SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 12 ATTORNEYS
Summaries of orders issued from August 3, 2023 to September 21, 2023
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 12 attorneys, disbarring one, revoking the license of three, suspending seven and publicly reprimanding one.
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 111,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps. 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.
Derek Michael Aronoff, 4538 SW Darlington St., Port Saint Lucie, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission to The Florida Bar after five years, effective immediately following an August 31 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) The Florida Bar opened an investigation after receiving a grievance from Aronoff’s former client demonstrating that, after the effective date of his suspension from the practice of law in 2022, Aronoff continued communicating with the client, drafted pleadings and gave the client legal advice regarding an upcoming hearing in her mortgage foreclosure case. As a result, Aronoff engaged in the unlicensed practice of law in violation of the order of the Supreme Court of Florida suspending him in 2022. (Case No. SC23-0942)
Bryon R. Aven, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Bldg. D., Viera, suspended for two years, effective 30 days following a September 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) While employed as an assistant state attorney, Aven engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by eliciting and bolstering false testimony from several witnesses during the criminal trial, which resulted in the dismissal of the criminal charges. (Case No.SC23-0456)
Christopher Whittington Dudley, 598 Trelago Way, Apt. 303, Maitland, suspended pursuant to 3-7.2(f), the felony suspension rule, effective immediately following a September 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2021) Dudley entered a plea of nolo contendere to the charges of Attempted Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling, a third-degree felony, and Criminal Mischief (above $200.00 but below $1,000.00), a first-degree misdemeanor. The court withheld adjudication of guilt as to all counts and sentenced Dudley to two years of conditional probation as to the felony count and to credit for time served as to the misdemeanor count. (Case No. SC23-1306)
John Edward Eagen, P.O. Box 1545, Tallahassee, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission, effective 30 days following a September 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) Eagen had a disciplinary case pending before the Court, which involved neglect of several client matters and multiple referrals from the First DCA. The Court approved Eagen’s Petition for Disciplinary Revocation by Order dated September 21, 2023. (Case No. SC23-0691)
Mark Edwin Heimendinger, 1034 Long Branch Ln., Oviedo, suspended due to a felony conviction, effective 30 days following an August 31 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2016) On August 25, 2023, Heimendinger entered a plea of nolo contendere to Aggravated Assault (a third-degree felony), Carrying Concealed Firearm (a third-degree felony), Improper Exhibition of a Dangerous Weapon (a first degree misdemeanor) and Battery (a first-degree misdemeanor). The criminal court withheld adjudication on the two felony charges and adjudicated Heimendinger guilty on the two misdemeanor charges. The Supreme Court has ordered that a referee be appointed to recommend the appropriate sanction. (Case No. SC23-1224)
Tarica C. LaBossiere, 4126 Inverrary Blvd., Apt. 2418, Lauderhill, suspended for 91 days, effective immediately following an August 3 court order, as LaBossiere is no longer practicing law. (Admitted to practice: 2018) LaBossiere failed to comply with all terms and conditions set forth in the terms of her probation, which included a requirement to comply with her FLA, Inc. rehabilitation contract. LaBossiere violated this contract by failing to abstain from the consumption of alcohol and testing positive for mood altering drugs. (Case No. SC23-0313)
Andrew John Manie, P.O. Box 720236, Orlando, suspended for six months, effective immediately following a September 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) Manie failed to timely furnish a copy of the Court’s June 9, 2022 suspension order to some of the courts before which he was counsel of record. Prior to his suspension, Manie also engaged in a course of conduct whereby he failed to appear for court hearings on behalf of several clients, resulting in the entry of default judgments against those clients, and necessitating Manie to take corrective action by filing motions to vacate judgment due to his excusable neglect. Finally, in connection with his representation of a client in a personal injury case, Manie deposited client funds related to a settlement into his operating account. (Case No. SC23-1277)
Patrick Michael Megaro, 2431 Aloma Ave., Suite 124, Winter Park, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission after five years, effective 30 days following a September 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) The Florida Bar commenced an investigation of Megaro due to two disciplinary sanctions imposed in other jurisdictions. Megaro received a five-year suspension as recommended by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission for the North Carolina State Bar for entering into an improper representation agreement with clients of a diminished capacity and engaging in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice. In addition, Megaro was suspended by the United States Court of Appeals in the Fifth Circuit on July 7, 2021. (Case No. SC23-1119)
Rebecca L. Morgan, 3004 Flowertree Rd., Belle Isle, suspended for four months, effective 30 days following an August 31 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Morgan engaged in a pattern of neglect while representing several clients in immigration matters. In one instance, she failed to timely appear at a hearing due to a family emergency, and the immigration judge entered an order for removal. After Morgan failed to get a response from the chief counsel’s office to get their position in order to have the matter reheard, Morgan failed to further address the client’s matter because of her severe illness. In another matter, a client repeatedly attempted to contact Morgan, and after receiving no communication, the client went to Morgan’s law office, which was abandoned. Morgan was unaware of the client’s matter or need for assistance, and she did not provide a refund in the matter. Additionally, Morgan engaged in a course of conduct in which she failed to update her address with the United States Department of Homeland Security resulting in letters for her clients being returned as undeliverable. She also failed to timely respond to the bar’s multiple investigative inquiries. (Case No. SC23-0448)
Kevin Proulx, 406 Pursley Dr., DeLand, disbarred, effective immediately following an August 31 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Proulx served as court-appointed defense counsel in several criminal cases pending in Lake County, Florida, wherein he failed to provide diligent representation, failed to maintain adequate communication with the clients, failed to obey court orders and ultimately abandoned his clients’ matters. Because Proulx was court appointed, new counsel was appointed to represent the clients and none of the clients were harmed by Proulx’s misconduct. Proulx also failed to respond timely to the bar’s repeated efforts to communicate with him and failed to participate in the bar disciplinary proceedings in a meaningful manner. (Case No. SC23-0389)
Wanda I. Rufin, 1529 SW 1st St., Miami, suspended for one year, effective 30 days following a September 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) While representing the husband in a dissolution of marriage, Rufin made partial unauthorized distributions of the trust funds from the proceeds of the sale of the marital home. When the Court ordered a final equitable distribution to the former wife, Rufin failed to advise the Court about the remaining balance of the marital funds held in a second escrow account. Rufin has since disgorged the full amount to the former wife. (Case No. SC22-0821)
David George Simmons, Jr., 10380 SW Village Center Dr., Port Saint Lucie, public reprimand and ordered to complete Ethics School, effective immediately following a September 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Simmons entered a notice of appearance to substitute in for a suspended lawyer believing that the suspension was short-term, when, in fact, it required proof of rehabilitation prior to reinstatement. Because Simmons assumed he would not be representing the client long-term, he failed to obtain specific details regarding the client’s case and had only a basic understanding of the issues. Simmons failed to appear for several hearings after being duly noticed by the court. The court ultimately sanctioned Simmons and ordered him to pay attorney’s fees to the opposing counsel. (Case No. SC23-1260)