By Megan E. Davis
Truthfulness and candor.
No moral character qualifications for Bar membership are more important than these, according to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.
Sending a message to all lawyers and Bar applicants, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the board’s decision to revoke an attorney’s license for failing to display truthfulness and candor in his or her Bar application.
In the May 30 decision, the court said that whether the facts the lawyer concealed during the application process “were disqualifying is not the issue.”
“Rather, the crucial point is that [he] had an obligation to disclose this information to the board,” the court wrote. “The admissions process relies on applicants making accurate and timely disclosures of relevant information. It is essential that applicants be totally candid.”
According to the court, the attorney applied for Bar admission in July 2007 and passed the bar exam. However, after the FBBE’s investigation of his background “revealed information that reflected adversely on [his] character and fitness,” the board held an investigative hearing in March 2009.
The FBBE required the applicant to write a 25-page brief on legal ethics and he was admitted to the Bar two months later.
In April 2010, the FBBE called an investigative hearing, seeking to determine if the lawyer had made a “material misstatement or material omission” when applying for admission and initiated proceedings to revoke his admission.
The board found that while working as a police officer in Ft. Lauderdale, the lawyer received a letter from the chief of police informing him that he was to be suspended for three days in January 2009 for “deficiencies in [his] performance and conduct reported by his supervisor.”
A November 2008 letter cited “discrepancies, omissions, and misinformation in [his] reports” and “a pattern of misrepresenting the facts in order to shift responsibility for [his] identified deficiencies” as reasons for the suspension.
The letter also said the officer’s performance had not improved after corrective instruction, formal training, and two separate performance plans.
The then police officer sought injunctive and declaratory relief in circuit court, which issued a temporary injunction and the city later rescinded the suspension.
The FBBE determined that the attorney had failed to file an amendment to his application as required within 30 days of receiving a grievance or complaint from an employer. He also failed to notify the board of the final disposition of the complaint against him.
The FBBE also said the lawyer failed to amend his application as required to inform the board that he was a plaintiff or petitioner in a court proceeding.
The attorney contended he was not required to report those events to the board.
According to the FBBE, the lawyer was reminded at the March 2009 investigative hearing that he was required to keep his responses to the Bar application current.
The examiners also found the lawyer failed to update his application after the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department relieved him from patrol duty with pay.
The attorney argued that a “relief of duty” is not considered an employment disciplinary action, but the court disagreed.
Finally, the FBBE said the lawyer made a false statement when he filed an application amendment in May 2010 saying he wished “of his own volition” to update his application.
The board said the lawyer’s denial that he was compelled by the board to amend his application constituted a misleading statement.
The board also cited the attorney’s conduct during a formal hearing in July 2011, saying his testimony “was, at times, lacking in candor, misleading, and evasive.”
The court revoked the lawyer’s license beginning June 30 and he is disqualified from applying for readmission for 18 months.
The court acted in case no. SC11-1694.