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Florida Supreme Court disciplines 13 attorneys

From Staff

The Florida Supreme Court disciplined 13 attorneys — disbarring five, revoking the license of one, suspending five and publicly reprimanding two. One attorney also was placed on probation. None were from Jacksonville.

Lauren Elizabeth Bannigan, Plantation, suspended until further order. (Admitted to practice: 2014) Bannigan pleaded no contest to one felony count of cheating. It was alleged she participated and engaged in an elaborate kickback scheme that involved obtaining pain creams with false prescriptions paid for by various insurance companies. The court withheld adjudication of guilt and sentenced Bannigan to three years’ probation.

Steven Italo Battisti, Reunion, to be publicly reprimanded by publication. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Further, he is directed to attend ethics school. Battisti was the subject of two Florida Bar disciplinary matters. In one case, probable cause was found by a grievance committee. In another case, Battisti failed to adequately communicate with a client about the status of his personal injury cases. He also failed to timely send demand letters to the insurance companies on the complainant’s behalf and to properly supervise a nonlawyer assistant.

Alan LeBou Carner, Fort Lauderdale, to receive a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary matter pending against Carner involved misappropriation of client funds.

Joseph Cichowski, Fort Lauderdale, suspended until further order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Cichowski pleaded guilty and was adjudicated guilty to a felony charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle.

Richard Michael Colbert, Gulf Breeze, suspended until further order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Colbert pleaded guilty in federal court to 13 felony counts, including charges of theft, embezzlement or misapplication of funds entrusted to a financial institution, money laundering, conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud and making false statements to a federal financial institution. He is scheduled to be sentenced by the federal court in March.

Steve D. Kackley, Sebring, suspended for 30 days. (Admitted to practice: 1975) Further, upon reinstatement, Kackley will be placed on probation for four years. He was found in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of a Dec. 12, 2013, court order. Kackley was required to participate in a rehabilitation program with Florida Lawyers Assistance Inc. He tested positive for alcohol and other prohibited substances in December 2015 and February 2016.

Gabe Kaimowitz, Gainesville, disbarred. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Kaimowitz continued to practice law after being suspended and placed on probation in 2014.

Philip Sean Karle, Debary, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Karle was the subject of two Florida Bar disciplinary matters. Probable cause was found by a grievance committee in both cases. In one matter, he failed to adequately supervise a nonlawyer employee who also was his wife and the client terminated his representation due to a lack of communication. In another matter, Karle was not in compliance with the terms of the grievance committee’s recommendation of diversion, which required him to attend ethics school. Karle did not confirm his attendance with the Bar as required and he failed to attend the third scheduled ethics school.

James Franklin Lowy, Clearwater, disbarred. (Admitted to practice: 1996) A Bar audit found Lowy did not maintain the required trust account records, including a cash receipts and disbursements journal, monthly bank reconciliations and individual client ledger cards. Lowy received settlement payments on behalf of clients who were victims of an investment fraud scheme but he paid incorrect amounts to clients, overpaid himself and failed to maintain a sufficient balance in the trust account to cover payments. He also commingled funds.

Zaharias A. Papantoniou, Clearwater, disbarred. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Papantoniou was retained to represent a client on two occasions. One was for an expungement of his misdemeanor arrest record. In both instances, Papantoniou failed to enter into a fee agreement and did not confirm in writing whether the fee was nonrefundable. Papantoniou failed to communicate with the client regarding the status of his case. When the client applied for a job, he learned the application was rejected because his arrest record had not been expunged. Papantoniou failed to respond to official Bar inquiries regarding the matter.

Jean M. Picon, Melbourne, suspended for one year. (Admitted to practice: 2003) As counsel of record in numerous criminal cases, Picon engaged in a pattern of misconduct. She repeatedly failed to timely appear for court proceedings and she frequently failed to notify the court and opposing counsel of her schedule. On more than one occasion, court proceedings were delayed and/or continued as a result of her failure to timely appear or failure to appear at all. Picon was held in contempt for her conduct and ordered to pay a $250 fine, perform 25 hours of community service and write a letter of apology to every judge and judicial assistant in the criminal division of the 18th Judicial Circuit in and for Brevard County.

Garry Lee Potts, Clearwater, disbarred. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Potts represented a client in a personal injury matter. When the case settled, Potts kept an attorney’s fee of $8,333 and disbursed $8,523 to the client. Thereafter, the client made multiple attempts to contact Potts regarding his remaining balance of $7,794, but Potts did not respond. Potts also failed to respond to The Florida Bar’s inquiries, nor did he respond to a Bar subpoena to produce financial records.

David S. Rothenberg, Fort Lauderdale, disbarred. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Rothenberg pleaded and was adjudicated guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to one felony count of possession of child pornography.

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