In a summary of orders issued by the Florida Supreme Court during November, Karen Kirksey reported to Historic City News that The Florida Bar has disciplined twelve attorneys – disbarring three, revoking the licenses of two, suspending six and publicly reprimanding one. Three attorneys received more than one form of discipline. One was placed on probation and two were ordered to pay restitution to clients.
As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the 106,000-plus members of The Florida Bar.
George Jay Blutstein, 6099 Stirling Road, Suite 218, Davie, disbarred effective immediately, following a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1957) Further, he shall pay restitution of $100,000 to one client. Blutstein misappropriated client funds. He was instructed by a client to make several disbursements for the payment of property taxes. When the client met with him and requested an accounting of her remaining trust funds, Blutstein confessed that he took all the money entrusted to him and spent it, and he was unable to reimburse her. (Case No. SC17-856)
Christopher Lee Buttermore, 8202 Wiles Road #53, Coral Springs, disbarred effective immediately, following a Nov. 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Buttermore was found in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of previous court orders. Specifically, after a March 23 suspension, Buttermore was required to notify his clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension, and provide the Bar within 30 days a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that were furnished a copy of the suspension order. Further, Buttermore was ordered to pay restitution of more than $16,000 to a client and he failed to provide proof of payment to the Bar. (Case No. SC17-1364)
Reginald Estell, Jr., 505 N. Liberty St., Jacksonville. The court granted Estell’s petition for a disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective immediately, following a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. Disciplinary matters pending against Estell involved failure to respond to Bar inquiries and a subpoena for trust records, and neglect of traffic cases. (Case No. SC17-1526)
Norman A. Green, 1245 20th St., Vero Beach, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter, following a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Green failed to effectuate the transfer of property his client was to receive as part of a marital settlement agreement, and he had a conflict of interest when he included an improper provision in the marital settlement agreement, which would have given him and an accountant a 12.5 percent security interest in the sale proceeds of the property. The fees for both totaled approximately $40,000. (Case No. SC17-1840)
Patricia Anne Horal, 20016 Nob Oak Ave., Tampa, suspended for 90 days, effective Nov. 29, following a Nov. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) While working as an independent contractor for another attorney, Horal met a non-lawyer who was an investigator and paralegal for the same attorney, and the two entered into an improper business partnership. Horal then permitted a situation to exist in which the non-lawyer improperly solicited clients and engaged in professional activities that constituted the unlicensed practice of law. (Case No. SC17-399)
Anett Lopez, 7392 N.W. 35th Terrace, Suite 305, Miami. The court granted Lopez’s petition for a disciplinary revocation, without leave to seek readmission effective immediately, following a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. Disciplinary matters pending against Lopez included an arrest on charges of insurance fraud. (Case No. SC17-1685)
Amy Lynn Perez, 10374 Smyrna Drive, Orlando, suspended for 18 months, effective 30 days from a Nov. 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Further, Perez shall pay restitution of $1,300 to one client. In two separate bankruptcy matters, Perez failed to diligently represent clients after being retained. In both cases, she failed to adequately communicate with the clients. Even after the clients filed complaints, Perez failed to work on their cases and she failed to respond to Florida Bar inquiries regarding the matters. (Case No. SC17-1109)
Michael F. Savage, 126 E. Olympia Ave., Suite 301, Punta Gorda, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Nov. 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Savage was found in contempt for non-compliance. He failed to respond to official Bar inquiries sent by regular and certified mail regarding a disciplinary matter. (Case No. SC17-1464)
Christopher M. Stephenson, 11 N. Summerlin Ave., Suite 210, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately, following a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Stephenson abandoned the cases of two clients and failed to account for and return their unearned fees. He also failed to appear for a duly noticed deposition regarding these matters and he failed to respond to The Florida Bar. (Case No. SC17-287)
Andy Treusch, 1535 Rambling Oaks Lane, Deland, suspended for three years, with proof of rehabilitation required prior to reinstatement, effective 30 days from a Nov. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Treusch permitted non-lawyers to accept clients on his behalf and perform legal services in jurisdictions where he was not licensed to practice law. In another matter, Treusch undertook the representation of a client despite a clear conflict of interest. He also failed to properly supervise a non-lawyer employee who was responsible for all client communication, document preparation and insurance settlement negotiation. (Case No. SC17-1831)
Charles Houston Webb, P.O. Box 1849, Anna Maria, suspended for 60 days, effective 30 days from a Nov. 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Further, upon reinstatement, Webb is placed on probation for one year. After representing a married couple in several matters over the years, Webb engaged in a conflict of interest when he sued the clients and foreclosed on three of their properties to recover owed legal fees. Webb gave no credit to the clients for the value of the first property that he foreclosed on and sold, and continued to foreclose on two additional properties, one of which appeared to be the clients’ homestead. Finally, Webb did not disclose to any of the courts his prior foreclosure against the clients’ first property. (Case No. SC17-481)
George John Francis Werner, 1016 E. 15th Ave., Tampa, suspended for one year, with proof of rehabilitation required prior to reinstatement, effective 30 days from a Nov. 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) In a two-count complaint, Werner neglected a matter by failing to provide services he agreed to provide quid pro quo, and failing to properly and timely communicate about the representation. He also helped a non-lawyer commit unlicensed practice of law in several personal injury cases and made misrepresentations to others. (Case No. SC16-1731)
Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam. Historically, less than five percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.