SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 12 ATTORNEYS
Summaries of orders issued from Feb. 22 to Mar. 12, 2020
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, revoking the license of one, reprimanding five and suspending six. Three attorneys were also given probation. 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.
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 108,000 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.
Veronica Arenas, 6400 N.W. 50 Ave., Ocala, public reprimand and must attend The Florida Bar’s Ethics School, effective immediately following a Feb. 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) Arenas engaged in a dual role as attorney and certified court interpreter in a second-degree misdemeanor criminal traffic case. Arenas gave isolated and limited legal advice in one other case by explaining the meaning of a legal term to the defendant during his first-degree misdemeanor case. (Case No. SC20-168)
Sonya Charmaine Davis, 6356 Cypress Gardens Blvd., Winter Haven, admonished, effective immediately following a Feb. 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Davis was hired to replace the counsel of record in a client’s pending dissolution of marriage. Davis sent a Joint Motion for Substitution of Counsel to the counsel of record who declined to sign the motion without a hearing. Davis did not begin proceedings to pursue the substitution of counsel for three months, so the client terminated Davis’ representation. Davis failed to timely respond to the bar’s written inquiries. (Case No: SC19-1447)
Nicole Blair Dickerson, 111 North Orange Ave., Suite 800, Orlando, two-year suspension effective 30 days from a March 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) Dickerson was disrespectful and unprofessional in multiple cases before multiple courts, failed to diligently and competently represent clients, was late or failed to appear in court on behalf of clients, and failed to communicate adequately with clients. She was also convicted of resisting an officer without violence, a first-degree misdemeanor. Additionally, Dickerson engaged in an impermissible conflict of interest by representing two individuals in different criminal cases who had conflicting interests. (Case Nos. SC19-616 and SC19-1678)
Andrean Rose Eaton, 2020 NE 163 St., Suite 300, North Miami Beach, suspended for 90 days with six-month probation effective 30 days from a March 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Eaton was late in responding to the Bar’s requests for information and her trust account records were not compliant with minimum trust accounting requirements, although there was no resulting client harm. Eaton has a prior discipline for similar misconduct. (Case No. SC18-2107)
Howard Hunter Ellzey Jr., 4807 US 19, Suite 202, New Port Richey, public reprimand with a three-year probation effective immediately following a Feb. 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Ellzey was arrested for DUI and refusal to submit to testing. He was charged with felony driving under the influence of alcohol, his third offense within 10 years, and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI and misdemeanor refusal to submit to testing and was adjudicated guilty of both charges. Ellzey completed the terms of his criminal probation. (Case No: SC20-173)
Herbert Walter Fiss Jr., 341 S. Plant Ave., Tampa, suspended for three years effective 30 days from March 12 (Admitted to Practice: 1991) Fiss engaged in unprofessional behavior towards opposing counsel, witnesses and his client while representing the client in a probate adversary matter. Throughout the representation, Fiss billed and collected fees from his client in violation of the trust accounting rules. Further, while representing his client in the probate matter, Fiss engaged in a conflict of interest when he asked for, and received, two loans from his client, totaling $1,550,000.00. (Case No. SC19-527)
Howard David Friedman, 2413 Tuscarora Trail, Maitland, public reprimand effective 15 days from a March 5 court order. (Admitted to Practice: 1987) During Friedman’s campaign for the Office of State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, he distributed campaign brochures and made statements that suggested, or specifically stated, that while his opponent Jeffrey Ashton was the state attorney, he wrongfully fired Friedman’s wife, Annette Schultz, after she became ill with cancer. Friedman omitted any reference to the passage of 11 years between Schultz’s cancer diagnosis and her job termination. (Case No: SC19-1422)
Stephen Gutierrez, 454 SW 8th St., Miami, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a Feb. 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) Gutierrez represented a client charged with arson. During closing arguments, smoke came out of Gutierrez’s pocket, which disrupted proceedings. Gutierrez said an e-cigarette battery spontaneously combusting in his pocket. An investigation into the alleged conduct was inconclusive. While the arson matter was pending, Gutierrez also filed suit in a related civil matter for the same client who pleaded guilty to the arson charge, admitting he set fire to a vehicle. Thereafter, Gutierrez subsequently filed an amended complaint in the civil case claiming the damage was caused by a vehicle collision. (Case No: SC19-562)
Steven Jay Kirschner, 1555 Howell Branch Road, Suite C220, Winter Park, 60-day suspension and two-year period of probation, effective 30 days from a Feb. 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) The bar’s compliance audit of Kirschner’s law office trust account revealed he failed to maintain it in compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Kirschner hired a CPA who brought his trust accounting records into compliance. There were small, short-term shortages but no evidence of misappropriation and no clients lost any funds. (Case No: SC19-1452)
José G. Oliveira, 1284 Seburn Road, Apopka, public reprimand and completion of Ethics School effective 15 days following a March 5, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Oliveira engaged in a conflict of interest and failed to provide proper communication to a client regarding a business agreement and foreclosure matter. (Case No: SC20-209)
Jay S. Spechler, 1026 N. Northlake Drive, Hollywood, suspended for 45 days effective immediately following a Feb. 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1979) Spechler posted a statement on a courthouse blog toward a judge that could be perceived as threatening. (Case No: SC20-189)
Stacey Dawn Wilson, 7635 Ashley Park Court, Suite 503S, Orlando, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days from a March 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) The Florida Bar conducted a compliance audit of Wilson’s trust account for the period of June 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2019. The records demonstrated that Wilson was not in substantial compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, which resulted in shortages in her trust account. (Case No: SC20-1)
About The Florida Bar
Founded in 1949, The Florida Bar serves the legal profession for the protection and benefit of both the public and all Florida lawyers. As one of the nation’s largest mandatory bars, The Florida Bar fosters and upholds a high standard of integrity and competence within Florida’s legal profession as an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court. To learn more, visit FloridaBar.org.