Florida Bar Release
The Florida Bar, the state's guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announces that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 18 attorneys, disbarring two and suspending 11. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Five attorneys were publicly reprimanded; two were placed on probation and one was ordered to pay restitution.
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 93,000-plus lawyers admitted to practice law in Florida. Since 2007, case files have been posted to attorneys' individual Florida Bar profiles and may be reviewed at and/or downloaded from The Florida Bar's website, www.floridabar.org.
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 rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam. Historically, less than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.
Allen Frederick Bennett, 119 N.E. 7th Ave., Apt. 7, Delray Beach, to be publicly reprimanded following an Oct. 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Bennett was found in contempt of the court's order conditionally admitting him. (Case No. SC12-911)
Jennifer Aycock Bonifield, 1025 Professional Park Drive, Brandon, suspended for 91 days, effective immediately, following an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Bonifield failed to maintain adequate communication with a client, failed to work diligently on the case, and failed to respond to the Bar's inquiry. (Case No. SC11-2137)
Andrew Alexander Byer, 1314 E. Las Olas Blvd., No.146, Fort Lauderdale, suspended for one year, effective immediately, following an Oct. 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Byer was found guilty and sentenced to eight months in jail for domestic violence. He also failed to report the filing of felony information charges against him or his conviction of a misdemeanor battery, as required by Florida Bar rules. (Case No. SC12-1074)
Robert T. Carter, P.O. Box 790, Tullahoma, Tenn., suspended for three years, effective immediately, following an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) Carter pleaded guilty in a Tennessee court to one count of theft of property valued at more than $10,000 but less than $60,000, a Class C Felony. Carter misappropriated approximately $59,000 from his former law firm from October 2006 through April 2009. He accepted fees from clients and did not report them to the firm. (Case No. SC12-518)
Andrean Rose Eaton, 99 N.W. 183rd Suite 120, Miami Gardens, to be publicly reprimanded following an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Eaton is further ordered to attend a trust accounting workshop. Eaton mistakenly mixed up her two checkbooks and issued a check from a trust account that had insufficient funds. Eaton did not maintain minimum trust account records and did not comply with minimum trust accounting procedures. (Case No. SC12-1675)
Anthony Claude Francis, 13538 Village Park Drive, Suite 270, Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded and placed on probation for one year, following an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Francis is further ordered to attend a trust accounting workshop. Francis was hired by a client to represent her for personal injuries suffered in an automobile accident. The client stressed that medical bills be fully covered or attempted to be negotiated at a reduced amount by any settlement or judgment, in order to avoid any outstanding debt. Months after the settlement, Francis failed to pay or make any progress in negotiating bill reductions for the client. A Bar audit revealed that Francis failed to maintain the minimum required trust accounting records and follow trust accounting procedures, resulting in brief temporary trust account shortages. Case No. SC11-1539)
Jeffrey Martin Hanly, 1312 3rd St. N., Jacksonville Beach, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following an Oct. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Hanly was found in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of a February disbarment order. He failed to provide the Bar with a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all parties that were furnished a copy of his disbarment order. (SC12-938)
Alan Kelman, 6439 N.W. 43rd Terrace, Boca Raton, disbarred effective immediately, following an Oct. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Kelman demonstrated a pattern of willful non-compliance with Bar rules and was held in contempt of the Florida Supreme Court. He was previously held in contempt by the Court on two other occasions for which he was suspended twice in 2011. (Case No. SC12-1136)
Robert H. Lecznar, 5922 Main St., New Port Richey, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from an Oct. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1981) Lecznar was found in contempt for repeated failure to adequately respond to official Bar inquiries and failure to show good cause for non-compliance. (Case No. SC12-1227)
