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My name is David Arthur Walters. I am an independent journalist.

Monday, February 21, 2011

BEWARE OF FILING COMPLAINTS AGAINST ATTORNEYS WITH THE FLORIDA BAR

BEWARE OF FILING COMPLAINTS AGAINST ATTORNEYS WITH THE FLORIDA BAR

The attorneys may bludgeon you into silence

February 21, 2011
MIAMI MIRROR
By David Arthur Walters

What would you do if you found yourself in a situation where you were being forced by an affluent and well connected member of the Florida Bar to choose between succumbing to his legally and ethically questionable demand to pay $100,000 for a $1,600 legal bill you believed you did not owe in the first place, or else submit to his inordinate power as a wealthy officer of the court to financially ruin you? What if you thought his demand was a form of extortion, i.e. a coercive threat to wrench or twist money out of you, a threat that used to come under the broader heading of “libel” in the old days?

What, indeed, would you do? Do you think you would complain to the integrated Florida Bar, which is the part and parcel of the Supreme Court of Florida responsible for licensing and disciplining attorneys, all of whom must be members in order to practice in the state? Think again, after taking the following into consideration.

The attorney may not hesitate to use every means at his disposal including his professional monopoly’s privileged access to the courts to bludgeon you into silence, using the statements in your complaint to the Bar to sue you for multiple counts of libel, deliberately prolonging the abusive process with flurries of motions until your defense funds are almost exhausted and you are intimidated into silence.

What? What happened to the constitutional right of free speech? What of the right to address the government for redress of grievances? After all, lawyers are officers of the judicial branch of government, are they not? And you sought redress from that branch of government, never mind the conflict of interest. You may think that complaints filed with public agencies are absolutely privileged; that is, you cannot be sued by the person you complain about even if you make defamatory statements to the officials. Mind you that your allegations in your case were not otherwise published except that a few of them were made to the attorney’s assistants during the course of business. This is not a question of publishing true or false statements to a third party about private persons that happen to harm their reputations.

Yes, you have your constitutional rights, and you may win your case in the end because the lawsuit was frivolous and apparently maliciously prosecuted. But exercising your rights might cost you a pretty penny, especially if your attorney botches the “offers of settlement” for the eventual recovery of expenses by the prevailing party. Your opponent at one point may claim that he would be entitled to $600,000 in costs and fees if he prevailed. But say you prevail, and your fees exceed $250,000, which you raised by taking out mortgages on your home, but now you are left empty-handed, and are afraid to say anything further about the matter lest you get slapped with another suit.

Knowing that this could happen to you, knowing that perhaps the attorney you complain about to the Bar will use every means at his disposal to shut you up and ruin you financially, would you fight for your constitutionally protected ground at all costs?

What would you do if you decided to be a good citizen at all costs, and therefore pursued your complaint with the Florida Bar, only to receive a response from the regulators clearly indicating that they had no problem whatsoever with their licensee’s conduct?

The message thereby conveyed to members of the Bar would be that it is all right to sue critics into silence; indeed, the Bar’s decision would encourage lawyers to do just that with the blessing of the strong arm of the Supreme Court of Florida.

The dismissal of your complaint to the Bar may come as a shock to you because, before you filed it, the Bar advised you to read its Consumer Information Pamphlet, wherein ones find precautionary words under the heading “A Word About Confidentiality and Immunity.” If you “limited your inquiry and communication about it to Bar staff,” reads the clause, “investigators and grievance committee members; you should not be successfully sued. While, generally, you cannot be successfully sued if you do not act in bad faith or with malice, we emphasize successfully. The Bar cannot guarantee that the lawyer will not attempt to bring legal action against you.”

What? What will the Bar do if a lawyer does bring such an action? Apparently nothing! Should there not be a Bar Rule against such prosecutions, subjecting the attorney to permanent disbarment? Why has not the Bar done something to prohibit such travesties of justice? After all, the Florida Supreme Court readily recognizes “the inequitable balance of power that exists between an attorney who brings a defamation action and the client who must defend against it,” so why does it not have its Bar arm nip such suits in the bud before they bloom in the courts? Again, the Bar and the Court are one; what hypocrisy!

And what is the meaning of, “if you do not act in bad faith or with malice….” The courts have had difficulty forging an adequate definition for those terms. Besides, you thought that absolute privilege in making complaints to the government is supposed to protect you from liability for statements thus defined. Of course the government itself has remedies available to it for curbing abuse.

A frivolous lawsuit by some attorney you complained about may cost you a quarter-million dollars and your home to boot, not to mention years of emotional distress and perhaps your job and family. Oh, my, it is sure nice to know that it was unsuccessful!

