Saturday, March 12, 2016

Florida Supremes Indefinitely Suspend Attorney For Allegedly Abandoning His Law Practice & Walking Off w/ At Least $190K In Trust Account Funds

In Fort Myers, Florida, the News-Press reports:
  • The Florida Bar has issued a suspension for a Fort Myers attorney for misappropriation of a client's funds.

    Josiah Ewing Hutton Jr., 59, Fort Myers, was suspended until further order, following a Jan. 20 court order.

    According to a petition for emergency suspension order Hutton abandoned his practice and misappropriated client funds. An investigation revealed that Hutton misappropriated at least $190,947 from a trust account.(1)

    Hutton was also publicly reprimanded in 2012 after pleading guilty to a 2011 driving under the influence citation in Pinellas County. He was placed on five years probation by the Florida Bar. Previously he had also been suspended for 30 days in 2000 for practicing law while administratively suspended and publicly reprimanded in 1995 for trust account violations.
For more, see Fort Myers attorney suspended from practice.

See, generally, Frederick Miller, "If You Can't Trust Your Lawyer .... ?", 138 Univ. of Pennsylvania Law Rev. 785 (1990) for more on the apparent, long-standing tolerance for deceit by many in the legal profession:
  • This tolerance to deception is encouraged by the profession's institutional civility. Seldom is a fig called a fig, or a shyster a shyster. No, our euphemisms are wonderfully polite: "frivolous conduct," or a "lack of candor;" or "law-office failure;" or, heaven forbid, a "peculation," a "defalcation," or a "negative balance" in a law firms's trust account.

    There is also widespread reluctance on the part of lawyers --- again, some lawyers --- to discuss publicly, much less acknowledge, that they have colleagues who engage in deceit and unprofessional conduct.

    This reluctance is magnified when the brand of deceit involves the theft of client money and property, notwithstanding that most lawyers would agree that stealing from clients is the ultimate ethical transgression.
(1) The Clients' Security Fund was created by The Florida Bar to help compensate persons who have suffered a loss of money or property due to misappropriation or embezzlement by a Florida-licensed attorney.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    When Lawyers Steal the Escrow, a June, 2005 New York Times story describing some cases of client reimbursements ("With real estate business surging and down-payment amounts rising with home prices, the temptation for a lawyer to filch money from a bulging escrow account and later repay it with other clients' money has never been greater, said lawyers who monitor the thefts."),

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.

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