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What’s Your Day Job Judge Marni Bryson is Asked While Under Judicial Investigation

Palm Beach County Judge Marni Bryson was charged in April with violating judicial canons that require judges to work fulltime.

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Accusations against judge of sexting, nude photos, burglary emerge in lawsuit

JUL 1, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: SEP 5, 2021

When Palm Beach County Judge Marni Bryson was charged in April with violating judicial canons that require judges to work fulltime, it wasn’t her first brush with controversy.

Almost exactly two years earlier, she filed a $10 million lawsuit against politically powerful Fort Lauderdale lawyer William Scherer, accusing him of trying to extort her by threatening to release nude photos of her.

The cases threaten both Bryson’s personal and professional life along with the reputations of Scherer and others who have been dragged into the salacious legal fray.

While one dispute played out quietly as judicial watchdogs engaged in behind-the-scenes talks with unnamed sources about Bryson’s attendance record, the other exploded into public view.

Detailed in court records, it exposes the personal lives of a prominent Broward County land-use attorney, her ex-husband, a well-known political consultant who was married to Bryson, and, of course, Bryson herself.

But, despite the sordid allegations of sexting or less-scintillating accusations that she failed to show up for work, the 47-year-old two-term jurist shows no sign of backing down from the legal fights against powerful people and institutions.

Already, she has won key battles.

A Treasure Coast circuit judge, who is presiding over the extortion case after Palm Beach County judges recused themselves, ruled Bryson can seek punitive damages against Scherer on her claims of intentional affliction of emotional distress. The decision is being appealed.

Further, Bryson persuaded attorney Mayanne Downs, a member of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, to recuse herself because she is close friends with Chief Palm Beach County Judge Krista Marx.

In court papers, Bryson’s attorney said he plans to call Marx’s credibility into question when the six-member panel meets in November to weigh allegations that Bryson “failed to devote full time and attention to your judicial duties” from 2016 through 2019. Bryson is also accused of failing to report her absences to Marx.

CHIEF CIRCUIT JUDGE KRISTA MARX

Still, despite the recent wins, attorneys representing Scherer and the JQC claim that Bryson is waging quixotic battles.

The JQC’s case doesn’t depend on Marx’s testimony, attorney Henry M. Coxe III said in court papers filed on behalf of the agency that reviews complaints against state judges.

Data and other witnesses will show that Bryson “was often absent from her designated court facility,” he wrote.

‘Even John Grisham’s best work of fiction’

Likewise, attorney Javier Lopez, who represents Scherer, said Bryson’s case is doomed.

“What has become apparent is that Ms. Bryson seems to have a tortured relationship with the truth,” he said. “Her complaint against Mr. Scherer is something that even John Grisham’s best work of fiction would have a hard time competing with.”

Attorney Paul Turner, who represents Bryson, said such remarks are typical of Scherer’s effort to vilify his client, who served as an assistant state attorney general, an assistant public defender and was in private practice before being first elected in 2010.

“Everything Judge Bryson has said is true and the defendants can’t get around it,” he said in a statement.

“They don’t like the truth, they don’t like the facts, they don’t like that they are on the hook for punitive damages now, and they don’t like that they couldn’t scare my client into remaining silent.”

Like the focus on the nude photos, the verbal assaults are an attempt to taint Bryson and obscure her motives, he said.

“They continually attack her to draw attention away from what she really is, a mother who was protecting her child,” Turner said.

It all started with a child-visitation dispute

By any measure, the underlying allegations in the lawsuit could be plucked from a cheesy bestseller or a country song.

The dispute began with allegations of infidelity, which led to divorce, acrimony, jealousy and despair.

BLAKE MACDIARMID (CENTER RIGHT)

From there, it spun out of control.

Concerned that her ex-husband, Blake MacDiarmid, hadn’t visited their infant son for months, Bryson in 2015 headed back to court to try to change their child-sharing agreement.

Bryson had been married to MacDiarmid less than a year and had just given birth when the campaign consultant began staying out late at night, claiming he was meeting with candidates, she claims.

After the 2014 divorce, he stopped picking up their son for visitation. Bryson said she wanted to change the agreement so she could limit his access to his child, who wouldn’t recognize his father and would be traumatized if he took him.

Subpoena for her ex-husband’s girlfriend?