The Bar’s Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program may try to dissuade you from filing a complaint against an attorney. Be careful of whom you complain about if the Bar does not dismiss the complaint out of hand. There are thousands of complaints filed against attorneys each year. The vast majority of them are routinely dismissed as being without merit.

Mind you that complainants are at a disadvantage right out of the gate: they have to file their complaints under penalties of perjury, but the lawyers do not have to respond under penalty of perjury – maybe the Bar Rules will keep them from lying. You may be charged with perjury if you lie in your complaint, for your absolute privilege only protects you from the person you may have defamed; but try to prove that the attorney lied and you may be sued again.

If you believe this story is too bad to be true and is merely hypothetical, you are mistaken. Stay tuned for publication of the facts including the public documents.

12 Comments:

Blogger Peter Vujin said...

Dear Mr. Walters:
I absolutely symphatize with you article.
I'm an attorney member of the Florida Bar, and the Bar is trying to disbar me because I succesfully sue banks. In my opinion, the Miami chapter engages in selective political prosecution of decent attorneys, while at the same time, they protect the rich liar-thieves. Go figure! If u need help, google me. Thank you, peter vujin

August 13, 2011 at 2:32 AM  
Blogger Donita Bird said...

That is just a shame that our judicial system is so corrupted. I thank God that here are a few who can take their oath serious. Remember they don't get paid if you don't hired them. IT is important that the contracts are so detailed word by work, line by line. They can claim to be lawyers, but good lawyers can get only rick of their good deeds and words of intelligent. Lawyers and doctors has a system to fool the people, and if you don't stay on top, every one will lose out. Reputation is not always the key to success. Honesty is- Lawyers like doctors can rob you and get away with it. If we do it, we will be in jail.

December 6, 2011 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I am not a member of the Florida Bar but, I am an Attorney in another state and am required to be a member of that state's bar association. I have never heard of an attorney suing a person over a bar complaint in this state. However, I have recently been conducting research to see if such a suit may be appropriate in certain situations. I am not a big time firm attorney but a sole practitioner in a very small rural area. Bar complaints seem to be inevitable for most attorneys that I know, whether founded or unfounded. Being the devil's advocate, consider this if you will; what about the client who makes totally false allegations against their attorney / former attorney that are baseless and / or unsupported. As an attorney, I can tell you that when I received that first bar complaint, I thought I was going to vomit on my desk. I was a complete and utter nervous wreck until the bar dismissed the complaint against me. I feel that an attorney should have some recourse against those that file bar complaints that contain false accusations against that attorney. Sometimes, it takes months for the bar association to decide how to handle a complaint and I can tell you from experience that there is not a day that goes by during those long months that one doesn't think about that complaint. It is also time consuming and costs money to respond to complaints. I can understand the point of the article and I don't purport to know what goes on in Florida. I just thought I would let you know how bar complaints can be stressfull, etc... to an attorney who may not have done anything wrong other than deciding to represent a person who will later make false allegations against them.

December 7, 2011 at 3:24 AM  
Blogger Memawof2 said...

My daughter filed a complaint with the Florida Bar recently. Apparently 4 others filed against her attorney also. He had inappropriate sexual conduct with my daughter (violation of Rule 4-8.4(i). He also "forced" her (us) to pay over $14,000. Her attorney was allowed to make a "Conditional Guilty Plea" for the charges against him. In part, he received 91 days suspension and was ordered to pay back the other complaintants, but my daughter's case was basically "swept under the rug". I wish there was a legal malpractice attorney in the Duval County area who is NOT afraid to stand up for Justice. We're definitely tired of being "screwed" by the legal system!!

February 22, 2012 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Voice said...

I would like to ask you a question via email. Pls email me at rebeccafiallos@gmail.com. Txs

September 12, 2012 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Roger Williams said...

If attorneys or our judicial system will do such kind of things then who will help us to get the solution of our legal problems. This is wrong and the attorney should feel ashamed on what he has done. Thanks for the post. family law attorneys

February 18, 2013 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Ernesto Luis Rodriguez Mayor said...


I would like to know how to file a complaint about violation of Antitrust Law in Miami, Fl. Without getting burned. Your advice will be greatly appreciated. Please let me know an e-mail I could send you details to.
ernestoluisrodri@gmail.com

April 24, 2013 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger worriedingeorgia said...

