Supreme Court disciplines 22 attorneys
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 22 attorneys, disbarring five, suspending 13 and publicly reprimanding four.
Three attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Two were placed on probation and one was 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 95,000-plus lawyers admitted to practice law in Florida.
Since 2007, case files have been posted to attorneys' individual Florida Bar profiles and may be reviewed at and downloaded from The Florida Bar's website, 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, less than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.
• G. Walter Araujo, 102 E. 49th St., Hialeah, suspended for 30 months, effective 30 days from a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Araujo admitted to the Bar that for numerous years he'd accepted clients from and shared fees with a non-lawyer. Additionally, Araujo did not maintain proper trust account records. A review of his trust account records as of March 31, 2010, showed a shortage of approximately $8,497. He also improperly solicited a client who had sustained injuries in an automobile accident. Araujo sent a representative to the woman's house offering legal services, even though she had not contacted anyone seeking such services. (Case No. SC11-1998)
• Jacqueline Jeannette Bird, 254 E. 6th Ave., Tallahassee, suspended for 18 months, effective retroactive to March 4, 2011, following a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Bird was hired by a client to represent her in a personal injury matter. Bird failed to negotiate subrogation reductions for the client with her insurer, but falsely stated that she had done so. On a number of occasions, Bird refused to respond to the client's attempts to receive her settlement funds until a complaint was filed with The Florida Bar. She also commingled personal and trust funds. (Case No. SC11-818)
• Jeffrey A. Blau, 213 E. Davis Blvd., Tampa, suspended until further order, following a Feb. 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1978) Blau was found in contempt for repeated failure to respond to a trust account subpoena and failure to show good cause for non-compliance. (Case No. 12-2518)
• Mark F. Dickson, 10940 N.W. 15th St., Pembroke Pines, disbarred effective immediately, following a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1975) Dickson was found guilty of engaging in multiple offenses of misconduct. In at least seven legal matters, Dickson was involved in misappropriation of more than $1.6 million in client funds for personal use, forgery and false notarization. He entered into numerous settlements without client authorization or knowledge, failed to keep proper trust accounting records, failed to communicate adequately with clients and gave false testimony to The Florida Bar. (Case No. SC12-683)
• Chaz Robert Fisher, P.O. Box 93, Hudson, N.H., suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days from a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Fisher is also a member of the New York and Massachusetts state bar associations. When approached by a client's father to represent his severely disabled child, Fisher accepted the job and became the successor corporate co-trustee of a trust for the child, while the father was designated as the individual trustee. In his handling of the trust matters, Fisher violated Rules Regulating The Florida Bar regarding competence and diligence, performed duties that were a conflict of interest and failed in safekeeping property by not segregating funds deposited and retained in a trust account. (Case No. SC12-1189)
• Timothy Albert Frantz, 5245 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Suite 1, Kissimmee, to be publicly reprimanded following a March 11 court order. Further, Frantz is placed on probation for two years. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Frantz was aware of a 90-day statute of limitations on asserting all claims on behalf of his client in accordance to a court-issued right to sue notice, but submitted two additional claims after the expiration period. He also failed to diligently pursue the case and communicate with the client in a timely manner. (Case No. SC12-514)
• Brian Eldon Gray, 1040 Bayview Drive, Suite 610, Fort Lauderdale, suspended until further order, following a Feb. 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Gray appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating client trust funds. In multiple instances, Gray did not apply funds entrusted to him for specific purposes but used them in a matter similar to a Ponzi scheme. (Case No. SC13-149)
• Mary D. Hansen, 4393 S. Ridgewood Ave., Suite 1, Port Orange, disbarred effective immediately, following a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1981) Hansen failed to diligently represent clients after being retained. She failed to appear at a hearing, violated the terms of a rehabilitation contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance, failed to communicate with clients and failed to respond in writing, as required, to The Florida Bar. (Case No. SC11-2260)
• Michael J. Hernandez, 1625 Paramount Blvd., Montebello, Calif., suspended for six months, effective immediately, following a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) After a client paid Hernandez half of the agreed upon $1,500 fee in an immigration/deportation matter, Hernandez failed to adequately represent her. He failed to communicate with the client and failed to respond to The Florida Bar's inquiry after the client filed a complaint. (Case No. SC11-2224)
