SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 11 ATTORNEYS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 30, 2017
CONTACT: The Florida Bar Public Information Dept.,
The Florida Bar
TELEPHONE: (850) 561-5666
Summaries of orders issued Sept. 13 – Oct. 26, 2017
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 11 attorneys – disbarring three, suspending six and publicly reprimanding two. Three attorneys were also 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 104,000-plus 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. Additional 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 rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam. Historically, less than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.
Heather Aquafresca, 9 Whitcomb St., Apt. 2L, Webster, Mass., suspended for three years, effective immediately, following a Sept. 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Aquafresca was found in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of a March 8 suspension order. She was required to notify her clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her suspension, and provide the Bar within 30 days a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that were furnished a copy of the suspension order. (Case No. SC17-960)
Renee Binns, 2040 N.E. 5th Terrace, Cape Coral, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a Sept. 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) In one case, Binns was found in contempt for violating several Bar rules. She practiced law while a suspended and delinquent member of the Bar. She failed to pay restitution; failed to timely provide notice of her suspension to her clients, opposing counsel and the courts; she failed to pay costs. In another case, Binns was found guilty of neglecting a client matter, failing to provide trust account records, and commingling funds. (Case Nos. SC16-1970 & SC17-181)
Arturo Dopazo III, 1675 S.W. 27th Ave., Miami, suspended for one year, effective 30 days from an Oct. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) Days after a woman’s son suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, Dopazo approached the woman at a hospital and successfully solicited her to become his client. (Case No. SC15-1305)
Nicholas Randall Jones, 12837 Madison Pointe Circle, Apt. 207, Orlando, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Sept. 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Jones was found in contempt for non-compliance. He failed to respond to an official Bar inquiry. (Case No. SC16-2149)
Carol Lynn Benson Kendall, 2719 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 164, Hollywood, disbarred effective immediately, following a Sept. 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Further, Kendall shall pay restitution of $1,075 to one client. Kendall was retained by clients in two separate cases but failed to adequately represent them. In one instance, she took little or no significant action and failed to keep the client properly informed or return calls. In the second matter, Kendall withdrew from representation, forcing the client to hire new counsel. (Case No. SC17-227)
Talitha Marcine Leacock, 601 Market St., Kissimmee, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from a Sept. 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Further, Leacock shall pay restitution of $300 to a personal representative for an estate. She failed to diligently represent clients after being retained. In one matter, Leacock failed to attend three hearings on behalf of her client. She failed to timely respond to investigative inquiries from the Bar about cases, and she failed to return unearned client fees. (Case No. SC17-348)
Jan Marie McCray, 10415 Harborbluff Way, Tampa, suspended for 91 days, effective retroactive to Oct. 13, following an Oct. 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Further, McCray shall pay restitution of $1,500 to one client. McCray was not familiar with probate cases; nevertheless she accepted a retainer to handle one in September 2014, for a client who was also a family friend. McCray subsequently failed to appear in court, failed to communicate with the client, relocated her office to another city and failed to perform services. A Bar audit found that McCray failed to maintain minimum required trust account records. (Case No. SC17-57)
Stewart Meagher McGough, 507 Plum St., Suite 300, Syracuse, New York, to receive a public reprimand, administered by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar, following a Sept. 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) Further, McGough shall attend ethics school and a professionalism workshop, and complete 10 additional hours of continuing legal education credits in estate planning. McGough is licensed to practice law in Florida and New York. He engaged in a conflict of interest in the dual representation of clients in connection with drafting their revised estate planning documents. (Case No. SC16-1951)
Christopher Michael Ochoa, 212 Trout River Drive, Jacksonville, suspended until further order, following a Sept. 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) According to a petition for emergency suspension order, Ochoa appeared to be causing great public harm. More than $1 million was transferred into Ochoa’s trust account for a business deal, and he failed to return the money upon request. He also solicited a client for loan modification/foreclosure rescue services, and then abandoned the client. Ochoa has failed to officially respond to or communicate with the Bar. (Case No. SC17-1632)
John Arthur Smitten, 622 Bypass Drive, Suite 100, Clearwater, disbarred effective 30 days from a Sept. 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Smitten pleaded guilty in court and was adjudicated guilty of grand theft, a felony. Smitten had improperly deposited more than $88,000 belonging to his employer or the employer’s clients into his personal bank account instead of the law firm’s account. (Case No. SC17-1337)
Vasilios Alexander Venakides, 3433 Jones Ferry Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to be publicly reprimanded following a Sept. 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2013) Venakides was retained to handle a dissolution of marriage, but after filing the petition, he ceased communication with the client. Venakides subsequently became a delinquent member of the Bar due to failure to complete continuing legal education requirements. The Bar later discovered he had relocated to North Carolina and failed to update his address. (Case No. SC17-365)
EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."