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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 7, 201612:00 PM EST

Florida Supreme Court disciplines 14 attorneys

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The Florida Supreme Court disciplined 14 attorneys — disbarring two, revoking the license of one, suspending five attorneys and publicly reprimanding six. One attorney was also placed on probation.

• Robert D. Adams, Tampa, suspended until further order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) Adams and two lawyer colleagues intentionally targeted and caused the wrongful arrest of an opposing counsel in a high-profile case for the benefit of themselves and their client.

• Stephen L. Cook, Palm Beach Gardens, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter. (Admitted to practice: 1976) Cook improperly shared fees with a company that provided debt consolidation services and referred clients to him. He also failed to properly supervise the non-lawyer employees of the company who made promises to clients that were unreasonable and engaged in the unlicensed practice of law.

• Joseph E. Deleo, Cocoa, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter. Deleo will be placed on probation for one year and sign a rehabilitation contract with Florida Lawyers Assistance. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Deleo pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence with vehicle property damage or personal injury. He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months of supervised probation with conditions, fines and court costs.

• Stephen Christopher Diaco, Tampa, permanently disbarred. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Diaco and two lawyer colleagues intentionally targeted and caused the wrongful arrest of an opposing counsel in a high-profile case for the benefit of themselves and their client.

• Adam Robert Filthaut, Tampa, suspended until further order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Filthaut and two lawyer colleagues intentionally targeted and caused the wrongful arrest of an opposing counsel in a high-profile case for the benefit of themselves and their client.

• Christopher R. Harris, Louisville, Ky., suspended until further order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Harris was found in contempt for non-compliance and failure to respond to an official Florida Bar inquiry regarding a complaint.

• Josiah Ewing Hutton Jr., Fort Myers, suspended until further order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) According to a petition for emergency suspension order, Hutton appeared to be causing great public harm by abandoning his practice and misappropriating client funds. A Bar investigation revealed Hutton misappropriated at least $190,947 from his trust account.

• J. Blayne Jennings, Sebastian, suspended for three years. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Jennings is the subject of several Bar disciplinary matters. He failed to adequately communicate with clients and he engaged in an improper partnership with a non-attorney. He failed to properly supervise her conduct and she collected legal fees for future legal work on his behalf during his suspension.

• Talitha Marcine Leacock, Hollywood, was publicly reprimanded in a Dec. 17, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Leacock was found in willful contempt for failure to respond in a timely manner to official Bar inquiries.

• Christopher John Shipley, Mount Dora, to be publicly reprimanded. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Shipley represented a debtor in a bankruptcy in which several amendments were filed without the client’s review and signature. Based upon this, the court issued an order finding the amendments fraudulent and struck them. However, Shipley routinely filed amendments approved by his clients without obtaining their signature due to his misunderstanding of the procedural rules.

• Michael J. Silver, Boca Raton, disbarred effective immediately. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Silver charged a client $5,000 to represent her son in a clemency matter. After being hired, he took little or no significant action on the case. Silver failed to properly communicate with the client and failed to file the clemency petition. He also refused to refund any unearned fees.

• Barbara Billiot Stage, Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter. Stage shall also contact Florida Lawyers Assistance for an evaluation. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Stage was replaced in a civil case. When new counsel had the case dismissed, Stage field a charging lien and made misstatements due to her mistaken belief about the facts and law. She was sanctioned by the court and attorney fees and costs were awarded to the complainant. Stage filed for bankruptcy.

• Nicholas Theodore Steffens, Coconut Creek. The Florida Supreme Court granted Steffens’ request for a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Disciplinary revocation is equivalent to disbarment. Disciplinary matters pending against Steffens included allegations of trust account improprieties and contempt.

• Joseph Ryan Will, Daytona Beach, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter. (Admitted to practice: 2006) While employed as an assistant state attorney, Will prosecuted a criminal trial in which he mischaracterized the testimony of a witness. The court also found Will made demeaning personal attacks on the defendant and improperly sought to have the jury show sympathy for the victim.

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