To prove MacDiarmid’s absences, Bryson said she wanted to subpoena his then-girlfriend, Stephanie Toothaker, a Democratic fundraiser and legal adviser who was flirting with a congressional bid.

The Fort Lauderdale land use and government relations attorney could testify that MacDiarmid was with her when he was supposed to be taking care of his son, Bryson said.

William Scherer was once an attorney for former Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

When she received a notice of the subpoena, Toothaker went to Scherer, who specializes in complex business litigation, represented George Bush in his 2000 recount fight and is considered a Republican kingmaker.

Claiming she feared Bryson, Toothaker asked Scherer to block the subpoena and any other legal action Bryson was planning.

Scherer claims his investigation led him to believe that Toothaker and her estranged husband and Bryson and her ex-husband were in a twisted “love rectangle.”

He said he “was provided” nude photos Bryson allegedly sent to Toothaker’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Peter Kemp, and text messages he believed Bryson sent MacDiarmid, threatening to kill Toothaker.

He also had a copy of a report Toothaker filed with Fort Lauderdale police, claiming Bryson had broken into her house.

There also was an anonymous letter that Toothaker believed Bryson sent to her law partners, Broward County commissioners and officials at her private club. The letter detailed her affair with MacDiarmid and other indiscretions that the letter writer said would soon be released to the media.

With that information in hand, Scherer said, he called West Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola for a chat. He said he thought Scarola, who he’d known for years, represented Bryson.

Scherer said his purpose was pure.

“I said it would be embarrassing to all four of them, both husbands and both wives, because I described it to him as a very messy, nasty two-year … love rectangle of sorts,” Scherer said during a deposition.

“I wasn’t going to Mr. Scarola and blaming his client any more than I was trying to exonerate mine,” he continued. “I was trying to get them to stand down and that was the purpose of the meeting with Mr. Scarola.”

But, when Scarola told Bryson about what Scherer said at the meeting, she didn’t believe Scherer was trying to stop four people from hurting each other.

STEPHANIE TOOTHAKER

‘Faced with being publicly humiliated’

Knowing she was facing a re-election campaign, Scherer was threatening to release the photo and the police report if she didn’t drop her plans to use Toothaker to protect her young son, Bryson said.

“I was faced with being publicly humiliated by him and this purported photo as well as an allegation of a burglary I knew nothing about,” she said during a deposition. “I was in the middle of an election where any of this news would have not only been a local media sensation but perhaps a national media sensation.”

She said the only nude photo she sent to any man was to MacDiarmid when she was taking pictures to chronicle her pregnancy.

When Lopez pointed out that Kemp had testified that she texted him the photo and he had shared it with Toothaker, Bryson’s response was unequivocal.

“He’s lying,” she said.

Stephanie Toothaker, a lawyer with the Fort Lauderdale firm Tripp Scott, considered a run as a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2016.

She said he was also lying when he testified that she danced topless when she called him on a video chat. While he also received a photo of a vagina he shared with Toothaker, he said he didn’t believe it came from Bryson who he texted with regularly in 2014.

Bryson further denied that she ever threatened Toothaker. A text message that Lopez claims she sent to MacDiarmid included a reference to a violent rap song that was labeled “for your GF.”

“I will kill her. And her Falcon nose,” it continued.

Bryson said she didn’t remember sending the text to MacDiarmid and her ex-husband’s claims that she did were dubious at best.

“Just because Blake says it’s from me doesn’t mean it’s from me,” she said. “As we know, Blake’s had some problems in the past as far as being truthful.”

Still, Bryson acknowledged, she may have made some disparaging remarks about Toothaker.

“I don’t recall saying that she had a falcon nose,” she said during a deposition. “But I’m sure I said many mean things about her at that period of time. I was very angry.”

Attorney didn’t think it was a threat

But, Lopez said, a bigger problem for Bryson is that Scarola doesn’t share her view of the purpose of Scherer’s visit.

During the roughly half-hour meeting at his West Palm Beach office, Scarola said he didn’t believe Scherer was threatening Bryson.

“We did not talk about matters that I personally viewed as an extortion attempt,” Scarola said in a signed affidavit. “The thrust of the conversation was that this situation was messy and would not reflect well on anyone involved.”

