In a summary of orders issued during the past month, between April 25 – May 23, 2019, Historic City News was informed by the Florida Bar, that the Florida Supreme Court disciplined a total of 16 attorneys – disbarring six, revoking the licenses of three and suspending seven. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.
The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation is an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, is charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 106,000 Bar members.
Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online profiles by the Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession. For information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint, follow www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.
§§ 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 includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.
John Richard Geiger, P.O. Box 860217, St. Augustine, disbarred, effective immediately following a May 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Geiger was held in contempt of the court’s order (April 5, 2018) for failing to notify clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension. (Case No. SC19-227)
Christopher M. Chestnut, 301 W. Bay St., Suite 1400, Jacksonville, disbarred, effective 30 days from a May 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) In multiple cases, Chestnut incompetently handled matters; charged excessive fees; failed to effectively communicate with clients; failed to properly supervise lawyers and nonlawyer staff practicing without a license in another state; was dishonest; failed to provide a settlement statement to a service provider; failed to hold in trust disputed settlement funds; and solicited clients. (Case Nos. SC16-797, SC16-1480 and SC17-307)
Alyscha Lauren Johnson, 8433 Southside Blvd., Apt. 2115, Jacksonville, disciplinary revocation, with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days from an April 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Complaints pending against Johnson included allegations of lack of communication, neglect and excessive fees. (Case No. SC19-205)
Susan M. Bodden, P.O. Box 1543, Marco Island, suspended for one year and ordered to attend a trust account workshop, effective June 3, following a May 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Bodden failed to diligently represent and communicate with a client in his dissolution of marriage proceeding; failed to include the mandatory arbitration clause in her fee agreement; and failed to deposit costs collected into her trust account. In that and other cases, she also improperly charged and collected credit card processing fees. (Case No. SC17-1320)
John Ralph Borland, 4545 S.W. 60th Ave., Unit 772672, Ocala, disbarred, effective immediately, following a May 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Borland abandoned his law practice and failed to maintain adequate client communication, neglected cases and failed to return unearned fees. He also failed to return original documentation provided by clients, or to respond to the Bar’s inquiries as required. (Case No. SC18-1947)
Denise B. D’Aprile, P.O. Box 496469, Port Charlotte, suspended for 91 days and ordered to attend a trust accounting workshop, effective June 1 following a May 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) D’Aprile failed to turn over a referral fee that was due to her former law firm when she had an interest in only a portion of the fee. She deposited those funds into her own operating account rather than holding them in her trust account, and she asked the referring attorney to reissue the check to her own law firm and to void the initial check written to her former law firm. (Case No. SC19-510)
Joseph Patrick Gaeta, 1601 Jackson St., Suite 102, Fort Myers, disbarred, effective immediately following a May 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Gaeta failed to act with diligence by failing to initiate litigation on his client’s behalf and thereafter abandoning his client. Gaeta failed to adequately communicate with the client, and he continually failed to comply with the client’s requests for information. Gaeta also failed to respond to the Bar’s inquiries in this matter. (Case No. SC18-1387)
Frank Joseph Heston, 8050 N. University Drive, Suite 210, Fort Lauderdale, disciplinary revocation with leave for readmission after five years, effective 60 days from March 19 following a May 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) At the time of his disciplinary revocation, charges pending against Heston in two Bar complaints involved misappropriation of client trust funds. (Case No. SC19-447)
David Andrew Jaynes, 8311 Waterway Drive, West Palm Beach, suspended for three years effective immediately, following a May 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1982) Jaynes was held in contempt of the court’s order dated Aug. 24, 2018, for failing to notify clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension. (Case No. SC19-226)
M. Adriana Koeck, 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 667, Los Angeles, Calif., suspended from the practice of law for 91 days, effective 30 days from a May 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) This is a reciprocal discipline action. By Order of Suspension from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, dated Feb. 8, 2018, Koeck was found to have violated the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct by knowingly revealing client confidences and/or secrets during her tenure as an in-house lawyer for General Electric Consumer & Industrial in 2006. Koeck did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings and was suspended for 60 days with reinstatement subject to a showing of fitness based on her assertion of a disability. (Case No. SC18-1869)
Esmond Jude Lewis, 5237 Summerlin Commons Blvd., Suite 404, Fort Myers, disbarred, effective immediately following a May 21 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Lewis was held in contempt for engaging in the practice of law during his period of suspension and during the period of cost delinquency. (Case No. SC19-387)
Moein Marashi, 400 N. Ashley Drive, Suite 1100, Tampa, suspended for one year, effective immediately following a May 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Marashi failed to comply with the court’s Dec. 26, 2018, order to notify clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension. (Case No: SC19-394)
Robert Ouriel, 16070 W. Sunset Blvd., Apt. 101, Pacific Palisades, Calif., disciplinary revocation, effective immediately following a May 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) In 2009, Ouriel was arrested in Los Angeles, Calif., and charged with felony grand theft of personal property. On July 13, 2010, he entered a no contest plea to one count of felony theft. The court accepted the plea and found him guilty. Ouriel was sentenced to three years’ probation, 45 days of community service and ordered to pay restitution of $221,775 to the victim. He failed to report his felony arrest and conviction to The Florida Bar as required by The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. (Case No. SC19-410)
Madeline Palenzuela, 1825 Ponce de Leon Blvd., No. 343, Coral Gables, suspended for one year, effective immediately following a May 20 court order. (Admitted to Practice: 2003) Palenzuela was held in contempt of the court’s order (Aug. 27, 2018) for failing to comply with requirements about notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her suspension. (Case No. SC19-234)
Daniel Marc Plonsky, 3765 Oak Grove Drive, Sarasota, disbarred, effective immediately, following a May 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) In dealing with an elderly client, Plonsky charged prohibited fees, had a conflict of interest and engaged in deceitful and dishonest conduct by unilaterally loaning his brother’s company money from his client’s trust, and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. In December 2018, the Supreme Court placed him on an interim suspension and ordered fee arbitration with his former client. In a second matter, also involving an elderly client, Plonsky failed to communicate, lacked competence, failed to properly supervise non-lawyer assistants, failed to exercise professional independence and supported the unlicensed practice of law by a non-legal entity. (Case Nos. SC17-321 & SC18-928)
M. Lynn Pope, P.O. Box 320103, Tampa, suspended, for three years, effective immediately, following an April 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Pope was held in contempt of the court’s May 31, 2018, order for failing to notify clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her suspension. (Case No. SC19-201)