SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 26 ATTORNEYS
Summaries of orders issued from October 29 to November 20, 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 26 attorneys, disbarring two, revoking the licenses of one, suspending 17 and reprimanding six. Three attorneys were placed on probation.
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.
Santiago Asconapé, 5515 S. Park Avenue, Hinsdale, IL, suspended for 91 days and required to undergo a mental evaluation before applying for reinstatement to The Florida Bar effective 30 days following a Nov. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Asconapé was convicted in Florida on a misdemeanor charge of cyberstalking and sentenced to 11 months, 29 days probation without early termination. Respondent was also required by the court order to complete 25 hours of community service, to submit to a mental evaluation and undergo any recommended treatment. Asconapé’s probation was terminated on March 4. (Case No: SC20-557)
Shirley Linette Bates,1450 Lake Bradford Road, Suite C, Tallahassee, public reprimand effective 30 days following an Oct. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Bates received fees to file a post-conviction action and then contracted with a paralegal to draft the motion. Bates did not respond to client requests for updates or provide a draft of the motion despite repeated requests. The client terminated Bates as her attorney and Bates agreed to issue a partial refund. (Case No: SC20-552)
Alexis Trischa-Day Benjamin, P.O. Box 220025, Hollywood, suspended for six months, effective 30 days following an Oct. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Benjamin neglected clients in two employment discrimination lawsuits and a garnishment case. In each case, there were procedural deficiencies, mistakes in pleadings and/or missed deadlines. She also failed to keep clients adequately informed. (Case No: SC19-2003).
Kevin Keenan Chase, 709 Laurel Way, Casselberry, suspended for one year, effective immediately following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) On Nov. 13, 2017, Chase was involved in two motor vehicle accidents resulting in property damage and left the scenes of the accidents. Charges filed pertaining to both accidents were dismissed. After being arrested for a separate incident on June 22, 2018, Chase was adjudicated guilty of driving under the influence and failed to comply with a court order. (Case No: SC20-1575)
Oded Chayoun, 633 N.E. 167 St., Suite 1112, North Miami Beach, disbarred with leave to apply for readmission after five years, effective 30 days following an Oct. 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Chayoun failed to perform any significant services for a client despite charging an initial fee and also failed to properly communicate with the client. When answering to The Bar, Chayoun submitted several letters with inconsistencies regarding nonpayment for services, demonstrating the falsehood of his representations. (Case No: SC19-484)
Daniel S. Ciener, P.O. Box 540459, Merritt Island, suspended for 30 days and directed to attend Ethics School effective 30 days following a Nov. 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1967) Ciener failed to provide his client with competent and diligent representation in a criminal case. Ciener visited his client at the jail only once over a period of 10 months, failed to provide his client with discovery materials, and failed to adequately communicate with his client regarding the preparation of his client’s defense. (Case No: SC20-1571)
Lillian Clover, P.O. Box 5305, Titusville, suspended for 90 days with automatic reinstatement to the practice of law effective 30 days following a Nov. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Clover neglected a family law case and failed to tell the client that she would be unable to complete the case due to personal issues. Although Clover found new attorneys to represent other clients, this client’s case was overlooked. The client eventually hired new counsel and Clover provided the client with a full refund. (Case No: SC20-1556)
Nicole Blair Dickerson, P.O. Box 26095, Los Angeles, Calif., and 33 E. Robinson St., Suite 113, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following a Nov. 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) Dickerson failed to provide a copy of the Supreme Court’s March 5 order of suspension to all active clients, opposing counsel and courts where she was counsel of record, as required, and failed to file with The Florida Bar her required affidavit certifying those notifications. Dickerson communicated with one client after being suspended, and ultimately abandoned her clients without protecting their interests and without refunding any unearned legal fees. Her law office website and LinkedIn profile continued to show she was practicing law. (Case No: SC20-1452)
Jaminette De Jesús-Felicier, P.O. Box 772705, Orlando, public reprimand with one-year of probation effective immediately following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) De Jesús-Felicier and her husband, Feliz Anthony Felicier failed to diligently represent a criminal defendant resulting in the trial judge issuing an order removing them as attorneys of record. The trial court’s order set forth factual findings of De Jesús-Felicier and her husband’s failure to appear for the trial on Aug. 19, 2019, her husband’s multiple failures to appear for hearings and his failure to appear for trial on Feb. 4, 2019. (Case No: SC20-1111)