Let me start by saying some attorneys are very good at what they do, but when you have a Public Defender assigned to you by the state, many of them do not do their job effectively and efficiently. Some of them degrade the client in the court room no doubt. Many have the attitude they don't get paid enough to do a good quality job in defending the defendant. This is the wrong attitude how can they expect to have an office of their own and be successful if this is their attitude toward people who cannot afford an attorney. This is not fair, everyone no matter of their financially stability should be represented the same. I have a daughter that is being represented by a public defender and he is not doing a very good job. His demeanor is very snobbish and degrading. This man should be fired by all means and disbarred. It would be great if someone from the bar association could come into the court in Florida anonymously and just listen to how this PD represents their clients. By doing this would prove any allegations against the PD. Not sure which road to take to have this man suspended or disbarred, but there are many PD that have this attitude that I have witnessed in Georgia and Florida. They seem to think they are indispensable, therefore they need to be proven wrong!! If anyone can help me in this matter of representation for my daughter it would be greatly appreciated.

September 11, 2013 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger DFortin said...

My husband and I were just screwed by his social security attorney. My husband received his disability but the attorney failed to file the proper paperwork to be awarded his 25%.Not to mention it took their office almost 4 years and also they received a hefty workers comp payment. We knew nothing of it and were never and still have not been notified by his office. Only to receive a letter from SS stating my husband's payments will now be garnished. I was going to complain to the Bar but now think I will take a different route. I am tired of attorneys taking advantage of people.

March 26, 2014 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger rita simicic said...

Sure we know all about retaliation when filing official complaints and it comes down to the fact that the loiyuuhs have their troika and in TX you are basically unable to even find an atty to represent you in cases like that. Having witnessed 1st hand the legal abuse in a guardianship,the outright practice of no due process and a lying ad litem and THEN the TX Bar finding no evidence of inappropriate actions,and that ON TOP OF BACKDATING motions etc-I am puzzled BUT refiled the SAME ITEMS and IF they do nothing I AM GOING TO HARASS THE MEDIA to give me 90 seconds of FAME and name names as well. The issues of retaliation have already appeared via stalking and harassment and THEY already DID THE ULTIMATE in removing a disabled adult and "disappearing him" and that means putting your family member AWAY in a locked facility,denying you knowledge of location or letting YOU KNOW where they are BUT BANNING YOU from contact etc and of course it is written up in their best interests and YES FOLKS THIS GOES ON 24/7 nationwide via probate/guardianship actions without charges,crimes,DUE PROCESS- and I hope this POS atty TAKES ME TO COURT so then I am not responsible for the fees.
Now who holds the CORRUPT BAR ASSOC responsible for aiding and abetting illegal and Unlawfl behaviour ?
These Bar Assoc are nothing more than the BBB for loiyuuhs and do nothing as when you read the fine print scatology,you are filing NOTHING MORE THAN GRIEVANCE,not complaints and the same bunch reads your illustrated and factually presented grievances and simply classifies them as nothing more than grievances and NOT complaints.
To the guy that thought the bill was inflated ? ALL he had to do was REFUSE TO PAY IT and let that atty take him to court and then he can speak up--would have saved him thousands EVEN IF THE JUDGE sided with his cohort.
____
DFortin--contact the Social Security Adm online and file a fraud claim --there is a section on the official SSA website ==contact and it's NOT an official form,simply an email address-and via email notify them and ask for help in finding out where THAT MONEY WENT-I notified them that way as I was getting no where in my questions as to HOW WAS I REMOVED as the rep payee for my disabled son,and missing money--the POS ad litem demanded the SSI at the hearing and I LOL in her face as I DO NOT have the authority to simply give her a dime from the SSI and neither does SHE have any rights to it ,but somehow these magicians that can make lies truth managed to get into the account. SSA even CALLED ME and I was not the rep payee BUT UNDERSTOOD WHAT WAS DONE and corrected it. Making contact via phone and even in person got me nowhere as "you're not the rep payee and no information can be given"==these people took care of it.Maybe you can connect with someone that KNOWS WHAT THEY'RE DOING over there.
---contact them Under the title of FRAUD and be patient as it TOOK WEEKS but they DID RESPOND-put the name on the acct and your phone number and the problem--tell them you cannot inclde the social security number but if they contact YOU ,all info will be given out---FIGHT BACK.

March 30, 2014 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If this is true then there is no justice for citizens against a rogue lawyer in Florida. They know they can do as they please and walk away.

June 24, 2014 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger kk said...

The attorneys, and the whole florida judicial system is corrupt always has been and always will be. The public defenders think they are doing favors by representing there clients when actually they get paid by tax payers. If your ever arrested in florida remember you have no rights because everyone does what they want when they want. I have been trying to get someone to do right by son and it is a daily battle. He was caught with 2 roaches in Monroe County 2 years ago has been to court at least 12 times but ended up missing a date because they schedule and post pone every two weeks public defender had him sign a waiver that he didnt have to be there in less than a month had a warrant out for his arrest. Has now been in jail for almost 3 months and is still being screwed around remember all this for 2 little roaches oh and he made a plea agreement with the state a month ago but now they cant get him a court date. Go figure.

August 12, 2014 at 9:27 PM  

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