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 one, emergency suspending one, suspending five, and reprimanding two.
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.
Michael Andrew Adams, P.O. Box 560489, Orlando, suspended for 45 days and required to complete Ethics School, effective 30 days following an April 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Adams did not follow proper procedures for lawyers leaving law firms. Adams failed to negotiate with his employing firm an acceptable joint letter to be sent to the affected clients. Instead, Adams and his law partner unilaterally mailed a letter to the affected clients advising them of their departure from the firm and of the clients’ rights to choose to remain a client of the law firm, to choose representation by the departing lawyer’s firm, or to choose representation by another law firm. (Case No: SC22-1410)
Hazem Reda Bata, 6353 Silver Leaf Drive, Zionsville, Indiana, suspended for 60 days and ordered to attend Ethics School, effective May 15, 2023. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Bata served as an escrow agent for a land deal in the Bahamas. An initial deposit on behalf of the buyer was provided by an investor who subsequently requested the return of the funds. Bata returned the funds and failed to notify the parties to the contract. The contract remained in limbo for over a decade while various issues with the land were resolved. In 2019, when the parties were ready to finalize the deal, the buyer learned for the first time that Bata no longer had the funds in his possession. (Case No: SC22-1361)
Jonathon Charles Avery Blevins, P.O. Box 560489, Orlando, suspended for 60 days and required to complete Ethics School, effective 30 days following an April 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Blevins did not follow proper procedures for lawyers leaving law firms. Blevins failed to negotiate with his employing firm an acceptable joint letter to be sent to the affected clients. Instead, Blevins and his law partner unilaterally mailed a letter to the affected clients advising them of their departure from the firm and of the clients’ rights to choose to remain a client of the law firm, to choose representation by the departing lawyer’s firm, or to choose representation by another law firm. (Case No: SC22-1415)
Joseph Lester Boles Jr., 19 Riberia St., Saint Augustine, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days following an April 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) In several instances, Boles failed to make the required disclosures and obtain the required written statements acknowledging that the disclosures were made to the testator before appointing himself as backup successor trustee or personal representative in violation of Florida statutes. Boles also engaged in a conflict of interest in a probate matter by failing to advise the beneficiaries to seek independent counsel before having them sign waivers of their right as a beneficiary and appointing himself as surrogate beneficiary. (Case No: SC22-1628)
Brett A. Elam, 105 S. Narcissus Ave., Suite 802, West Palm Beach, permanently disbarred, effective immediately following an April 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Elam was disbarred following a March 28, 2019, court order for misappropriation, misrepresentation and violating a court order. Despite his disbarment, Elam continued to engage in the active practice of law. Elam was permanently disbarred for contempt of the Supreme Court of Florida. (Case No: SC23-328)
George Crosby Gaskell, III, P.O. Box 1111, Stuart, publicly reprimanded and ordered to complete The Florida Bar’s Trust Accounting Workshop, to participate in The Florida Bar’s Fee Arbitration program with the affected clients, and in Florida Lawyer’s Assistance, Inc.’s program, effective immediately following an April 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Gaskell represented two clients in an eviction case. After he successfully negotiated a settlement, a dispute arose between Gaskell and his clients regarding his legal fees. Gaskell believed the clients orally authorized him to keep the settlement funds as payment of the fees owed but did not reduce the agreement to writing. After Gaskell took the funds as payment, the clients disputed that this agreement existed. Gaskell’s failure to maintain adequate communication with his clients contributed to the misunderstanding about his legal fees. (Case No: SC22-948)
Gary Grant, 1498 SW 5th Ave., Boca Raton, publicly reprimanded and referred to the Diversion/Discipline Consultation Service (“DDCS”) of The Florida Bar, effective immediately following a March 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2017) The court found that Grant, who represented a third party in post-judgment collection activities, including in a deposition and proceedings supplementary, pursuant to Fla. Stat. §56.29 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 69, acted with incompetence and made misstatements and baseless arguments in pleadings to the court. Grant admits that he made mistakes in representing his client, but that said mistakes were due to a lack of competence rather than any intentional misrepresentation. (Case No: SC23-0353)
Brandon Scott Labiner, 2322 LaVida Way, Boca Raton, emergency suspended, effective 30 days following an April 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2016) Labiner is alleged to have misappropriated approximately $540,000 from a trust for which he acts as trustee, altered documents and made misrepresentations to The Florida Bar regarding his misconduct. (Case No: SC23-0525)
Jonathan Grant Morton, 1395 Brickell Ave., Suite 900, Miami, suspended for 18 months, effective 30 days following a March 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) This is a reciprocal disciplinary action, resulting from an order of discipline from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, imposing an eighteen-month suspension for Morton’s failure to limit the volume of his trademark practice to an amount for whom he could provide competent representation. Morton’s grossly inflated clientele resulted in his failure to properly review each application prior to filing same, as well as his failure to conduct required pre-filing inquiries, despite his certification that he had done so. (Case No: SC22-1574)