Felix Anthony Felicier, P.O. Box 772705, Orlando, suspended for three years effective 30 days following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Felicier failed to maintain adequate trust accounting records and failed to adequately follow required trust accounting procedures resulting in a shortage in the trust account. He made disbursements to his clients in two contingency fee matters without having a signed closing statement and improperly shared fees with a nonlawyer. In addition, Felicier and his wife, Jaminette De Jesús-Felicier failed to diligently represent a criminal defendant resulting in the trial judge issuing an order removing them as attorneys of record. The trial court’s order set forth factual findings of Felicier’s multiple failures to appear for hearings, his failure to appear for trial on Feb. 4, 2019, and Felicier and his wife’s failure to appear for a trial on Aug. 19, 2019. (Case No: SC20-1110)
Gregory Robert Garner, P.O. Box 940005, Maitland, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective 30 days following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Garner failed to diligently and promptly handle probate matters, failed to maintain adequate client communication and failed to timely respond to the Bar’s investigative inquiries. He also allowed a shortage, which he has since replaced, to develop in his law office trust account. (Case No: SC20-146)
Christine Marie Humphrey, 601 Brickell Key Drive, Suite 700, Miami, public reprimanded, effective immediately following a Nov. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Humphrey failed to provide all services provided for in a retainer agreement. She was ordered to pay restitution for the unearned fees. In a second matter, Humphrey promised to refund a retainer to a client, but failed to do so. In a third case, Humphrey failed to communicate that 75 percent of the retainer had been used pursuant to the retainer agreement. However, Humphrey absorbed the bill and the client did not remit any additional fees. (Case No: SC20-1542)
Stephen Michael Jones, 390 N. Orange Ave., Suite 2300, Orlando, emergency suspended effective 30 days following a Nov. 9 court order for existing matters. (Admitted to practice: 2015) On Feb. 20, a client filed a complaint alleging that in 2018 and 2019, Jones received 11 checks totaling $11,001.95 on his behalf, cashed those checks and failed to remit the funds — which represented garnished wages awarded in a final judgment – to the client. In another complaint, a client alleged that Jones received an insurance settlement on his behalf but had not paid his medical bills. Jones has abandoned his law practice, and The Bar has determined that he misappropriated client funds. Jones has failed to respond to any of The Bar’s inquiries. (Case No: SC20-1593)
David Stuart Kaufman, 5601 Collins Ave., Apt. 1507, Miami Beach, suspended for six months, effective 30 days following a Nov. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1977) Kaufman used a third-party company to search the public records and contact prospective clients who had a surplus on foreclosure cases and shared fees with the company, while charging an excessive contingent fee. (Case No: SC20-1181)
Erica Helene Kobloth, 5613 Pacific Blvd., Apt. 3307, Boca Raton, suspended for one year effective immediately following a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Kobloth was held in contempt of the Supreme Court’s order dated Dec. 13, 2019, for failing to notify clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her prior suspension. (Case No: SC20-1018)
Patrick James Landy, Jr., 997 S. Wickham Road, Melbourne, public reprimand with three years’ probation, effective immediately following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2017) Landy entered no contest pleas to two amended charges of misdemeanor stalking, which were related to a previous personal relationship. The court withheld adjudication, placing Landy on probation for one year as to each count to run consecutive, with early termination permitted after one year upon successful completion of all conditions of probation. (Case No: SC20-1578)
Derek Vaughn Lewis, P.O. Box 1152, Fort Pierce, suspended for 30 days effective 30 days following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Lewis notified a client in a criminal matter he would need to hire appellate counsel for an appeal following a criminal conviction; nonetheless, Lewis filed a notice of appeal on behalf of the client. Despite two motions for extensions of time to file the initial brief, the court dismissed the case for lack of compliance with the court orders extending time. Lewis ceased communication with the client after filing the notice of appeal and subsequent extensions. (Case No: SC20-1572)
