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- 2012 - September - 10th -

Supreme Court disciplines 24 attorneys

from The Florida Bar News

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 24 attorneys, disbarring eight and suspending 13.

Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. One attorney was placed on probation; three attorneys were publicly reprimanded; and four were ordered to pay restitution.

Two are from the Jacksonville area.

Richard C. Watson of Jacksonville was publicly reprimanded.

Branch Lamar Winegeart III of Jacksonville Beach was suspended for one year.

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 93,000-plus lawyers admitted to practice law in Florida.

Since Aug. 1, 2007, case files have been posted to attorneys' individual Florida Bar profiles and may be reviewed at and/or downloaded from The Florida Bar's website, www.floridabar.org.

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, fewer than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.

• William A. Abruzzino, 150 Trotter Ridge Drive, Mooresville, N.C., disbarred for 10 years, effective retroactive to June 1, 2011, following a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) Abruzzino was arrested and charged with a first degree felony for exploitation of the elderly. Abruzzino's misappropriation of his Alzheimer's/dementia-afflicted client's funds resulted in a sentence of five years in prison, followed by probation.  He was also ordered to pay restitution of $202,020.50 to the client. (Case No. SC11-1308)

• Alexander Joseph Alfano, 2655 S. Le Jeune Road, No. 403, Coral Gables, suspended for 10 days, effective 30 days from a June 29 court order. Further, upon reinstatement, Alfano is placed on probation for four months. (Admitted to practice: 1993) Alfano will also attend the Bar's ethics school and complete 10 CLER hours in Immigration Law within 90 days of the Supreme Court Order. Alfano exhibited a lack of diligence and competence, and failed to adequately communicate with a client in an immigration case. He is also ordered to pay restitution of $10,000 to the client within 30 days of the Supreme Court Order. (Case No. SC11-1812)

• Larry Herbert Colleton, P.O. Box 677459, Orlando, suspended for six months, effective 30 days from a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Colleton engaged in a pattern of misconduct. In several separate instances, Colleton was retained to represent clients and he failed to communicate and failed to provide adequate and timely representation. He also failed to maintain proper trust account records and he failed to follow proper trust accounting procedures. (Case Nos. SC11-1459 and SC12-177)

• Thomas W. Dvorak, 633 S. Andrews Ave., Suite 402, Fort Lauderdale, suspended for three years, effective immediately, following a July 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Dvorak was held in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of a March 22 suspension order. Dvorak was required to notify his clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension and provide to The Florida Bar within 30 days of his suspension a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of his suspension order. (Case No. SC12-1033)

• Eduardo Exposito, 8410 N.W. 53rd Terrace, Suite 100, Miami, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a July 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Exposito was held in contempt for failure to comply with the terms of an April 2010 disbarment order. Despite being disbarred, Exposito continued to practice law. (Case No. SC12-1017)

• Patricia A. Johnston, Calle Cesar Chavez 84, Arrecife de Lanzarote, Canary, Spain, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a July 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Johnston was found in contempt for non-compliance with the terms of a March 8 disbarment order. She was required to provide to the Bar within 30 days of her disbarment, a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of the disbarment order. (Case No. SC12-939)

• Karen Sue Keaton, P.O. Box 1139, St. Petersburg, to be publicly reprimanded by the Board of Governors following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984)  Keaton had a longtime personal and familial relationship with a client that she agreed to assist in an estate planning matter. In the preparation of the trust, several amendments were made. Keaton violated Bar rules by being named a contingent beneficiary. (Case No. SC10-1144)

• Petia Dimitrova Knowles, 5110 S.W. 101st Ave., Cooper City, suspended for one year, retroactive to Feb. 16, following a July 12 court order. Knowles is further required to attend ethics school and a professionalism workshop (Admitted to practice: 2005).  Knowles revealed confidential information regarding her client, whom she represented in an immigration matter, to the assistant state attorney handling an unrelated criminal case against the same client. In addition, Knowles made numerous disparaging statements about her client in two motions to withdraw filed with the immigration court, which the court found to be highly prejudicial to the administration of justice. (Case No. SC10-1019)

• Cedric Eugene Lewis, 631 Heather Glen Loop, Winter Haven, disbarred effective retroactive to June 18, 2009, following a June 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Lewis was the subject of a Bar disciplinary proceeding stemming in part from an employee's theft of funds from Lewis’ real estate trust account. Lewis failed to produce trust and financial documents pursuant to two Grievance Committee subpoenas. After a 2009 suspension, Lewis was required to provide the Bar with an affidavit verifying that he’d notified his clients, opposing counsel and certain courts of his suspension. Again, he failed to comply. Lewis was also ineligible to practice law due to CLER and other delinquencies. (Case No. SC12-1076)

• Steven Neil Lippman, P.O. Box 550242, Fort Lauderdale, disbarred effective 10 days from a July 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Before joining the law firm Rothstein, Rosenfelt & Adler, Lippman was a partner in the law firm Lippman, Valinski & Storfer. After joining the new company, Lippman continued to maintain the LVS bank account.  From 2006 through 2008, Lippman conspired with Scott Rothstein and others in a check-kiting scheme used to artificially inflate RRA bank account balances using the LVS account. They also bundled campaign contributions on behalf of RRA in violation of federal campaign finance laws that constituted felonies. (Case No. SC12-1216)