Scherer never threatened to release the nude photos or any of the other documents he had gathered against Bryson, Scarola said.

Instead, Scherer explained that he believed the release of the damaging information was inevitable if Bryson pursued plans to have Toothaker testify in the custody dispute. Scherer also mentioned the impact that could have on Bryson’s judicial career, Scarola said.

But, Scarola insisted, he didn’t think Scherer was trying to use him to threaten Bryson. Instead, Scarola said he viewed it as an opportunity to help Bryson, whom he’d supported in her judicial campaigns.

“The only remorse I felt was that Judge Bryson was having to deal with the emotional trauma of protecting herself and her child in a legal battle that seemed to be devolving at the hands of her former husband into increasingly lower levels of nastiness,” he said. “Mr. Scherer did not threaten to obstruct Judge Bryson’s pending litigation.”

While questioning Bryson, Lopez insisted that Scarola’s statement destroys the crux of her case against Scherer. The only person who could testify that Scherer threatened Bryson is Scarola, who claims it didn’t happen, he said.

Bryson disagreed. “It’s my testimony as to what (Scarola) said to me, what was relayed to me, what I took away from that conversation,” she said. “I’m not calling him a liar as to his personal recollection.

“What he writes is his personal opinion or personal memory of something,” she continued. “My memory contradicts him. I’m not calling him a liar. Okay?”

The bigger question, her attorneys said, is why Scherer went to Scarola to talk about Bryson’s plan to call Toothaker to testify in the custody dispute instead of talking to the divorce lawyer who was representing her.

Scherer said he contacted Scarola because he understood the lawyer he had known for years was representing Bryson in a separate lawsuit he was told she planned to file against Toothaker.

WILLIAM SCHERER

Scherer acknowledged that Scarola told him he wasn’t representing Bryson and knew nothing about her ongoing domestic strife. But, Scherer said, he also understood Scarola had represented Bryson before.

“I felt that his involvement would help resolve what I believed to be a very nasty dispute that ought to be resolved,” Scherer said.

In court papers, Bryson’s attorneys said Scherer was obligated to talk to Bryson’s divorce lawyer, who was handling the custody dispute.

When the case goes to trial, they said, they plan to call an expert witness to testify that Scherer’s decision to sidestep Bryson’s divorce lawyer was a violation of professional rules of conduct.

Scherer’s attorney said they will call their own expert who will testify that he did the right thing.

For his part, Scherer said his plan worked.

“After that meeting, all these hostilities basically stopped,” he said. “So, you know, up to the time of the lawsuit against me almost four years later, I thought I had really done a good job for these people.”

‘Is he going to do it again?’

But, Bryson said, she was haunted by what happened.

While she ultimately got the child-custody agreement changed without calling Toothaker to testify, it wasn’t easy.

She was forced to undergo a paternity test after MacDiarmid claimed he wasn’t the boy’s father. After the test came back positive, he agreed she could control when he could see their son. He has never asked to do so, she said in the deposition.

Still, she worried about what Scherer might do if custody issues surface in the future.

“Is he going to do it again?” she asked.

Also, she said, she had growing concerns that Scherer might decide to use the information he gathered against her for other purposes.

“What’s going to happen if he has a personal interest in one of the cases that I’m handling as a judge?” she said. “Is he going to do it again?”

“This person cannot get away with it,” she said. “It shouldn’t have happened to me. It shouldn’t happen to anybody.”

That’s why, in 2019, she decided to file the suit.

JACK SCAROLA

But, the years-long delay has hurt both sides.

Emails and texts have been deleted. Memories have faded.

When Kemp and Toothaker were deposed, they said they couldn’t remember much of what transpired.

Kemp said he had blocked the memories of what was a dark period in his life. Although he and Toothaker divorced, they remain friendly and often vacation together with their son, he said.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Bryson learned she was under investigation by the JQC, according to court papers filed by Coxe, who is representing the agency.

In her response to the allegations, she claims she worked hard. While serving in county criminal court, handling misdemeanor offenses, she volunteered to help circuit judges by presiding over felony trials, including murder cases.

Her pace continued when she was moved to the south county courthouse to handle minor civil cases, such as evictions, said attorney Scott Richardson, who represented Bryson before he was replaced by lawyer Robert Watson.

