 seized from Wells Fargo Bank account ending in 3424;

jewelry purchased at Summit Diamond for $73,935.

Defendant Termed.

Case Closed.

Signed by Judge David Barlow on 05/06/2022.(jl)

(Entered: 05/09/2022)

1305 Bayshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606

Sold for $1.75M in April 2021

Sold to Doctor Rose (Where'd the Dosh Go?)

Judge rejects plea deal for Utah attorney charged with embezzling millions

APR 19, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

Judge David Barlow and Calvin Curtis

A prominent Salt Lake City attorney thought he would be spending just over six years in prison after embezzling more than $12 million from dozens of clients over a span of 13 years.

Instead, a federal judge refused to accept the 73-month plea deal — indicating the punishment was not harsh enough and that he doesn’t believe Calvin Curtis is fully remorseful.

Curtis was a special needs trust attorney, representing some of the most vulnerable clients in Utah — many of whom suffer from severe mental or physical disabilities.

Prior to the ruling, Curtis cried and apologized to the victims.

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

Kris Sanford, who has been paralyzed since 2009, addressed Curtis directly during the hearing.

“Your moral compass is not there,”

Sanford said.

“It’s disgusting… I guess on the advice of my attorney, I’m going to stop there.”

Sanford, who said he “only” lost about $40,000, asked the judge to ignore the recommended 73-month sentence that prosecutors reached with Curtis.

Aaron Hall, who is legally blind, also asked the judge to ignore the plea deal. He said he lost about half a million dollars.

“This brought me almost to suicide,”

Hall said.

“He gave fraudulent accounts to family members who were questioning me and drove me to the point where I was questioning my own sanity and whether I did something wrong… It’s really embarrassing being a father not being able to take care of your children. Your children shouldn’t have to pay all your bills.”

Sherry McConkey was in court representing her mother-in-law. Glenn McConkey has severe Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In that case, Curtis admitted he stole approximately $12 million.

“I just kept on staring at him going, ‘Wow, how can you be so evil?’”

Sherry McConkey said.

“I don’t believe his apology, so therefore I don’t accept it.”

While addressing the court, Curtis agreed that his actions were “evil.”

He addressed some of the victims by name, referring to them as “dear friends” that he took advantage of.

“Unfortunately, most of everything they’ve said is true, and I’m very sorry about that,”

Curtis said.

“I accept responsibility. It’s my fault. I pray for them. I hope they pray for me.”

“If that man never speaks my name again, it would be too soon,”

Hall responded.

Curtis withdrew his guilty plea after learning the judge found the plea deal “unreasonable.”

Some victims, like Matt Hess, said they were not sure how to feel, worried the case could now drag on or go to trial. Hess’ disabled daughter is one of the victims.

A prominent Salt Lake City attorney thought he would be spending just over six years in prison after embezzling more than $12 million from dozens of clients over a span of 13 years.

Instead, a federal judge refused to accept the 73-month plea deal — indicating the punishment was not harsh enough and that he doesn’t believe Calvin Curtis is fully remorseful.

Curtis was a special needs trust attorney, representing some of the most vulnerable clients in Utah — many of whom suffer from severe mental or physical disabilities.

Prior to the ruling, Curtis cried and apologized to the victims. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

Kris Sanford, who has been paralyzed since 2009, addressed Curtis directly during the hearing.

“Your moral compass is not there,” Sanford said. “It’s disgusting… I guess on the advice of my attorney, I’m going to stop there.”

Sanford, who said he “only” lost about $40,000, asked the judge to ignore the recommended 73-month sentence that prosecutors reached with Curtis.

Aaron Hall, who is legally blind, also asked the judge to ignore the plea deal. He said he lost about half a million dollars.

“This brought me almost to suicide,” Hall said. “He gave fraudulent accounts to family members who were questioning me and drove me to the point where I was questioning my own sanity and whether I did something wrong… It’s really embarrassing being a father not being able to take care of your children. Your children shouldn’t have to pay all your bills.”

Sherry McConkey was in court representing her mother-in-law. Glenn McConkey has severe Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In that case, Curtis admitted he stole approximately $12 million.

“I just kept on staring at him going, ‘Wow, how can you be so evil?’” Sherry McConkey said. “I don’t believe his apology, so therefore I don’t accept it.”

While addressing the court, Curtis agreed that his actions were “evil.” He addressed some of the victims by name, referring to them as “dear friends” that he took advantage of.

