Leslie H. Smith, spokesperson for the Department of Lawyer Regulation of The Florida Bar informed local Historic City News reporters that the Florida Supreme Court has recently disciplined 12 attorneys, suspending six, disbarring four, reprimanding one, and ordering disciplinary revocation for one.
Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days or longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.
Summaries of orders issued from July 22, 2022, to August 26, 2022
Matt Shirk, 25 North Market Street, Jacksonville, was suspended effective 30 days following an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) While serving as the elected Public Defender of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, Shirk engaged in various acts of misconduct that resulted in the Commission on Ethics finding probable cause to believe Shirk had violated Section 112.313(6) and Section 112.313(8) of the Florida Statutes. The Commission on Ethics reported its findings and recommendation to the Governor of the State of Florida wherein it recommended that Shirk be publicly censured and reprimanded and have a civil penalty in the amount of $6,000 imposed against him. Shirk hired or directed the hiring of three women by the Office of the Public Defender contrary to the procedures, policies, or qualifications, or outside the normal hiring practices. Shirk then engaged in work-related interactions with these women that were of an inappropriate nature. Shirk also violated Jacksonville City Ordinance 154.107 by serving alcoholic beverages in a city building to several of these women after their work hours. Finally, Shirk revealed information related to the representation of a minor client during an interview with a film crew making a documentary about the client’s case. The high-profile generated significant media attention and Shirk failed to obtain the permission of the client’s Guardian Ad Litem or the child’s attorney prior to engaging in the interview. (Case No: SC21-540)
Mary Michele Hudson, 4440 PGA Boulevard, Suite 600, Palm Beach Gardens, suspended for 91 days as of July 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Hudson was held in contempt of the Court’s order dated February 2, 2022, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5. l(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals of her suspension. (Case No: SC22-684)
Joseph Scott Lanford, 3159 Alzante Circle, Suite 102, Melbourne, suspended for three years effective 30 days following an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Lanford met with a 78-year-old woman in 2015 because, according to the respondent, she wished to amend her revocable living trust and change the lawyer for her trust. The client’s revocable living trust had assets of approximately $3,500,000. Lanford drafted an amended revocable living trust for her that named him as co-trustee with her while she was alive and trustee after her death. He also drafted a power of attorney that named him as her power of attorney. There was no written fee agreement with the client and there is no documentation advising the client of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent legal counsel. Lanford engaged in a conflict of interest and self-dealing in regard to a revocable living trust matter for an elderly client. (Case No: SC21-1008)
Julio J . Martinez, 6450 Collins Ave, Apt 1108, Miami Beach, suspended for 30 days effective 30 days following an August 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Martinez failed to comply with all terms and conditions set forth in the consent judgment by failing to abstain from the consumption of alcohol. (Case No: SC22-832)
Stefan E. McHardy, 15800 Pines Blvd., Ste. 300, Pembroke Pines, permanently disbarred as of an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Despite being disbarred, McHardy continued to hold himself out on his real estate website as “The Listing Lawyer,” and publish a blog in which he dispensed legal advice. (Case No: SC22-819)
Arthur Joseph Morburger, 5255 Collins Ave Apt SJ, Miami Beach, disbarred effective immediately as of an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Morburger neglected to take measures to protect third party funds held in trust despite being on notice that several unauthorized checks had been negotiated against the account, thereby depleting a portion of the trust funds. Despite denying knowledge as to the recipient of the converted trust funds, in fact the funds had been deposited into an account belonging to Morburger’s client. He also made multiple misrepresentations to the referee during the course of the disciplinary proceedings. (Case No: SC21-900)
Erika Lynn Muller, 110 SE 6th Street, Suite 2700, Fort Lauderdale, disbarred effective 30 days following an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) While acting as an insurance defense attorney, Muller engaged in a pattern of neglect and fraudulent conduct. Muller made repeated verbal and written misrepresentations in an attempt to conceal her neglect. Muller also fabricated documents, including counterfeit settlement checks and falsified court documents. Muller’s misconduct led her to resign from her law firm. Muller failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding, she is delinquent in membership fees, and she failed to update her record bar address. (Case No: SC22-221)
Jose G. Oliveira, 1284 Seburn Road, Apopka, public reprimand administered by a personal appearance before the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar and completion of an office procedures and record-keeping analysis by The Florida Bar’s Diversion/Discipline Consultation Service effective immediately following an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Oliveira consulted with a prospective client about a civil dispute and requested that the prospective client email him the contract related to the dispute. After receiving the contract, Oliveira advised the prospective client that he could not open the first email that was sent but that Oliveira could not represent him in the matter due to a conflict of interest. Oliveira then later entered an appearance on behalf of the opposing party in a lawsuit regarding the same subject matter. Counsel for the plaintiff filed a Motion to Disqualify based on the alleged conflict of interest, and following a hearing on the motion, the trial court disqualified Oliveira from representing the opposing party in the civil lawsuit. (Case No: SC22-582)
Marc S. Reiner, 12316 Equine Lane, West Palm Beach, suspended for 90 days, ordered to attend The Florida Bar’s Ethics School and complete certain continuing legal education courses effective 30 days following an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Reiner failed to comply with his continuing legal education requirements and became delinquent. Reiner continued to engage in the practice of law and made a false statement on his Petition for Removal of Continuing Legal Education Requirement Delinquency. He also failed to timely respond to the bar’s investigative inquiries in that matter, as well as regarding two filed grievances. (Case No: SC21-241)
S. A. Siddiqui, 3840 Belfort Rd., Suite 302, Jacksonville, disbarred effective immediately following a July 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Siddiqui was held in contempt of the Court’s order dated December 20, 2021, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.l(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension. (Case No: SC22-688)
Michael Alan Steinberg, 4925 Independence Pkwy, Suite 195, Tampa, suspended for 90 days, ordered to attend Ethics School and to pay Bar’s disciplinary costs effective 30 days following an August 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1982) The Florida Bar filed a reciprocal discipline matter based on a United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (USCAVC) Order dated October 21, 2020, which imposed a 90-day suspension on Steinberg from USCAVC, and required completion of six hours of ethics-focused continuing legal education prior to seeking reinstatement to USCAVC. Steinberg’s suspension from USCAVC was based on his repeated failures to respond to Court orders in two pending matters and his failure to comply with the Court’s Rules of Practice and Procedure. He did not timely report his suspension from USCAVC to The Florida Bar. (Case No: SC21-976)
Richard Waserstein, 1124 Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Islands, disciplinary revocation without leave to apply for readmission effective 30 days following an August 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Waserstein submitted a petition for disciplinary revocation following his February 2, 2022, plea of guilty to the charge of conspiring to launder money in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. (Case No: SC22-686)
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 110,000 members of The Florida Bar.