Supreme Court disciplines 27 attorneys

The Department of Lawyer Regulation of The Florida Bar informed local Historic City News reporters that the Florida Supreme Court has recently disciplined 27 attorneys disbarring two, revoking the licenses of four, suspending 17 and reprimanding four. Eight attorneys received additional discipline. Six had periods of probation and two were ordered to pay restitution. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

William Abramson, 3415 Broadway, Apt. 2, West Palm Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective immediately, following a June 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) Abramson had three disciplinary cases pending before a referee alleging that he engaged in disrespectful and confrontational behavior with two separate traffic magistrates; that he failed to comply with discovery requests leading to sanctions being imposed in a personal civil matter; and that he failed to appear before a grievance committee and produce documents. Abramson also had two other matters pending before a grievance committee alleging that after accepting a fee to represent two criminal defendants, he failed to properly communicate and diligently represent them. (Case No. SC19-717)

Jennifer P. Alessi, 13626 Greenfield Drive, Apt. 506, Tampa, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days from a July 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) Alessi did not respond to the Bar’s request for trust account records. After the Bar filed a Petition for Contempt and Order to Show Cause, the Florida Supreme Court issued an Order to Show Cause, which Alessi failed to respond to. The court the held her in contempt. (Case No. SC19-722)

Richard Salvatore Amari, P.O. Box 66732, St. Petersburg, suspended until further order of the court, effective 30 days from a July 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) In May 2018, the state filed its Amended Felony Information charging Amari with Possession of Cocaine, a third-degree felony, and driving under the influence and refusal to submit to drug testing, misdemeanor offenses. Amari pleaded guilty to the three charges, with the court withholding adjudication on the felony offense. In January, he violated his probation for the felony charge and entered a plea of guilty to the possession of cocaine felony, a third-degree felony. (Case No. SC19-1154)

Michelle A. Barry, 300 N. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Suite. 312, Longwood, publicly reprimanded, effective immediately following a July 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Barry is also required to complete The Florida Bar’s Ethics School and Trust Accounting Workshop. In a divorce case, a client paid the fee by credit card but soon after changed her mind about proceeding and asked Barry for a refund. In the subsequent fee dispute, Barry asked the client to sign a settlement agreement for the return of the unused cost deposit that included an improper clause requiring the client to waive her rights to file a bar complaint. Barry ultimately made a full refund of the unused cost deposit. In a second case, after a client filed a complaint with the Bar, Barry sent the client emails with disparaging remarks. (Case No. SC19-312)

David Jay Bernstein, 450 Fairway Drive, Suite 104, Deerfield Beach, suspended for one year and ordered to pay restitution, effective Aug. 2, following a July 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Bernstein engaged in the unlicensed practice of law in Alabama while representing a client in post-conviction matters. In a second matter, while attempting to appear pro hac vice in Virginia, Bernstein filed a certification that falsely stated he had not been reprimanded in any court, nor had there been any action in any court pertaining to his conduct or fitness as a member of the Bar. (Case No. SC18-1458)

Christopher Louis Brady, 770 Sesame St., Englewood, permanently disbarred, effective immediately following a July 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2013) In July 2018, Brady was terminated as an associate attorney from Barak Law Group for cause. Afterward, he began holding himself out as the owner of Barak Law Group and contacted opposing counsel on several of the law firm’s cases to advise them to no longer communicate with owner Anthony Barak regarding their cases. On Aug. 12, 2018, Brady and his brother burglarized the Barak Law Group’s office and the firm’s storage unit. Criminal charges still were pending against Brady and his brother at the time the Bar’s case was concluded. Despite an injunction obtained by Barak, Brady continued filing unauthorized papers and pleadings on behalf of clients of Barak Law Group while holding himself out as being affiliated with the law firm. He also represented his brother in an unrelated family law matter and filed at least six documents wherein the signature block showed his affiliation with Barak Law Group in direct violation of the injunction. (Case No. SC19-39)

Michael Jonathan Braunschweig, 5455 SW 8th St., Suite 255, Coral Gables, suspended until further order of the court effective 30 days from a July 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Braunschweig did not respond to multiple inquiries from the Bar during an investigation into allegations of his misconduct and failed to respond to the Supreme Court’s Order to Show Cause. He will remain suspended until he fully responds in writing to the official Bar inquiry, and until further Order of the Court. (Case No. SC19-734)

Cary Martin Clennon, P.O. Box 29302, Washington, D.C., suspended for one year, effective 30 days from a June 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) This is a reciprocal discipline action, based on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals April 5, 2018, order. Clennon was appointed to represent a criminal defendant on appeal and failed to communicate and adequately represent him, with the court finally vacating his appointment. He also made a false statement to a tribunal. (Case No. SC18-2104)

