Saturday, March 18, 2017

Five More Florida Attorneys Get Either Booted Or Suspended In Connection With Faulty Handling Of Client Money &/Or Related Trust Account Records

In the most recent issue of its periodic gossip sheet, The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announced that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 15 attorneys – disbarring two, revoking the licenses of two, suspending nine, and publicly reprimanding two. Two attorneys were also ordered to pay restitution.

Of the 15, five (5) of the following attorneys have either been booted or suspended amidst allegations of playing fast and loose with their clients' cash(1) and/or the related trust account records; one other attorney was found not to have engaged in any intentional misappropriation, but was at fault for inadvertent trust account negligence and, consequently, received a reprimand.
  • Sholom Boyer, North Miami Beach, to receive a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective retroactive to Feb. 21, 2016, following a Jan. 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. Disciplinary matters pending against Boyer included misappropriation of client funds and failure to communicate with the client. (Case No. SC16-2081)

    Avery Spencer Chapman, Wellington, to be publicly reprimanded by publication, following a Jan. 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Further, Chapman shall attend a trust accounting workshop. Chapman represented a client in varied business and personal matters, who wired substantial monies into his trust account during an approximate three-year period from which Chapman was authorized to draw his compensation. When the client relationship ended, Chapman undertook an accounting and discovered a shortfall, which he promptly disclosed and fully reimbursed to the client. A Bar audit found no evidence of intentional misappropriation, but that he was negligent with bookkeeping and commingled client trust funds. (Case No. SC16-2258)

    Donald Richard Kerner, Jr., Homestead, suspended for three years, effective 30 days from a Jan. 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) In three separate matters, Kerner failed to diligently represent clients. Kerner received a settlement of $25,000 on behalf of a client, but on several occasions, the account balance fell below that amount. He also failed to timely disburse the proceeds to the client. Kerner failed to properly maintain trust account records, and he failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of a case. (Case No. SC16-1034)

    Teddy Sliwinski, Cleveland, Ohio, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a Jan. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) In several instances, Sliwinski misappropriated client funds, and he repeatedly paid for personal and business expenses out of his Interest on Lawyers Trust Account. (Case No. SC16-1008)

    Pamela Bruce Stuart, Washington, D.C., suspended for one year, effective 30 days from a Jan. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) After being appointed by her father as trustee to his trust, Stuart breached her fiduciary duties by failing to provide the required annual accountings and loaning herself substantial funds to assist in carrying out the trust’s responsibilities and her own living and medical expenses. (Case No. SC16-2204)

    Vito Torchia, Jr., Los Angeles, Calif., suspended for three years, effective 30 days from a Jan. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Further, Torchia shall pay restitution of more than $25,000 to at least three clients. After being retained and receiving advance fees, Torchia failed to provide competent representation. In some instances he failed to add clients as plaintiffs in mass joinder litigation; he failed to provide legal services; he failed to appear; and he failed to communicate. Upon being terminated by clients, Torchia also failed to promptly return unearned fees. (Case No. SC16-1267)
Source: Supreme Court Disciplines 15 Attorneys (Summaries of orders issued – Jan. 5 – 23, 2017).

Editor's Note: Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles.To view discipline documents, follow these steps.
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(1) The Clients' Security Fund was created by The Florida Bar to help (at least partially) 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.

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