SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 19 ATTORNEYS
Summaries of orders issued from November 21 to December 28, 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 19 attorneys, disbarring three, revoking the licenses of three, suspending 12 and reprimanding one. One attorney was placed on probation and two must 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.
Rita Horwitz Altman, 215 S. Olive Ave., Suite 200, West Palm Beach, suspended for three years and probation for two years thereafter effective immediately following a Dec. 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) Altman represented an immigration client in an asylum claim. The client provided critical evidence to Altman, who failed to add it to the asylum claim and to the court during the final hearing. Altman’s negligence, incompetence, lack of diligence and failure to be forthright with the court when asked about the evidence resulted in the denial of the asylum claim. (Case No: SC20-848)
Jean Bernard Chery, 1221 W. Colonial Drive, Suite 201, Orlando, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective 30 days following a Nov. 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Chery improperly made disbursements to himself from his trust account. He also received settlement funds in several personal injury matters and disbursed attorney’s fees to himself before clients signed settlement statements and in amounts greater than he was entitled to. Chery deposited funds into the trust account to replenish the shortages but failed to notify The Bar’s Lawyer Regulation Department of the shortages, their cause, or the amount of the replenishments. (Case No: SC20-1323)
Craig Albert Fine, 159 New Dorp Lane, Fl PLAZA-1, Staten Island, New York, suspended for 90 days effective Dec. 14 following a Dec. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Fine failed to maintain minimum trust account records, which led to a $17,965.97 shortfall in his trust account. Further, Fine commingled personal funds in his trust account and issued earned fees to himself that cleared through another client’s funds held in trust. In mitigation, the court found the unintentional nature of the misappropriation,; his remorse and acceptance of responsibility; immediate efforts made to rectify the situation; and remedial recordkeeping measures instituted among other matters including his unblemished disciplinary record. This is a reciprocal discipline action from the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department. (Case No: SC20-1497)
Justin Infurna, 8324 Prestbury Drive, Orlando, suspended by petition for emergency suspension effective 30 days following a Dec. 28 court order. No new clients may be accepted as of Dec. 28. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Infurna is causing great public harm by abandoning his clients’ cases, failing to appear for legal proceedings, making misrepresentations to clients as well as to at least one judge, and by engaging in a pattern of verbally attacking clients, former employees, and fellow attorneys. (Case No: SC20-1834) 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 a final disciplinary action is ordered.
John Christopher Kenny, 1700 N. Monroe St., Suite 11-131, Tallahassee, suspended for 60 days effective immediately following a Dec. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Kenny was hired to handle an adoption matter and failed to timely respond to the petition for adoption served on his client. He failed to competently and diligently handle his client’s legal matter, resulting in a motion for default being entered against his client. (Case No: SC20-814)
Bryan Alexander Kutchins, 3980 Tampa Road, Suite 101, Oldsmar, suspended for one year and payment of restitution effective 30 days following a Dec. 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Kutchins was retained in a guardianship matter when he did not have sufficient experience in handling guardianship proceedings and charged excessive fees. On Nov. 30, 2016, the court issued an order prohibiting Kutchins from accepting any further payments pursuant to the contract. Rather, Kutchins’ compensation was limited to what was provided by statute, which required court approval of attorney’s fees. Kutchins denied knowledge of the Nov. 30, 2016, order, and accepted a payment from the client on Dec. 12, 2016, in violation of the order. (Case No: SC20-525)
James Russell Leone, 1594 Ross Drive, Deltona, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective 30 days following a Dec. 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Leone was the subject of a Florida Bar investigation wherein he was alleged to have misled or misrepresented facts or law to a nonlawyer relating to residential property over which Leone was asserting a legal interest for his client.. Leone filed an action for ejectment, but the trial court found Leone failed to establish any legal basis for his client’s claim. Leone had previously represented his client in at least seven similar matters. (Case No: SC20-1553)
Carmen Diana Lubbecke, 715 N. Washington Blvd., Suite B, Sarasota, suspended for one year effective 30 days following a Dec. 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Lubbecke represented a husband and wife in a foreclosure defense case. Thereafter, she entered into an agreement with the husband to receive proceeds from the sale of the house in foreclosure as payment for legal fees. Lubbecke did not advise the clients to seek the advice of independent counsel. Lubbecke communicated with the husband and entered into a legal agreement regarding purchasing the home, which she did not ultimately do. While representing the wife in the foreclosure, Lubbecke filed a lawsuit against her to remove her name from the property pursuant to the party’s agreement in their divorce. (Case No: SC20-1786)
Ronald Louis Nelson, 1247 1 Ave. N., St. Petersburg, suspended for 91 days effective immediately following a Nov. 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Nelson was held in contempt of the court’s order dated March 27 for failing to notify clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension. (Case No: SC20-1365)