“Unfortunately, most of everything they’ve said is true, and I’m very sorry about that,” Curtis said. “I accept responsibility. It’s my fault. I pray for them. I hope they pray for me.”

“If that man never speaks my name again, it would be too soon,” Hall responded.

Curtis withdrew his guilty plea after learning the judge found the plea deal “unreasonable.”

Some victims, like Matt Hess, said they were not sure how to feel, worried the case could now drag on or go to trial. Hess’ disabled daughter is one of the victims.

“It’s good and bad I guess,” Hess said. “It’s good in the sense that we might get something a little more out of this. He might get a few more years. I don’t think we’re going to find any more money.”

Judge David Barlow said he believed a more appropriate sentence would be somewhere between 8-10 years in prison, or 97 to 121 months.

He referred to Curtis’ actions as “unspeakable,” “calculated,” and “cold blooded.”

“It’s just about as terrible as a thing can be,” Barlow said. “So heinous and so devastating… Im not convinced he’s taken full accountability.”

Barlow gave credit to Curtis for cooperating with the investigation and forfeiting approximately $1.4 million. He said that he hopes both sides come together to reach a more reasonable plea deal in order to avoid trial.

The likelihood of the remaining $11 million being returned is “failingly small” if not “impossible.”

Utah attorney pleads guilty to embezzling $9.5M from his clients

Prosecutors had said Calvin Curtis used the money to fund a “lavish lifestyle.”

NOV 18, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 1, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY – Attorney Calvin Curtis, 61, of Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty in federal court today to two counts involving wire fraud and money laundering for his role in embezzling at least $9.5 million dollars from clients of his estate planning law firm based in Salt Lake City, known as Calvin Curtis Attorney at Law PLLC, and Curtiselderlaw.com.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to recommend a sentence of 73 months in federal prison during Curtis’s sentencing which is scheduled to occur on March 15, 2022.

In the plea agreement, Curtis admitted that he is an attorney who specializes in special needs trusts and that beginning in January 2008, he began a fraudulent scheme to defraud a client known as “G.M.” out of money.

Curtis admitted that due to his role, he had access to millions of dollars in two different trust accounts belonging to victim G.M. and that he transferred at least $9,500,000 intended for the care of G.M. into his own accounts and then used this money for his own personal use.

Curtis admitted that he also created fake financial statements and submitted these to the court ordered conservator of G.M. to conceal the fraud.

In pleading guilty to the wire fraud charge, Curtis admitted that on January 25, 2018, that he caused a wire communication from a Schwab Investment Account to his own Wells Fargo account, resulting in a transfer of $1,485,000.

Curtis admitted that he used the money for his own personal benefit to make mortgage payments on his combined home and office located on South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah; to support a lavish lifestyle with frequent travel; to purchase tickets to basketball and football games; to give lavish gifts to others; and to support the operations of his law firm.

In pleading guilty to the money laundering count, Curtis admitted that he fraudulently caused $135,000 to be transferred online from G.M. to his own Wells Fargo account, and that he used these funds to wire $95,000 to The Fechtel Company for the remodel of his home in Tampa, Florida.

Curtis admitted that he knew these transactions were illegal at the time they occurred, and that the money was not used for the benefit of G.M

At this time, it is alleged that Curtis embezzled funds from at least 22 additional trusts in amounts more than $9,500,000.

Anyone who believes they may be a victim of this crime is encouraged to call the FBI at (801) 579-1400 to file a report.

“Defrauding vulnerable and elderly adults is a reprehensible and greedy act that is deserving of federal prison time,” said Acting United States Attorney Andrea T. Martinez. “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting and holding those accountable who defraud elderly and vulnerable clients. Our concern is with the victims of these crimes and their ability to obtain basic needs moving forward.”

“Calvin Curtis’ greed had devastating consequences for his clients, who placed their trust and money in his hands,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. “Sadly, financial fraud cases like this are not limited to a few victims. We hope this case sends a strong message that the FBI will do what it takes to make sure such crimes don’t go unpunished.”

“The IRS is proud to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to combat the seemingly ever present fraud in Utah,”¬ stated IRS Phoenix Field Office Special Agent in Charge Darren Lian. “This plea brings the United States one step closer to justice for the many victims who have serious losses in this unfortunate case.”

Assistant United States Attorneys are prosecuting the cases against Curtis and Special Agents from the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigations are conducting the investigation.

Topic(s):
Elder Justice
Financial Fraud
Component(s):
USAO – Utah

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