However, in 2019, she was plagued by serious health problems, including a ruptured appendix. Despite that, she cleared more cases than her predecessor, he said.

Further, Richardson said, there is no rule that dictates how many hours a judge must work or whether they are prohibited from working from home.

He accused the JQC of engaging in “selective prosecution, leading to a biased and discriminatory result.”

Whether the lawsuit Bryson filed against Scherer spurred the JQC investigation is unknown. Lopez said there could be a connection.

Even if there is, Bryson said, she has no regret about filing the lawsuit which she views as necessary to protect her son. Scherer needs to be held accountable, she said.

“He’s disgusting and reprehensible and everyone should know about it,” she said of Scherer. “I’m done. I’m done playing this game.”

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Appellate Circuit

Judge Jill Pryor on a Panel about Judicial Recusals? That’s a Contradiction, Right There.

Judge Cooke has a conflict of interest based on her financial statements, which revealed interests in companies doing business with one of the defendants.

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In the
United States Court of Appeals
For the Eleventh Circuit

No. 20-13674
Non-Argument Calendar

JAMES BUCKMAN, MAURICE SYMONETTE,

versus
LANCASTER MORTGAGE CO.,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST CO.,
as Trustee under the pooling and servicing agreement series rast 2006-A8,

SECURITY AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION,

U.S. TREASURY,

Defendants-Appellees,

ONE WEST BANK, et al.,

Defendants.

OCT 7, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: OCT 7, 2021

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
D.C. Docket No. 1:19-cv-24184-MGC

Before JILL PRYOR, BRANCH, and LUCK, Circuit Judges. PER CURIAM:

James Buckman and Maurice Symonette (“Buckman and Symonette”) appeal from the district court’s dismissal with prejudice of their second amended complaint as an impermissible shotgun pleading.

They argue that the district court erred and demonstrated bias by dismissing their case because they had filed a motion for an additional three-day extension of time and the district court provided a window for responses to the motion by the defendants, but then dismissed the case before the responses were due.1

After review, we affirm.

1 Over four months after filing their notice of appeal from the dismissal of their complaint, Buckman and Symonette filed two motions for recusal of the district court judge, arguing that she had a conflict of interest based on her financial statements, which revealed interests in companies doing business with one of the defendants. (LIF: THAT DEFENDANT WOULD BE DEUTSCHE BANK)

The district court denied the motions.

Buckman and Symonette did not file an amended or new notice of appeal following entry of that order.

Therefore, we lack jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of the motion for recusal.

See McDougald v. Jenson, 786 F.2d 1465, 1474 (11th Cir. 1986) (holding that, although we liberally construe notices of appeal under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3 to include orders not expressly designated, that allowance does not extend to an order that was not entered when the notice of appeal was filed);

see also LaChance v. Duffy’s Draft House, Inc., 146 F.3d 832, 837–38 (11th Cir. 1998) (holding that we lacked jurisdiction over a post-judgment order awarding attorney’s fees where the motion for attorney’s fees was not filed until after the notice of appeal and the plaintiff failed to file an amended notice of appeal from the order awarding fees).

I. Background

In October 2019, Buckman and Symonette filed a pro se 45-page complaint against eight defendants including numerous banks, a mortgage company, the Security and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Treasury, and other entities, raising numerous claims including:

(1) quiet title;
(2) slander of title;
(3) unjust enrichment;
(4) violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act;
(5) fraud and concealment;
(6) violation of timely assignment and lack of consideration;
and
(7) various violations of several Florida statutes.

Thereafter, in December 2019, Buckman and Symonette filed a 51-page amended complaint asserting a total of 11 causes of action.

On July 24, 2020, the district court, sua sponte, struck the amended complaint as an impermissible shotgun pleading.

The district court set forth the pleading rules in its order, and provided that the plaintiffs had until July 31, 2020 to file a second amended complaint.

The district court emphasized that, in the second amended complaint, Plaintiffs are required to make a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . .”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

Plaintiffs must also state each theory of liability separately “in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b).

The newly amended complaint should clearly delineate which factual allegations and cited laws are relevant to the asserted cause of action.

This includes specifying which Defendant is liable under each cause of action and which Defendant is implicated in each factual allegation.

Failure to comply with this Order may result in the dismissal of this case with prejudice or other appropriate sanctions.