• Mark Howard Klein, 2263 N.W. Boca Raton Blvd., Suite 209, Boca Raton, suspended until further order, following a Feb. 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Klein was found in contempt for repeatedly failing to respond to Bar inquiries regarding a complaint. (Case No. SC12-2210)
• Ronald James Kurpiers II, 707 N. Franklin St., Sixth Floor, Tampa, to be publicly reprimanded by the Board of Governors, following a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Kurpiers failed to follow trust accounting rules in the handling of an estate and he falsely said he witnessed a document being signed regarding the estate when he had not. (Case No. SC12-1696)
• Albert Richard Meyer, 200 Knuth Road, Suite 101, Boynton Beach, suspended for 60 days, effective 30 days from a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) In the course of handling foreclosure defense and loan modification cases, Meyer became associated with two separate non-legal entities, who engaged in improper solicitation of clients. Meyer also shared legal fees with non-lawyers. (Case No. SC12-515)
• Erin Lynne Pasternack, 7345 S.W. 121 St. S., Miami, suspended for 60 days, effective 30 days from a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Pasternack pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia. She was accused of delivering contraband to her former boyfriend who was incarcerated at the Broward County Jail. (Case No. SC12-2089)
• Lafe Rainier Purcell, 1403 W. Colonial Drive #A, Orlando, suspended until further order, following a Feb. 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Purcell misappropriated client funds and abandoned his law practice. Numerous payments from Purcell's trust account were made for his personal benefit or that of his law firm. He also commingled trust funds with his law firm operating funds. Purcell failed to respond to a request from the Bar to produce his trust account records. A Bar investigator learned that Purcell broke his lease and moved out of his law office without giving notice. (Case No. SC13-151)
• Victor Kalman Rones, 16105 N.E. 18th Ave., North Miami Beach, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days from a March 11 court order (Admitted to practice: 1977) Rones engaged in a conflict of interest. He represented two former clients in another matter in which they had adverse interests and wishes. (Case No. SC12-328)
• Deborah Susan Rose, 1897 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 201, West Palm Beach, was publicly reprimanded through a Feb. 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Rose was found in contempt for willful non-compliance. She failed to provide certain documents requested by the Bar and in some instances, she failed to respond to Bar inquiries. (Case No. SC12-1307)
• Scott Franklyn Saidel, 5301 N. Federal Hwy., Suite 130, Boca Raton, suspended following a Feb. 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Saidel pleaded guilty in U.S. district court to conspiracy to commit money laundering, obstruct justice and tamper with a witness. Sentencing is scheduled for June 7. (Case No. SC13-290)
• Aaron J. Slavin, 4707 140th Ave. N., Suite 211, Clearwater, disbarred effective immediately, following a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Slavin accepted controlled substances from a client as a form of payment for legal services. He was found guilty in court and sentenced to three years in prison followed by five years of drug offender probation. (Case No. SC12-484)
• Ted Alan Stokes, P.O. Box 84, Milton, suspended for 60 days, effective 30 days from a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1971) In one case, Stokes was hired in 2008 to represent a client. Stokes failed to communicate and in 2012 admitted to the court that he did not timely file his client's motion. In another case, Stokes engaged in an unethical conflict of interest by representing two clients in factually related criminal proceedings. (Case Nos. SC11-1086 & SC11-2141)
• Mark David Swanson, 1521 Alton Road., 684, Miami Beach, disbarred effective immediately, following a March 11 court order. Further, Swanson shall pay restitution of $10,000 to one client. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Pursuant to the terms of a retainer agreement, Swanson accepted $10,000 from a client in a pending criminal appeal, but failed to take any action on the client's behalf. In another case, he never responded to a request to release guardianship funds for a minor who had become of age. (Case No. SC11-1478)
• Kendrick Gerard Whittle, 3646 N.W. 98th St., Miami, disbarment extended for two years following a March 11 court order. Whittle may not apply for readmission to the Bar before Oct. 23, 2014. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Whittle was disbarred on February 24, 2009, but on May 11, 2011, he identified himself as an attorney to an assisted living facility administrator, saying one of the residents had asked him to represent her. (Case No. SC12-210)
• Robert H. Zipperer, 224 S. Beach St., Suite 202, Daytona Beach, to be publicly reprimanded and placed on probation for one year, following a March 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) In several instances after being retained, Zipperer failed to adequately communicate with clients regarding their bankruptcy matters. (Case No. SC12-2176)