SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 15 ATTORNEYS
Summaries of orders issued from March 26, 2021, to April 28, 2021
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 15 attorneys, disbarring five, revoking the licenses of two, suspending six and reprimanding three. Two attorneys were 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 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. 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.
Gerald W. Adams, 1314 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 1059, Fort Lauderdale, disbarred effective immediately following an April 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Adams continued to engage in the practice of law in contempt of the Supreme Court’s Order of Suspension by continuing to run his law firm. Attempting to circumvent the rules, Adams transferred ownership of the firm to his office manager (a non-lawyer) without the office manager’s knowledge. Adams continued to advertise his legal services online under the guise of document preparation offering to prepare legal documents/forms not approved by the Supreme Court of Florida for use by non-lawyers, which constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. (Case No: SC20-1810)
Damien Aranguren, 725 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Suite 1, Ocala, suspended effective 30 days following a March 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Aranguren entered pleas of no contest to three counts of Grand Theft (Statutory Theft), a third-degree felony, one count of Trespass to Structure, a second-degree misdemeanor, and one count of Trespass in Occupied Structure or Conveyance, a first-degree misdemeanor. The court withheld adjudication as to all counts and sentenced Aranguren to two years of conditional probation as to the felony counts and to credit for time served as to the misdemeanor counts. (Case No: SC21-468)
John Lance Armstrong, 515 N. Flagler Drive, Suite P300, West Palm Beach, public reprimand and payment of restitution of $5,000 with attendance at The Florida Bar’s Ethics School effective immediately following an April 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1979) Armstrong accepted a $5000 fee and undertook representation of a client in a civil case and after filing the complaint took little or no significant action in the case. The case was eventually dismissed for lack of prosecution. (Case No: SC21-390)
Francine Blair Bogumil, 8950 Della Scala Cir., Orlando, suspended effective 30 days following a Feb. 3 court order and following a March 31 court order. A referee was ordered to recommend discipline. (Admitted to practice: 2006) On January 26, Bogumil pled nolo contendre to three felonies and four misdemeanors. On March 25, Bogumil pled nolo contendre to three counts of Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, third-degree felonies. (Case Nos: SC21-150 and SC21-481)
Chris R. Borgia, 4000 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Suite 470, Coral Gables, suspended for 18 months effective 30 days following an April 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Borgia neglected four different clients in their representation for social security benefits. Borgia failed to communicate with his clients, failed to appear at hearings or appeared unprepared, often failed to waive fees and withdraw from the Social Security Administration after being terminated by the clients, failed to promptly return unused costs deposits to clients, and failed to keep those funds for costs in his trust account. (Case No: SC20-1295)
John Daneil Ellis, Jr., P.O. Box 1161, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following an April 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) While Ellis was suspended from the practice of law, he agreed to provide legal assistance to an individual who lived out-of-state and needed an attorney. Ellis agreed to prepare and file the necessary documents for the individual to probate his deceased mother’s estate. Although Ellis told this individual that he was not practicing law at the time, Ellis did not disclose that he was suspended from the practice of law due to misconduct and was not allowed to provide the individual with any legal services or advice. Ellis prepared the documents, sent them to the individual for signature and explained to the individual how and where to send the documents for filing. (Case No: SC19-384)
Diego Handel, 149 South Ridgewood Ave., Suite 220, Daytona Beach, disbarred and held in contempt effective immediately following an April 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Handel continued engaging in the practice of law after having been disbarred by order of the Supreme Court of Florida dated May 30, 2019. (Case No: SC21-170)
Aaron Patrick Honaker, 33 N.E. 4th St., Miami, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective April 19 following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008). Honaker was charged with three counts of attempted bank robbery and two counts of bank robbery. (Case No: SC21-116)
Colleen E. Huott, 2385 N.W. Executive Center Dr., Suite 100, Boca Raton, suspended effective 30 days following an April 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) In eight separate Bar matters, Huott did not show good cause for her failure to respond to multiple official Bar inquiries. (Case No: SC21-96)
Stephen Michael Jones, 390 N. Orange Ave., Suite 2300, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following an April 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) On Nov. 9, 2020, Jones was emergency suspended by the Florida Supreme Court for misappropriating trust funds and for abandoning his law practice. Jones subsequently failed to respond to the Bar’s Petition for Emergency Suspension and failed to appear for the sanction hearing. A petition for emergency suspension is granted by the Florida Supreme Court when The Florida Bar presents clear and convincing evidence that a lawyer appears to be causing great public harm (see Rule 3-5.2(a)) and also constitutes a formal complaint so that the matter is fully investigated and final disciplinary action is ordered. (Case No: SC20-1593)
Megan Olivia Kifer, 110 Front St., Suite 300, Jupiter, disbarred and payment of restitution effective immediately following an April 1 court order. Kifer was emergency suspended by the Florida Supreme Court on October 28, 2020, with the imposed suspension effective within 30 days of that order. (Admitted to practice: 2016) Kifer was hired to assist with paying expenses on behalf of a beneficiary of a Special Needs Trust and other tasks. Instead, Kifer misappropriated $8,194.53. Kifer also misled the Bar during their investigation and was otherwise uncooperative. Kifer had been previously emergency suspended by the Florida Supreme Court. A petition for emergency suspension is granted by the Florida Supreme Court when The Florida Bar presents clear and convincing evidence that a lawyer appears to be causing great public harm (see Rule 3-5.2(a)) and also constitutes a formal complaint so that the matter is fully investigated and final disciplinary action is ordered. (Case No: SC20-1354)
Jeremiah J. Talbott, 900 E. Moreno St., Pensacola, suspended for 60 days and ordered to attend Professionalism Workshop and Ethics School effective 30 days following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Talbott was hired to represent a client in a federal case under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In an order denying Talbott’s motion for attorney fees from the opposing party, the federal court found that Talbott pursued the litigation in bad faith and engaged in frivolous filings during the proceedings to obtain higher attorney fees. Talbott was charged with conducting frivolous litigation, failing to expedite litigation, filing exaggerated billing sheets with the court, as well as extensive and unnecessary discovery to increase attorney fees when there was no dispute of damages between the parties resulting in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Case No: SC20-1612)
Robert Louis Thirston II, 19211 Panama City Beach Pkwy., PMB 220, Panama City Beach, public reprimand effective immediately following an April 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Thirston was held in contempt of the Court’s orders dated Sept. 6, 2019 and March 26, 2020 and failed to submit the sworn affidavits pursuant to Rule 3-5.1(h), which were ultimately filed with the Court, albeit untimely. (Case No: SC20-865)
Oanh Kim Tran, 16105 N. Florida Ave., Lutz, public reprimand and suspended effective immediately following an April 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2014) Tran failed to respond to The Florida Bar’s requests regarding two pending Florida Bar complaints. Tran admits she has not responded to the Bar complaints. (Case No: SC21-99)
Richard Lamar Williams, 8451 S.W. 72nd Ter., Miami, disciplinary revocation without leave to seek readmission effective 30 days following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1972) Williams was charged and pled guilty to the federal offense of conspiracy to transmit an interstate communication with intent to extort. (Case No: SC21-137)
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