On July 31, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a motion for an extension of time to file their second amended complaint. The district court granted the motion and ordered that the second amended com- plaint be filed on or before August 6, 2020.

On August 6, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a motion seeking three more days to file their second amended complaint. On the same date, after filing their extension motion, they filed their second amended complaint.

The 92-page second amended complaint added 4 new causes of action and suffered from many of the same issues as the first amended complaint.

On August 17, 2020, the district court dismissed with prejudice the second amended complaint explaining that the second amended complaint “does not cure the defects that required striking of the initial Complaint.”

This appeal followed.2

2 Following the dismissal of their complaint, Buckman and Symonette filed a motion for reconsideration in the district court, which was denied. However, they do not raise any arguments related to the denial of their motion for re- consideration in their brief. Accordingly, the district court’s resolution of the motion for reconsideration is not before us.

II. Discussion

Buckman and Symonette argue that the district court erred and demonstrated bias when it dismissed their case with prejudice while their motion for extension of time was pending.

Specifically, they argue that the district court docketed their motion for a three- day extension of time to file the second amended complaint and set “responses due by 8/20/2020,” but then dismissed the case before that date.

They also raise arguments related to the merits of their underlying claims.

The district court did not err in dismissing the case. On the day the second amended complaint was due, Buckman and Symonette filed the request for a three-day extension of time, but they then filed a second amended complaint the same day.

The filing of the second amended complaint on the day it was due mooted the motion for an extension of time and the related re- sponse period.

Once the second amended complaint was filed, there was nothing left for the district court to do except review the complaint to determine whether the plaintiffs corrected the previously identified pleading issues.

To the extent that Buckman and Symonette’s brief could be liberally construed as challenging the district court’s dismissal of the second-amended complaint as an impermissible shotgun pleading, we review the district court’s decision for abuse of discretion.

Barmapov v. Amuial, 986 F.3d 1321, 1324 (11th Cir. 2021); see also Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998)

(“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.”).

“A shotgun pleading is a complaint that violates either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) or Rule 10(b), or both.”

Barmapov, 986 F.3d at 1324.

Rule 8 requires that the complaint set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim” demonstrating an entitlement to relief, and Rule 10 requires that a plaintiff “state [his] claims in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) and 10(b).

Rule 10 further provides that each claim be stated in separate counts “[i]f doing so would promote clarity.” Id. R. 10(b).

We have repeatedly condemned the use of shotgun pleadings.

See Barmapov, 986 F.3d at 1324; Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2001).

When a plaintiff files a shotgun pleading, a district court must give him one chance to replead before dismissing his case with prejudice on shotgun pleading grounds.
Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1295–96 (11th Cir. 2018).

The district court should explain how the pleading violated the shotgun rule so that the plaintiff can remedy his next pleading.

Id.

Where, as here, the plaintiff is provided fair notice of the specific defects in his complaint and a meaningful chance to fix it but fails to correct the defects, the district court does not abuse its discretion by dismissing with prejudice on shotgun pleading grounds.

Jackson v. Bank of Am., N.A., 898 F.3d 1348, 1358–59 (11th Cir. 2018).

Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the second amended complaint with prejudice because Buckman and Symonette failed to correct the pleading defects.

Id.

Consequently, we affirm.

AFFIRMED.

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Florida

September was a Monster Month for Fl. Bar Disciplinary Cases. So Much So they Issued Two Separate Lists

On Sep 1, 2021, the Florida Bar Disciplined 10 lawyers and on Sep 15, another 17. That’s 27 lawyers in one month.

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September Discipline Part II by the Bar

SEP 15, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: OCT 6, 2021

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 17 attorneys, disbarring six, suspending seven, and reprimanding four. One attorney was also ordered to pay restitution.

Rasheed Karim Allen-Dawson, P.O. Box 135819, Clermont, suspended for 91 days and conditional probation for one year effective 30 days following an August 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2011)

Allen-Dawson failed to provide a client with competent representation in a family law matter and pursued frivolous litigation.

Following the filing of the Bar complaint, Allen-Dawson made an impermissible agreement with the complaining client for a full refund conditioned on the client withdrawing the Bar complaint.