Mayowa F. Odusanya, 1315 Oakfield Drive, Brandon, suspended for three years effective immediately following a Nov. 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Odusanya was hired to handle post-conviction matters for a client convicted of criminal charges in the Sixth and Thirteenth Judicial Circuits. Odusanya filed a Notice of Appearance in one circuit’s case but filed no pleadings in the cases in the other circuit. Odusanya failed to diligently pursue relief for his client and failed to provide substantive information to his client’s family and his client, who was incarcerated in a state prison. (Case No: SC19-1309)
Ernest Maloney Page IV, 115 W. Drew St., Perry, disciplinary revocation effective 30 days following a Dec. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Page was charged by Information in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division. On Sept. 3, Page pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds. Page filed for disciplinary revocation, which was granted by the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 10. (Case No: SC20-1338)
Mark Payne, 9040 Town Center Pkwy., Lakewood Ranch, disbarred effective 30 days following a Dec. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Payne and his wife own Real Estate Services Group, Inc., a Florida corporation that buys and sells real estate. Payne purchased a home after final judgment in a foreclosure action. After the purchase, Payne contacted the homeowners, offering to represent them in the foreclosure action brought by their mortgage lender. Payne did not enter into a written agreement with the homeowner clients, nor explain or seek their consent for his simultaneous ownership interest in and legal representation of Real Estate Services Group. In addition to the conflict of interest, Payne failed to make the necessary and proper disclosures to the lender and made misrepresentations to all parties. (Case No: SC18-680)
John Chandler Ross, 1025 Indian River Ave., Titusville, suspended for three years with proof of rehabilitation required prior to being reinstated effective 30 days following a Nov. 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) This was a reciprocal discipline based upon the Dec. 18, 2019, order of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, entered in a forfeiture case wherein the court removed Ross as counsel for the client and directed that he be suspended from the practice of law before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The court found it necessary to take steps to remove Ross as counsel because of his abandonment of the client and the case. (Case No: SC20-588)
Leonardo Adrian Roth, 201 S. Biscayne Blvd., Suite 905, Miami, disbarred, effective immediately from a Dec. 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Roth was previously disbarred in 2013 but in three separate grievances with the bar, he is alleged to have held himself out as an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. The complainants in these cases assert that they received legal advice and other services from Roth and that he did not disclose his disbarment. (SC20-1260)
James M. Thomas, 36181 E. Lake Road, Suite 414, Palm Harbor, suspended for one year effective 30 days following a Dec. 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) Thomas represented a complainant in a civil matter involving damage to the complainant’s condominium. The court entered summary judgment as to liability in favor of the complainant and reserved ruling on the amount of damages and attorney’s fees and costs. Thereafter, Thomas failed to appear at two properly noticed pre-trial conferences. As a result, the court entered an order dismissing the complainant’s case without prejudice. The trial court found that Thomas’ failure to appear could not be explained as a mere calendaring error and was more than excusable neglect. The consequence of the dismissal resulted in the complainant recovering nothing and being required to pay $30,563.10 in attorney’s fees to Thomas. Thomas refiled a new case for the complainant but failed to pursue it. (Case No: SC18-1391)
Ryan Christopher Wagner, 110 S.E. 6 St., Suite 1420, Fort Lauderdale, public reprimand and held in contempt effective immediately following a Nov. 24 court date. (Admitted to practice: 2014) Wagner failed to respond to an official Bar inquiry in a timely manner. (Case No: SC20-1361)
Michael Lee Weimorts, P.O. Box 4926, Santa Rosa Beach, disbarred and must pay $3,500 in restitution to the Summerhaven North Townhome Association effective 30 days following a Dec. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) Weimorts failed to diligently represent the homeowners association, failed to communicate with the client for more than two years, failed to respond to Florida Bar inquiries, and failed to participate in the disciplinary proceedings. (Case No: SC20-555)
Katrina Wegmann, 66 W. Flagler St., Suite 500, Miami, suspended for three years, effective 30 days following a Dec. 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Wegmann was arrested and charged with insurance fraud following a claim for damages to her home in which she misrepresented the date of the incident giving rise to the damages. After Wegmann successfully completes a Pretrial Diversion Agreement with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office, criminal charges will be dropped. (SC20-1795)
Sasha Bentley Weitzner, 37 N. Orange Ave., Suite 500, Orlando, suspended for 18 months effective 30 days following a Dec. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) While in court, Weitznerappeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The court requested a urinalysis, which Weitzner refused. He was then replaced at the client’s request. In another case, Weitzner fell asleep during voir dire, causing the judge to stop proceedings to wake him up and admonish him. When questioned, Weitzner denied being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In another matter, Weitzner was arrested on one count of Grand Theft and two counts of Petit Theft First Offense. He entered a residential treatment facility, where he remained for 18 months until being successfully discharged. He fully cooperated with The Bar’s investigation, showed remorse, and proved interim rehabilitation. (Case No: SC20-215)
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