Reginald Luster, 1751 University Blvd. S., Suite A, Jacksonville, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a Nov. 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Luster settled a personal injury case without advising the complainant, a chiropractor treating Luster’s clients, and failed to protect or otherwise pay the bills for their treatment. After a trust account audit, no violations were found but also no evidence that Luster had protected the complainant’s funds. The clients indicated that they did not inform Luster to not pay the complainant and had no knowledge that he was not paid. They provided their closing statements which were originals, and which lacked certain language added by Luster to his copies which he provided to the Bar. When asked about the discrepancy, Luster acknowledged his mistake and expressed remorse. Luster did subsequently pay the complainant the money owed to him. (Case No: SC20-930)
Mark Alan Marder, 84 Big Island Trail, Ponte Vedra, suspended for 90 days effective 30 days following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1978) Marder received earnest money deposits totaling $30,000 for two real estate contracts on his client’s property in 2006 and 2007. After the sales fell through, Marder took the funds as his fees. The client filed a complaint. Marder and his client reached an agreement in which Marder refunded $17,000 to his client. Marder improperly requested his client withdraw his Bar complaint as a result of the agreement. Additionally, Marder failed to properly maintain trust account records and failed to properly follow minimum trust accounting procedures. (Case No: SC20-1565)
Jonathan Ari Markhoff, 1835 N.E. Miami Gardens Drive, Suite 143, North Miami Beach, suspended for 45 days effective 30 days following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Markhoff entered into a partnership in a company with a non-lawyer who was an expert in the field of Medicaid benefits. The company provided both legal and nonlegal services to a client but there was no separation of those services, and no separate retainers. Markhoff’s fees came from payments made to the company. A non-lawyer employee gave legal advice to the clients to transfer assets to their adult daughter but Markhoff advised same clients to rescind such transfer and enter into service agreements with their daughter instead. (Case No: SC20-1581)
Stefan E. McHardy, 15800 Pines Blvd., Suite 300, Pembroke Pines, suspended effective 30 days following a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1982) The Florida Bar filed its Petition for Contempt and Order to Show Cause on May 8 because McHardy failed to respond to a Florida Bar inquiry. On that same day, the Florida Supreme Court ordered McHardy to show cause by May 26, which he also failed to do. (Case No: SC20-661)
Larry Thomas McMillan, 3250 Mary St., Suite 406, Coconut Grove, suspended for 90 days effective 30 days following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) McMillan made misrepresentations to the bank regarding a credit card dispute. He presented significant mitigation and provided a full refund of the legal fees. (Case No: SC20-1587).
Bert Edward Moore, P.O. Box 1622, Crestview, 90-day suspension with one-year probation and attend Ethics School and Professionalism Workshop effective 30 days following an Oct. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1981) Moore failed to properly and timely withdraw from his client’s criminal appeal. He remained attorney of record on the criminal appeal for almost two years after the client wanted him to withdraw. (Case No: SC20-535)
Marla Jayne Rawnsley, 101 N. Woodland Blvd., Suite 301, Deland, public reprimand and required attendance at The Florida Bar’s Trust Accounting Workshop effective immediately following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Rawnsley failed to timely notify her client’s prior counsel of the settlement and receipt of funds in trust on the client’s behalf after having been previously notified of prior counsel’s asserted entitlement of fees and costs for his prior representation. (Case No: SC20-1548)
Aubrey George Rudd, 100 Edgewater Drive, Apt. A, Miami, suspended for 91 days effective Nunc pro tunc to Aug. 1. (Admitted to practice: 1991) During The Bar’s investigation of Rudd’s petition for reinstatement from a suspension imposed in a prior discipline action, it was discovered that Rudd had filed divorce petitions on behalf of two clients following entry of that prior suspension order, but before its effective date, and was further unable to provide proof that he notified two clients, a judge, and opposing counsel of his suspension. Rudd also engaged in acts of misconduct unrelated to the practice of law including failing to accurately update his homestead status and not reporting rental income on his tax returns; both of which were corrected. (Case No: SC20-1567)
James Wesley Smith, III, 9100 Conroy Windermere Road, Suite 200, Windermere, public reprimand and completion of office procedures and record-keeping analysis by and under the direction of The Florida Bar’s Diversion/Discipline Consultation Service effective immediately following a Nov. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Smith failed to competently and diligently handle several clients’ appeals resulting in the Fifth District Court of Appeal issuing orders sanctioning him. (Case No: SC20-1545)
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