In a second matter, Allen-Dawson engaged in a course of conduct where he failed to follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rules, failed to diligently and competently handle multiple client matters, and certified to the court that good-faith conferences had occurred when, in fact, they had not, resulting in the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, imposing disciplinary sanctions against him which resulted in 12 months of conditional probation by the Federal Court.

(Case Nos.: SC21-472 and SC21-504)

Referee;

Gerald P. Hill II
Polk County Courthouse
P.O. Box 9000, Drawer J109
Bartow, FL 33831-9000

Charles McCormack Caldwell II, 801 W. Romana St., Suite C, Pensacola, public reprimand by publication and attendance at Ethics School effective immediately following an August 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2010)

Caldwell worked for a Canadian trademark company representing clients in pending trademark applications and issued trademark registrations before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The company’s practice was to enter Caldwell’s electronic signature on trademark documents before filing with the USPTO.

When Caldwell was contacted by the USPTO and advised that he was violating its regulations, he cooperated fully and severed all ties with the trademark company.

The USPTO imposed a public reprimand and 12 months probation.

(Case No: SC21-230)

Joe Luis Castrofort, 1906 E. Robinson St., Orlando, suspended for 60 days with attendance at Ethics School effective 30 days following an August 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2001)

Castrofort represented a defendant in a criminal case where the defendant told Castrofort that someone had messaged him, claiming to be the alleged victim, and had requested $15,000 in exchange for her agreement not to testify against him in the case.

At the time, there was a court order that defendant have no contact with the alleged victim.

Castrofort involved private investigators who directed the client to message the alleged victim and have her appear at a designated location to collect the money.

Though there was no actual money involved, the client watched from a distance as the alleged victim entered the client’s unoccupied vehicle and searched for the money.

The client and alleged victim communicated using a messaging application and the private investigators recorded the encounter.

At the time, Castrofort did not fully appreciate that his client’s actions could be viewed as a violation of the no-contact order and expressed remorse for the misconduct.

(Case No: SC21-1100)

Kevin Keenan Chase, 709 Laurel Way, Casselberry, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following an August 6 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1994)

Chase was held in contempt of the Court’s order dated November 12, 2020, for failing to timely comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals of his suspension.

(Case No: SC21-799)

Andrean Rose Eaton, 2020 N.E. 163rd St., Suite 300, North Miami Beach, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following an August 6 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1995)

Eaton was held in contempt of the court’s order dated March 5, 2020, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension and for failing to comply with the conditions of her probation.

(Case No: SC21-772)

William Cater Elliott, P.O. Box 43343, Vestavia, Alabama, disbarred effective Nunc pro tunc to January 16, 2020, the date of his felony suspension following a June 17, 2021, court order.

(Admitted to Practice: 1989)

On July 18, 2019, Elliott was convicted of Organized Fraud over $50,000, adjudicated guilty, and sentenced to a two-year prison term followed by eight years’ probation.

Elliott deposited a counterfeit U.S. Treasury check into his law firm business account for $287,000.50, and withdrew a substantial amount, leaving the bank with a financial loss of $98,813.33.

Elliott was felony suspended on January 16, 2020.

After an appeal to the First DCA that was denied, the appellate court issued its mandate in March 2021.

(Case No: SC19-2094)

Michael James Foley, 644 Orange Belt Loop, Winter Garden, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following an August 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2002)

Foley, while employed by Liberty Law Team, failed to exercise reasonable supervision over the paralegal assigned to work on a client’s criminal appeal, allowing the paralegal to engage in impermissible activities such as giving legal advice, and making misrepresentations to the client and the client’s family.

Foley’s failure to supervise further enabled his paralegal to perpetrate a fraud on the client and the client’s family and collect fees and costs that were misappropriated by unknown persons at Liberty Law Team.

(Case No: SC21-311)

Referee:

Michael C. Heisey

Dana Marie Fragakis, 2150 Goodlette Rd. N., FL 6, Naples, suspended for 90 days and attendance at The Florida Bar Professionalism Workshop effective 30 days following an August 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2000)

Fragakis became a candidate for a vacant county court seat in Palm Beach County in June 2016.

During a run-off election, Fragakis hired a campaign manager that promoted her candidacy by making disparaging statements about her opponent in emails, statements to the media, and a webpage.