Kathy A. Lynn, 4801 214th Lane S.W., Unit 9, Mountlake Terrace, Wash., suspended until further order, following an Oct. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Lynn appeared to be causing great public harm. Lynn, who was also licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, was disbarred in that state, and charged with at least 22 counts of misconduct, including: numerous overdrafts of her Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account, failure to adequately and promptly communicate with clients or even do the work; failure to provide an accounting for money received for services, failure to refund unearned fees, failure to notify clients that she had stopped practicing law and had relocated, and failure to participate in status conferences and other court-ordered hearings. (Case No. SC12-1992)
Brian John Murtha, 7640 N. Wickham Road, Suite 121, Melbourne, to be publicly reprimanded following an Oct. 15 court order. Further, Murtha is placed on probation for two years. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Murtha did not maintain the required trust account records and did not regularly perform mandatory trust accounting procedures, resulting in an insufficient funds notice regarding his trust account. In another instance, Murtha did not maintain clear and adequate communication with one of his out-of-state clients regarding a civil matter in Florida. This resulted in a default judgment and the client hired a new attorney. (Case No. SC12-333)
Amy Elizabeth Newby, 6817 Southpoint Parkway, Suite 1701, Jacksonville, suspended for two years, effective retroactive to February 14, 2011. Further, Newby shall pay restitution of more than $6,665 to six separate clients. (Admitted to practice: 2003) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Newby appeared to be causing great public harm. She was charged with two felonies for forging a signature as a notary and using her office stamp to simulate the notary’s seal on a durable power of attorney form pertaining to child custody and care. (Case No. SC11-761)
George R. O’Farrell, 3711 Shamrock St. W. Apt K152, Tallahassee, suspended for three years, effective 30 days from an Oct. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) O’Farrell engaged in fraud, misrepresentation and deceit, after being hired by a client to prepare a revocable trust, including the transfer of numerous out-of-state deeds to the trust. O'Farrell misrepresented to his client that the witnesses, whose signatures were already on the trust documents, did not need to be present when the client executed them. O'Farrell misrepresented to The Florida Bar that he had obtained the signatures from the absentee witnesses. He later admitted that he had forged the witnesses’ signatures on the client's first set of trust documents, and had filed them in various clerks’ offices out of state. (Case No. SC11-1717)
Natalia V. Poliakova, 16500 Collins Ave., Apt. 2652, Sunny Isles Beach, suspended for three years, effective retroactive to December 2010, following an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Further, upon reinstatement, Poliakova will undergo an office procedures and record-keeping analysis under the direction of the Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service. Poliakova’s lack of diligence and honesty in the handling of an immigration matter caused a client’s petition for alien worker status to be denied and the client was forced to retain new counsel. Poliakova also failed to adequately communicate with the client and she failed to respond to an official Bar inquiry. She had previously been suspended on two separate occasions for engaging in similar misconduct.
(Case No. SC11-2140)
Richard William Reno, P.O. Box 368, Crawfordville, suspended for 91 days, effective 30 days from an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Reno was found in contempt of a July 11, 2011, suspension order. Reno held himself out as an attorney and attempted to appear in court on behalf of a client, while suspended. (Case No. SC11-1811)
Pedro Pablo Sotolongo, 201 S. Biscayne Blvd., Suite 2834, Miami, to be publicly reprimanded following an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Sotolongo misrepresented to a judge the amount of money he collected pursuant to certain fee agreements. (Case No. SC11-1816)
Shane Ludwig Stafford, 2290 10th Ave., N., Lake Worth, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from an Oct. 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) Stafford shared legal fees with a paralegal who was an employee of his law firm. The paralegal referred Stafford’s firm to a person with a malpractice claim and Stafford subsequently referred the case to another firm. After the second firm was successful in obtaining a large settlement for the client, Stafford’s firm received $500,000. Stafford then gave the paralegal $150,000 of the money and characterized it as an investment into the employee’s dress design business. (Case No. SC12-37)
Joseph Dan Turner, 13317 Lake George Lane, Tampa, suspended for three years, effective immediately, following an Oct. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Turner was held in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of an April 3 suspension order. It required Turner to notify his clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension and provide to The Florida Bar within 30 days of his suspension, a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of his suspension order. (SC12-1308)