The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announced to Historic City News reporters that the Florida Supreme Court disciplined 15 attorneys in recent court orders. They disbarred four, revoking the licenses of seven, suspending three and reprimanding one. One attorney was also ordered to pay restitution. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.
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 more than 107,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps. Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at 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.
Barrett Paul Burnette, 123 Wisteria Drive, Longwood, suspended effective 30 days from an Aug. 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Burnette was adjudicated guilty of two third-degree felonies and two misdemeanors related to throwing a flagpole into a residence and damaging a truck and a SUV. In a related case, Burnette was adjudicated guilty of Aggravated Stalking With Credible Threat, a third-degree felony, and Battery, a first degree misdemeanor. For both crimes, Burnette was sentenced to two years of community control and two years’ probation. After release from jail, he is to enter an inpatient treatment facility for at least 30 days. (Case No. SC19-1459)
Dennis L. Horton, 10301 Down Lakeview Circle, Windermere, disbarred effective immediately, following an Aug. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Horton was found to have taken improper loans from his clients and commingled trust funds in his operating account that had excessive overdrafts. As a result, trust funds were used for purposes other than those for which they were intended. (Case No. SC17-782)
Robert Nickolas Ingham, 7133 Bay Drive, Apt. 505, Miami Beach, disbarred, effective 30 days from a Sept. 10 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Ingham made material misrepresentations to the Bankruptcy Court in one case and after having been suspended from practicing before the Bankruptcy Court, continued to file documents on behalf of a client. In other cases, Ingham failed and refused to return earnest money deposits to buyers that he had accepted as the real estate broker and escrow agent, despite the short sales not being approved. He also made material misrepresentations to the court and the Bar. (Case Nos. SC18-588, SC18-656 and SC18-772)
Daniel Kaplan, 18851 N.E. 29th Ave., Suite 901, Aventura, publicly reprimanded, by an Aug. 29 court order with probationary conditions. (Admitted to practice: 1992) In departing his law firm and in a subsequent legal dispute with his former law partner, Kaplan sent disparaging and defaming communications. After being enjoined from doing so by court order, a judge found that he violated the court order. In an unrelated matter, Kaplan was also accused of calling another lawyer a derogatory name. (Case No. SC19-60).
Daniel Stephen Lapina, 1300 N. Semoran Blvd., Suite 215, Orlando, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission to The Florida Bar after five years, effective 30 days from an Aug. 22 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) After receiving notice from the bank that a check drawn on Lapina’s law office trust account was dishonored due to insufficient funds, the bar conducted a compliance audit that revealed that Lapina failed to maintain the account in substantial compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, resulting in shortages. (Case No. SC19-991)
Carin E. Maxey, 4495 Roosevelt Blvd., Suite 304, Jacksonville, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after 10 years, effective immediately, following a Sept. 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) Disciplinary charges pending against Maxey involved misappropriation of client trust funds. (Case No. SC19-433)
Jessica Marie McClean, 200 Laguna Villa Blvd., Unit C23, Jacksonville Beach, disciplinary revocation, effective immediately, following an Aug. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) McClean represented her firm as a New York City law firm, when it was in Jacksonville. She used non-lawyers in Florida to improperly solicit clients. They also offered legal advice to those clients, throughout the United States, for foreclosure defense and bankruptcy. McClean’s firm would accept fees and either refer a client to a lawyer in the client’s locale without paying the lawyer or would accept the fees and abandon the client altogether. The non-lawyers filed pleadings and engaged in the unlicensed practice of law in those other states. McClean’s firm failed to communicate with clients about the extent of the firm’s representation or failed to communicate with the client altogether. Her firm also failed to maintain minimum trust accounting procedures. (Case No. SC19-1148)
Madeline Palenzuela, 1825 Ponce de Leon Blvd., No. 343, Coral Gables, disbarred, effective immediately following a Sept. 5 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2003) A client retained Palenzuela to handle a family court matter. After both the client and opposing counsel informed the court that they were unable to contact her and she failed to appear in court, the judge contacted The Florida Bar. Palenzuela failed to respond to inquiries or otherwise participate in the discipline process. (Case No. SC19-235)
James R. Palmer, 260 Wekiva Springs Road, Suite 2090, Longwood, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days from an Aug. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Palmer, the only attorney with signatory authority for the firm’s trust accounts, failed to maintain the minimum trust account records or follow the minimum trust account procedures as required, resulting in client trust funds being used for purposes other than those intended. (Case No. SC19-711)
Jon Douglas Parrish, 3431 Pine Ridge Rd., Suite 101, Naples, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective 30 days from an Aug. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) Parrish was adjudicated guilty of a misdemeanor charge of harassing a victim, in this case of a domestic violence attack. (Case No. SC19-962)
Gary Louis Pickett, 105 S. Narcissus Ave., Suite 306, West Palm Beach, disbarred, and ordered to pay restitution totaling $11,500 to two clients, effective 30 days from a Sept. 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Pickett entered into a partnership with a nonlawyer to provide foreclosure defense legal services. He split legal fees with nonlawyers, failed to properly supervise the lawyers and nonlawyers working in the business and assisted in the unlicensed practice of law. Pickett also did not competently and diligently represent clients and failed to adequately communicate with them. He charged an excessive fee and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty and bad faith. (Case No. SC16-1213)
Rangile Artice Santiago, 9770 South Military Trail, Suite B4-241, Boynton Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective immediately following an Aug. 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Charges pending against Santiago in a Bar grievance involved misappropriation of client trust funds as well as other misconduct involving surplus funds. (Case No. SC19-903)
Richard Walter Springer, 141 Egret Circle, West Palm Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission to The Florida Bar after five years, effective immediately from a Sept. 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Springer submitted a Petition for Disciplinary Revocation of Admission based upon allegations that he took fees from his clients and did not perform any significant legal work. He did not refund any of the unearned legal fees. (Case No. SC19-1059)
Randall Albert Werre, P.O. Box 387, Milton, suspended for one year effective 30 days from a Sept. 12 court order. Werre also must take the Ethics portion of the Florida Bar examination before reinstatement. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Hired by a client to handle a bankruptcy, Werre did not communicate with the client, who terminated his legal services. Werre failed to return the client’s legal documents as well. Hired by another client to handle a name change for a minor child before the beginning of the school year, Werre took no action for more than a year. In both cases, he failed to respond to Florida Bar inquiries. (Case No. SC18-2082)
Martin Miles Werner, 102 N.E. 2nd St., Unit 166, Boca Raton, suspended 30 days from a Sept. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1985) In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Werner was adjudicated guilty in 2018 of Conspiracy to Defraud the IRS and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, both felonies, and sentenced to four years’ probation and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the IRS. (Case No. SC19-1504)