Fragakis initially defended her campaign’s actions but ultimately admitted that her conduct was a violation of the Judicial Canons and apologized to her opponent.

Fragakis was thereafter removed from judicial office.

(Case No: SC12-1122)

Ronald Andersen Hurst, Jr., P.O. Box 540262, Greenacres, public reprimand by publication effective August 5 by court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2003)

Hurst was court-appointed to file an Amended Motion to Withdraw Plea Agreement on behalf of a criminal defendant.

Hurst made minimal efforts to communicate with the client to determine the basis for the motion. Since Hurst did not receive a response from the client, he did not file the subject motion.

(Case Nos: SC21-1098 and SC21-1100)

Eric Otto Husby, 306 S Blvd., Tampa, suspended for 90 days and directed to attend Ethics School effective 30 days following a July 29 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2004)

Husby neglected his client’s matter and failed to communicate adequately in one matter, and failed to provide competent representation in the second. Husby failed to timely respond to the Bar in the first matter.

(Case No: SC20-1837)

Referee;

Honorable Alicia Polk

Andrew John Jones, 5200 South U.S. Highway 17/92, Casselberry, disbarred immediately following an August 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2006)

On June 3, 2021, Jones pled guilty to Child Abuse and Tampering with Physical Evidence, both third-degree felonies.

(Case No: SC21-894)

Referee;

Michael J. McNicholas

Frederick Joseph Keitel III, P.O. Box 3243, Palm Beach, permanently disbarred effective immediately following an August 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1991)

Keitel represented his own corporations in numerous cases during which he made unfounded, unethical, and disparaging attacks against many different judges.

He further engaged in incivility and unprofessionalism in a deposition, attempted to hinder and delay discovery, engaged in a conflict of interest, and violated orders entered by the bankruptcy court.

Keitel continued to engage in such disparaging conduct during the disciplinary proceedings.

(Case No: SC18-546)

John Chandler Ross, 1025 Indian River Ave., Titusville, disbarred effective immediately following an August 5 court order because he is currently suspended.

(Admitted to practice: 1983)

Ross was held in contempt of the court’s order dated November 24, 2020, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals of his suspension.

(Case No: SC21-807)

Roger S. Rathbun, 9380 N.W. 13th St., Plantation, disbarred effective immediately following an August 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2000)

Rathbun continued to engage in the active practice of law after being suspended from the practice of law by order dated January 9, 2020.

(Case No: SC20-623)

Douglas Alan Lopp, 19420 Sandy Springs Cir., Lutz, disbarred effective immediately following an August 11 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1995)

Lopp was held in contempt of the court’s order dated September 20, 2020, for his repeated failure to respond to the court’s previous order and for his failure to notify clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals of his suspension.

(Case No: SC20-1026 and SC21-852)

Patrick James Thompson, 201 Hilda St., Suite 23, Kissimmee, public reprimand by publication and completion of Ethics School effective immediately following an August 26 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2007)

Thompson negotiated with timeshare resorts on behalf of clients to assist the clients with an exit from their timeshare contracts and/or their timeshare maintenance fees.

Thompson improperly shared legal fees with a nonlawyer, who was a corporate officer of his law firm, Timeshare Lawyers, Inc.

Thompson was not admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction other than Florida but the resorts and the clients he represented sometimes were located outside of Florida.

In addition, Thompson did not sufficiently communicate with two clients about their cases, and he was not diligent in handling their cases.

(Case No: SC21-588)

Peter James Yanowitch, 232 Andalusia Ave., Suite 202, Coral Gables, suspended for 90 days and ordered to pay restitution in the total amount of $100,000 effective 30 days following an August 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1982)

Yanowitch failed to maintain cost money in his trust account, instead, he applied it to fees deemed to be excessive, and without providing monthly invoices to the client.

(Case No: SC21-1090)

As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 109,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.
Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam. Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

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Bankers

Judge Brian Davis of M.D. Fl. Ends Class Action Against Wells Fargo

Judge Davis suggests the “wait and see” approach to claims Wells Fargo fraudulently changed maturity dates on HELOC loans ends this case.

Published

on

Tippett v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

(5:20-cv-00342)

District Court, M.D. Florida

This is a follow up to LIF’s original article in this case – click here.

SEP 24, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: SEP 28, 2021

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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.



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