Attorney shares his story of vindication after arrest in Allied Veterans case.
When everyone rose to their feet Wednesday evening, Kelly Mathis looked around the room and smiled.
That wasn’t his reaction in 2013 whenever the judge walked into a courtroom in Seminole County.
That’s where Mathis was facing more than 100 gambling and racketeering charges related to his client, Allied Veterans of the World, a nonprofit that operated about 50 internet cafes in Florida.
Convicted and sentenced to six years in prison, Mathis’s verdict and sentence were overturned on appeal and then the state decided to drop the charges instead of having a new trial.
However, his license to practice law was suspended from the time of his conviction until the state Supreme Court retroactively restored it more than three years later.
Mathis shared the story of how a lawyer could be arrested and convicted for acting on behalf of a client with about 150 members of The Jacksonville Bar Association.
The event was a continuing legal education program, “Mathis v. State: Protecting the Profession,” at Wells Fargo Center.
He began his presentation with a citation from the Grateful Dead: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
The story began when seven law enforcement officers walked into his office one morning with a search warrant and an arrest warrant, Mathis said.
He was handcuffed and driven to Seminole County while more than 100 boxes of records, including work product and documents that should have been protected by attorney-client privilege, were removed along with his computers. His law firm operating account and trust account also were seized.
Mathis was held on $1 million bond for four days – about half of the time in solitary confinement – until his attorney, Mitch Stone, secured a reduction to $250,000 and his release.
During the trial, the judge wouldn’t allow critical evidence to be presented by the defense and refused to hear certain arguments, Mathis said, but the appellate court reversed the lower court.
Mathis said during his appeal, he and his lawyers discovered there’s very little case law that involves prosecution of an attorney for acting in good faith and advising clients.
He hopes his case will set a precedent for judicial process and that it will be the last of its kind.
“When we start arresting lawyers, we’re putting our system on trial,” Mathis said.
Speaking for the association members, JBA President Tad Delegal said they are proud of Mathis for stepping forward and for being the only defendant whose charges weren’t dropped that refused to even consider a plea agreement and instead insisted on a trial.
“A lot of people don’t stand up for principles like Kelly did. He did something for all of us,” Delegal said.
Glenn Banner opens office with consumer focus
Glenn Banner, formerly with Hinshaw & Culbertson, opened The Law Office of Glenn S. Banner P.A.
He represents consumers, victims of negligence and wrongful conduct and small businesses.
Banner said that after 15 years representing insurance companies, businesses and lenders, it was the right time for a change.
He added he contemplated “switching sides” for some time and looks forward to working for individuals and small businesses plaintiffs.
Olinto named partner at Adams and Reese
Jamie Olinto was named a partner in the Jacksonville office of Adams and Reese.
She joined the firm in 2013 and focuses on business and commercial litigation, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights.
A 2010 graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Olinto serves as the governance chair of the board of directors of Girls Inc. of Jacksonville.
Kelley, Scruby join Rogers Towers firm
Rogers Towers added Brian Kelley and Mark Scruby to its Jacksonville team.
Kelley will work in the Litigation Department. He was a law clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Barksdale and U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard.
Kelley received his J.D. from William & Mary School of Law, and undergraduate degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Florida.
Scruby will work in the Government and Regulatory Department.
Before joining Rogers Towers, he served for 27 years as county attorney for Clay County.
His areas of expertise include land use and zoning, public employment and labor relations, solid waste management, public finance, local government revenues, state and federal constitutional law and public records law.
Scruby received his J.D. from the University of Florida.
Prendergast joins FordHarrison as partner
Michael Prendergast joined FordHarrison in Jacksonville as a partner focusing on management-side labor and employment law in state and federal courts.
He graduated in 1983 from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
In 2016, Prendergast received the American Bar Association Pro Bono Outstanding Military Service Award
JBA Law Week subcommittees forming
The Jacksonville Bar Association is working on the agenda for this year’s Law Week with the theme adopted by the American Bar Association for Law Day on May 1: “Separation of Powers: Framework for freedom.”
Subcommittees being formed include Citizenship Day, Naturalization Ceremony, Elementary School Poster Contest, Toiletries & Art Supplies Drive and Rendezvous on the Rooftop.
For information about how to become involved, contact Cyndy Trimmer at [email protected].
JALA, Baptist Health create endowment to serve pediatric patients
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has established an endowment that will provide funds to enhance civil legal aid services for children with medical issues.
Started with donations collected from attorney Michael Freed’s “Freed to Run” six-day marathon from Tallahassee to Jacksonville in June, JALA plans to raise $1 million over the next five years to fund the endowment.
As part of the Securing Tomorrow Together Campaign, Baptist Health will match JALA’s $1 million with an additional $1.25 million, bringing the endowment total to $2.25 million.
The funds will be used to continue JALA’s work through the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership and with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, UF Health Specialty Pediatric Clinics and Community PedsCare to address health-harming civil legal aid needs in the pediatric patient population.
The endowment principal will be held in perpetuity, while earnings from the invested assets help pay for legal services offered to children, such as access to health insurance and other public benefits, advocacy in family law, consumer protections, immigration and ensuring safe and affordable housing.
Donations may be made at JaxLegalAid.org/Endowment; or by mail to: Endowment, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, 126 W. Adams St., Jacksonville, 32202.