SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 9 ATTORNEYS
Summaries of orders issued from Mar. 30, 2023 to April 28, 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 nine attorneys, disbarring three, suspending three, revoking the licenses of two and 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 110,000 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 James Acree, P.O. Box 32552, Palm Beach Gardens, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission, effective immediately following an April 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) On January 4, 2023, Acree was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to 41 months in prison to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, after he entered a plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. (Case No: SC23-332)
Stephen Matthew Bander, 121 NE 46th St., Miami, disbarred, effective 30 days following a May 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Following an SEC investigation, Bander was put on notice and reminded that commissions or kickbacks to a law firm are prohibited when representing clients in EB-5 immigration applications. After being put on notice, Bander accepted monies from a local regional center to which he referred three EB-5 clients for investment. Bander testified before the SEC that those monies belonged to the clients as a reimbursement for legal fees. However, Bander failed to notify his clients of receipt of the funds, placed them in his operating account rather than his trust account, and used the funds to pay firm expenses, rather than timely reimburse his clients. During the disciplinary proceedings, Bander changed his position and claimed the funds were direct payments to him for legal fees. (Case No: SC21-11)
Alex S. Barnett, P.O. Box 2890, Silver Spring, Maryland, suspended, effective immediately following a May 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2018) Barnett entered a plea of nolo contendere to the charge of written threats to conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism, in violation of Florida Statute 836.10(2)(b), a 2nd degree felony, and the court withheld adjudication. (Case No: SC23-0667)
Meredith Diane Jones, 207 South 2nd Street, Fort Pierce, disbarred, effective immediately following a May 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012). Jones engaged in a course of conduct in which she repeatedly failed to appear in court, failed to communicate with clients and opposing counsel, and ultimately abandoned her clients’ legal matters. In addition, Jones was already suspended for failing to fully respond, in writing, to three separate inquiries by The Florida Bar. (Case No: SC22-1739)
Mark Robert Moon, 9156 Cherry Trace, Seminole, disbarred, effective immediately following a May 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Moon failed to diligently represent his clients, failed to adequately communicate, and failed to refund any unused portion of the funds he was holding for the representation. He also failed to participate in the disciplinary proceedings. (Case No: SC22-638)
Dick Rongtzuu Lee, 4000 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 555-South, Hollywood, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days following a May 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Lee stipulated to probable cause for several trust account violations and a violation involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation. Lee is alleged to have misappropriated one client’s trust funds and committed other trust account and record keeping violations. There is evidence of complete restitution to the client. (Case No: SC23-0488)
Mark Alan Kamilar, 2921 SW 27th Ave., Miami, public reprimand, effective immediately following a May 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) Kamilar consented to a public reprimand for a conflict of interest between two clients: the law firm and its employee, the latter also subject of two separate bar grievances. Kamilar served as bar defense counsel for various attorneys from the law firm; authored the confidential termination agreement by which the employee left the law firm; and sent a letter to same employee threatening legal action on behalf of the law firm. Kamilar has withdrawn representation in the two bar matters. (Case No: SC23-0683).
Brian P. Rush, 3411 W. Fletcher Ave., Suite B, Tampa, suspended for three years, effective 30 days following a May 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1982) Rush failed to follow his client’s directives and placed his personal pecuniary interests ahead of the client’s stated goals in connection with his representation of the client in an eminent domain case. Rush also attempted to charge and collect a clearly excessive fee and engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Case No: SC20-1685)
Kathleen Lynn Smades, 217 Earl St., Tarpon Springs, suspended for three years nunc pro tunc December 4, 2021 (the date of respondent’s suspension from the practice of law after the filing of a felony determination), two years of probation upon application for reinstatement, and, prior to application for reinstatement, must complete the Multistate Professional Responsibilities Examination, obtain a determination from Florida Lawyer’s Assistance, Inc. that respondent is fit to practice and comply with medical and substance abuse treatment. (Admitted to practice: 1998) In 2013, Smades was arrested on three separate occasions for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Pinellas County. In each of these criminal cases, Smades was adjudicated guilty for first-degree misdemeanor offenses. In 2019, Smades was arrested on two separate occasions for DUI and Refusal to Submit to Testing in Pinellas County. She was adjudicated guilty for a third-degree felony offense in each of the 2019 criminal cases. Smades failed to inform The Florida Bar of any of the arrests or convictions. She argued that at the time of arrest she was suffering from Auto Brewery Syndrome. The referee found that respondent did not suffer from Auto Brewery Syndrome but rather alcohol use disorder. (Case No: SC21-1521)