• Thomas C. Matevia, 4521 PGA Blvd., No. 254, Palm Beach Gardens, suspended for three years, effective 30 days from a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1970) Matevia worked at a high volume law firm providing loan modification services, in which he was ultimately unable to meet his payroll and other financial obligations. The financial failure of the law firm caused at least 41 complaints to be filed with The Florida Bar, by clients that paid a retainer fee for Matevia to handle cases for them that he didn’t complete. He also violated Bar rules by paying bonuses to non-lawyer employees for signing up clients for the law firm. Matevia was also ordered to pay restitution of $102,049 to clients. (Case No. SC12-1118)

• Erin Ray Morgan, 115 Gaskin Ave. N., Douglas, Ga., suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a July 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Morgan was found guilty in the circuit court of South Dakota of one count of felonious possession of marijuana. She also failed to inform The Florida Bar of her indictment and conviction. (Case No. SC12-1492)

• Mark Vernon Morsch, 5151 Garlanger Trail, Oviedo, disbarred effective immediately, following a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Morsch was the subject of several Bar disciplinary matters. In one instance he misappropriated more than $28,000 of a client's settlement funds and used the money for his own purposes. He then misrepresented to the client and the Bar that potential claims against the estate were paid. (Case No. SC11-1310 and SC11-2095)

• Janet Pittman Reed, 226 Royal Bluff Road, Jacksonville, N.C., disbarred effective immediately, following a June 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) This is a reciprocal discipline action. Reed was a member of the North Carolina State Bar. She was suspended from practicing law in North Carolina in 2010 for five years. In one instance, Reed knowingly made false statements to the court. (Case No. SC11-1868)

• Robert Victor Rossenwasser, 99 N.W. 183rd St., Suite 100B, North Miami, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from a June 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) Rossenwasser is the subject of several Bar disciplinary matters stemming from his involvement in a loan modification business. (Case No. SC12-1120)

• James Thomas Roslund, P.O. Box 36196, Detroit, Mich., suspended until further order, following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Roslund appeared to be causing great public harm. Roslund is also licensed to practice in Michigan. After representing a Michigan client in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, Roslund authorized the client to make direct monthly payment deductions to cover his fee. The client subsequently requested a receipt and offered to settle the balance in a final lump sum payment. Roslund failed to respond to the client's requests, failed to fully refund the client and failed to respond to Michigan Bar counsel.  (Case No. SC12-1158)

• Linda Marie Smith, 11900 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 503, Miami, to be publicly reprimanded following a June 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1979) Smith used an account number as both a trust account and an operating account, depositing and disbursing client trust funds as well as earned fees and day-to-day operating expenses. Those actions resulted in the commingling of trust and personal funds, although a Bar review did not reveal misuse or misappropriation of client funds. (Case No. SC12-1075)

• Patricia Anne Snyder, P.O. Box 420188, Summerland Key, suspended for three years effective immediately, following a July 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) Snyder failed to comply with the terms of a March 8 suspension order. She was required to provide to the Bar within 30 days of her suspension, a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of the suspension order. (Case No. SC12-953)

• Kelly Earlise Speer, P.O. Box 172067, Tampa, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Speer was found in contempt for failing to respond to official Bar inquiries, including a failure to appear and respond to subpoenas served on her in two disciplinary matters. (Case No. SC12-833)

• Edwin Richard Tilton, 418 N. Main St., Gainesville, suspended effective 30 days from a June 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) Tilton pleaded no contest in court to two crimes: the burglary of a structure, a third-degree felony, and violation of pretrial release for domestic violence, a first-degree misdemeanor. (Case No. SC12-1228)

• N. James Turner, 9 N. Shine Ave., Orlando, suspended for 90 days, effective immediately, following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1975) Turner was found guilty by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission of multiple canon violations, which recommended his removal from judicial office. Turner was removed as a judge by the Supreme Court of Florida on Nov. 18, 2011. (Case No. SC12-282)

• Michelle R. Tustin, 12737 Tamiami Trail S., North Port, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a June 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Tustin was found in contempt for non-compliance with the terms of a March disbarment order. Tustin was required to provide to the Bar within 30 days of her disbarment, a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of the disbarment order.  (Case No. SC12-924)

• Richard C. Watson, 3127 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville, to be publicly reprimanded following a June 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) After being retained to represent clients in a time-sensitive matter, Watson failed to adequately communicate with them. The clients subsequently filed a grievance with The Florida Bar and Watson withdrew from the case. (Case No. SC12-828)

• Branch Lamar Winegeart III, 222 Second Ave. S., Jacksonville Beach, suspended for one year, effective retroactive to July 8, 2011, following a June 21 court order. Further, Winegeart shall pay restitution of $2,500 to one client. (Admitted to practice: 1979) In April 2008, Winegeart was paid $3,700 to represent a client in a criminal matter. He appeared at hearings between May and July, but after that, all communication ceased until the client filed a grievance. He ultimately hired new counsel to complete the case.  Winegeart also failed to communicate with a client after being hired to represent him in a divorce matter. (Case No. SC12-335)

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