Lysa Nichole Clifton, 4204 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission, effective 30 days from a June 27, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Charges pending against Clifton included failure to perform services after being retained in one client matter; direct solicitation of a client in a high-profile criminal case; and pending criminal charges for driving under the influence in one matter and possession of a controlled substance and driving with a suspended license in another matter. (Case No. SC19-781)

Linda Schneider Faingold, 5334 Van Dyke Road, Lutz, reprimanded, effective Aug. 3 following a July 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Faingold was also ordered to attend Ethics School. Faingold failed to disclose the death of her estate client to either the court or opposing party before a scheduled mediation. She was unaware of her duty to do so and was of the mistaken belief that under Florida Statute, the putative personal representative could take actions for the benefit of the estate prior to appointment by the court. (Case No. SC19-259)

Kirk Joseph Girrbach, 112 N. Birch Road, Apt. 510, Fort Lauderdale, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective 30 days from a June 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) Charges pending against Girrbach at the time of the court order included his misuse of trust funds from a real estate closing and misrepresenting the status of a pending legal action. (Case No. SC19-534)

Brian Jay Glick, 54 SW 2nd Ave., Boca Raton, emergency suspension, effective 30 days from a July 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1981) Glick is charged with misappropriation of settlement funds held in trust; use of unrelated funds to satisfy a trust fund liability; making misrepresentations to The Florida Bar in response to the Bar’s investigation; and failing to produce and maintain required trust accounting documents and other required records. (Case No. SC19-1014)

Kelly Ann Greene, P.O. Box 547065, Orlando, suspended for three years effective immediately, following a July 12 court order. (Admitted to practice 1986) Greene was held in contempt of the court’s orders dated Nov. 1, 2018, and Jan. 2, 2019, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her suspension. (Case No. SC19-564)

Blanca Perper Greenstein, 6748 Willow Wood Drive, Apt. 1306, Boca Raton, suspended for three years, effective July 27, following a June 27 court order. Greenstein hired a bookkeeper, who was recommended by her then husband, the CFO of her law firm. Greenstein gave the bookkeeper signatory authority over her trust account and did not conduct a background check, which would have uncovered a criminal record for theft. The bookkeeper misappropriated more than $100,000 from Greenstein’s trust account. After becoming aware of the thefts, Greenstein made immediate efforts to repay all monies that were misappropriated. (Case No. SC19-919)

Joshua T. Hauserman, 1800 Forest Hill Blvd., Suite A2, West Palm Beach, 91-day suspension with one year of probation upon reinstatement, effective 30 days from a June 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Hauserman violated the terms of his probation in a Bar disciplinary case. (Case No: SC18-1477)

Jose Maria Herrera, 2350 Coral Way, Suite 201, Miami, disbarred for 10 years, effective

30 days from a July 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Herrera raised frivolous claims, made misrepresentations to the court, suborned perjurious testimony and raised false and/or frivolous claims of privilege in order to conceal relevant evidence. His abusive litigation tactics harmed his own client’s interests and caused prejudice to his client. The enhanced disbarment period of 10 years is based on his part in perpetrating a massive fraud upon the courts of South Florida (Case No. SC16-1323)

Andrew C. Hill, 6136 Cypress Hill Road, Winter Garden, public reprimand and a two-year period of probation, effective immediately following a June 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Over an extended period of time, Hill failed to respond, in writing, to three separate Bar inquiries. Subsequently, respondent appeared and provided testimony during a sworn statement taken on Feb. 12, 2019. (Case No. SC19-886)

Rosemary Anne Hill-Baitson, 2026 Henley Place, Fort Myers, suspended for 18 months, effective 30 days from a June 27 court order. Hill-Baitson is also directed to attend The Florida Bar’s Ethics School and Trust Account Workshop. (Admitted to practice: 2004) While representing a couple fighting a foreclosure, Hill-Baitson failed to maintain a trust account, made deliberate and knowing misrepresentations to the presiding judge and failed to communicate with her clients the basis for her fees. (Case No. SC18-1619)

Earl Mayberry Johnson Jr., P.O. Box 40091, Jacksonville, suspended for six months, effective 30 days from a July 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) In 2011, the family of a man who pleaded guilty to attempted murder hired Johnson for $5,000 to pursue a post-conviction motion on the basis that the victim recanted her testimony. Over the course of three years, Johnson filed motions for new trial, to vacate the judgment and conviction and to expedite a ruling. In the meantime, his client filed his own motions. Following inaction by the trial court, in 2016 the client’s family paid an additional $1,500 for a certiorari to speed the process along, which Johnson never filed. In 2016, the court denied pending motions, explained corrections needed and allowed 60 days to file an amended motion, which Johnson never filed. Johnson refunded the family’s $1,500 and also successfully filed pleadings to preserve his client’s right to appeal. (Case No. SC18-32)

Scott Brian Kallins, 433 8th Ave. W., Palmetto, suspended for 18 months effective 30 days from a July 18 court order, with probation for a year upon reinstatement. (Admitted to practice: 1985) Kallins and Melton Harry Little represented a plaintiff in a case in June 2015. After the jury returned a verdict for the defendant, they offered tickets to a professional baseball game to the presiding judge, which he accepted. They soon after filed a motion for a new trial. After the judge accepted a second set of tickets to another baseball game, he granted the motion for a new trial. Following formal charges being filed by the Judicial Qualifications Commission in 2016, the judge resigned from the bench. (Case No. SC17-574)

Melton Harry Little, 433 8th Ave. W., Palmetto, suspended for 18 months effective 30 days from a July 18 court order, with probation for a year upon reinstatement. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Little and Scott Brian Kallins represented a plaintiff in a case in June 2015. After the jury returned a verdict for the defendant, they offered tickets to a professional baseball game to the presiding judge, which he accepted. They soon after filed a motion for a new trial. After the judge accepted a second set of tickets to another baseball game, he granted the motion for a new trial. Following formal charges being filed by the Judicial Qualifications Commission in 2016, the judge resigned from the bench. (Case No. SC17-490)

Edward Alan Martinez, 159 Madeira Ave., Suite 1, Miami, reprimanded following a July 18 court order. Martinez was also ordered to pay restitution of $6,500 to one client. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Martinez charged an impermissible fee in a foreclosure case and failed to comply with technical requirements for managing trust accounts. He voluntarily attended a trust account workshop to avoid future trust account problems. He was ordered to make restitution to the client in the amount of the impermissible fee. (Case No. SC18-1953)

Jonathan Seth Morris, P.O. Box 319, Fort Lauderdale, disciplinary revocation, effective immediately following a June 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) It is alleged that Morris settled a client’s case without the client’s approval. Settlement funds in the amount of $21,500 were remitted to Morris and deposited by him in his trust account on Feb. 7, 2018. Morris thereafter misappropriated the settlement funds. On or about Dec. 21, 2018, Morris repaid the $21,500 to the client’s subsequent counsel. (Case No. SC19-787)

Andrew Spark, 1991 E. State Road 60, No. 1056, Valrico, suspended until further order of the court, effective 30 days from a July 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) In Feb. 9, 2018, in Hillsborough County, Spark was charged with Introduction of Contraband to a Detention Facility and Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution. On May 15, he pleaded guilty to the contraband charge and was sentenced to 56 months of probation. Adjudication was withheld. On Feb. 16, 2018, in Pinellas County, Spark was charged with Introduction of Contraband to a Detention Facility and Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution. He pleaded guilty in February to the contraband charge and was sentenced to five years of probation. Adjudication was withheld. Spark also pleaded guilty to the solicitation charge and was sentenced to 12 months of probation. Adjudication was withheld. (Case No. SC19-1163)

Eric Robert Stanco, 2390 Tamiami Trail, N., Suite 216, Naples, suspended for 10 days, with probation and completion of a rehabilitation contract with FLA, Inc., effective July 22, following a June 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Stanco became delinquent in his Bar membership for failing to pay his diversion fee. He initially was unaware of the delinquency and continued to practice law. He incorrectly stated on his petition to reinstate his license that he had not practiced law during his delinquency. (Case No. SC19-904)

William DeForest Thompson Jr., 2030 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, suspended until further order of the court, effective 30 days from a July 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) The Bar received a notice of insufficient funds from Thompson’s bank, relating to his firm’s trust account. The Bar conducted an audit during which Thompson failed to provide monthly reconciliations or compliant client ledgers. The audit revealed that during a four-month period, he had misappropriated at least $14,071 of client funds. (Case No. SC19-1144)

Antonina Vaznelis, 8235 River Country Drive, Weeki Wachee, suspended for 60 days followed by a five-year period of conditional probation, effective 30 days from a July 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) Vaznelis was the successor trustee for a trust but was negligent in performing routine accountings for the trust’s assets and, as a result, failed to notice a fraudulent charge against the trust’s bank account from an outside source. By the time Vaznelis performed an accounting of the trust’s assets two years later, it was too late to recover the lost funds. Vaznelis refunded the amount of the fraudulent charge. The Bar’s ensuing audit of Vaznelis’ law office trust account revealed technical recordkeeping violations. Vaznelis’ misconduct violated the terms of her probation entered in a previous discipline case. (Case Nos. SC19-71 and SC19-104)