Jennifer Krell Davis, 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 23 attorneys; disbarring three, emergency suspending two, suspending fourteen, reprimanding three, and revoking one without leave to reapply.
Gaining local notoriety among those disciplined is a former mayor of the City of St Augustine, Joe Boles, who practices elder law, estate planning, wills and trusts, probate, and pre-Medicaid eligibility law with his stepson William Masson, at 19 Riberia Street in Saint Augustine.
Joseph Lester Boles Jr., suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days following an April 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) In several instances, Boles failed to make the required disclosures and obtain the required written statements acknowledging that the disclosures were made to the testator before appointing himself as backup successor trustee or personal representative in violation of Florida statutes. Boles also engaged in a conflict of interest in a probate matter by failing to advise the beneficiaries to seek independent counsel before having them sign waivers of their right as a beneficiary and appointing himself as the surrogate beneficiary. (Case No: SC22-1628)
Michael Andrew Adams, P.O. Box 560489, Orlando, suspended for 45 days and required to complete Ethics School, effective 30 days following an April 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Adams did not follow proper procedures for lawyers leaving law firms. Adams failed to negotiate with his employing firm an acceptable joint letter to be sent to the affected clients. Instead, Adams and his law partner unilaterally mailed a letter to the affected clients advising them of their departure from the firm and of the clients’ rights to choose to remain a client of the law firm, to choose representation by the departing lawyer’s firm, or to choose representation by another law firm. (Case No: SC22-1410)
Hazem Reda Bata, 6353 Silver Leaf Drive, Zionsville, Indiana, suspended for 60 days and ordered to attend Ethics School, effective May 15, 2023. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Bata served as an escrow agent for a land deal in the Bahamas. An initial deposit on behalf of the buyer was provided by an investor who subsequently requested the return of the funds. Bata returned the funds and failed to notify the parties to the contract. The contract remained in limbo for over a decade while various issues with the land were resolved. In 2019, when the parties were ready to finalize the deal, the buyer learned for the first time that Bata no longer had the funds in his possession. (Case No: SC22-1361)
Jonathon Charles Avery Blevins, P.O. Box 560489, Orlando, suspended for 60 days and required to complete Ethics School, effective 30 days following an April 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) Blevins did not follow proper procedures for lawyers leaving law firms. Blevins failed to negotiate with his employing firm an acceptable joint letter to be sent to the affected clients. Instead, Blevins and his law partner unilaterally mailed a letter to the affected clients advising them of their departure from the firm and of the clients’ rights to choose to remain a client of the law firm, to choose representation by the departing lawyer’s firm, or to choose representation by another law firm. (Case No: SC22-1415)
Brett A. Elam, 105 S. Narcissus Ave., Suite 802, West Palm Beach, permanently disbarred, effective immediately following an April 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Elam was disbarred following a March 28, 2019, court order for misappropriation, misrepresentation and violating a court order. Despite his disbarment, Elam continued to engage in the active practice of law. Elam was permanently disbarred for contempt of the Supreme Court of Florida. (Case No: SC23-328)
George Crosby Gaskell, III, P.O. Box 1111, Stuart, publicly reprimanded and ordered to complete The Florida Bar’s Trust Accounting Workshop, to participate in The Florida Bar’s Fee Arbitration program with the affected clients, and in Florida Lawyer’s Assistance, Inc.’s program, effective immediately following an April 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Gaskell represented two clients in an eviction case. After he successfully negotiated a settlement, a dispute arose between Gaskell and his clients regarding his legal fees. Gaskell believed the clients orally authorized him to keep the settlement funds as payment of the fees owed but did not reduce the agreement to writing. After Gaskell took the funds as payment, the clients disputed that this agreement existed. Gaskell’s failure to maintain adequate communication with his clients contributed to the misunderstanding about his legal fees. (Case No: SC22-948)
Gary Grant, 1498 SW 5th Ave., Boca Raton, publicly reprimanded and referred to the Diversion/Discipline Consultation Service (“DDCS”) of The Florida Bar, effective immediately following a March 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2017) The court found that Grant, who represented a third party in post-judgment collection activities, including in a deposition and proceedings supplementary, pursuant to Fla. Stat. §56.29 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 69, acted with incompetence and made misstatements and baseless arguments in pleadings to the court. Grant admits that he made mistakes in representing his client, but that said mistakes were due to a lack of competence rather than any intentional misrepresentation. (Case No: SC23-0353)
Brandon Scott Labiner, 2322 LaVida Way, Boca Raton, emergency suspended, effective 30 days following an April 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2016) Labiner is alleged to have misappropriated approximately $540,000 from a trust for which he acts as trustee, altered documents and made misrepresentations to The Florida Bar regarding his misconduct. (Case No: SC23-0525)
Jonathan Grant Morton, 1395 Brickell Ave., Suite 900, Miami, suspended for 18 months, effective 30 days following a March 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2008) This is a reciprocal disciplinary action, resulting from an order of discipline from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, imposing an eighteen-month suspension for Morton’s failure to limit the volume of his trademark practice to an amount for whom he could provide competent representation. Morton’s grossly inflated clientele resulted in his failure to properly review each application prior to filing same, as well as his failure to conduct required pre-filing inquiries, despite his certification that he had done so. (Case No: SC22-1574)
Alex S. Barnett, P.O. Box 2890, Silver Spring, MD, emergency suspended effectively immediately following a Feb. 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2018) Barnett posted on social media, and in other communications and/or filings disparaged and/or impugned a variety of legal and law enforcement organizations, and used threats of violence that are contrary to the administration of justice. Barnett’s language included a profanities and threats to kill numerous individuals and blow up the Florida Supreme Court. (Case No: SC23-0273)
Luis Ernesto Basagoitia, 1320 N. Semoran Blvd., Suite 106, Orlando, suspended for 60 days and ordered to attend Ethics School and Stress Management Workshop, effective 30 days following a March 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) While representing a client in a dissolution of marriage matter, Basagoitia failed to file a notice of appearance, which caused him to not be served with orders issued by the court. He also failed to provide his client with competent representation and adequate communication. In the course of the representation, as well as during the disciplinary proceeding, Basagoitia made several inappropriate and disparaging remarks about his client. (Case No: SC22-837)
William Kalisch, 5813 Bayshore Blvd, Tampa, disciplinary revocation without leave to reapply and restitution by court orders dated July 7, 2022, and March 30, 2023. (Admitted to practice: 1976) By order dated July 7, 2022, Kalish’s petition for disciplinary revocation without leave to reapply related to allegations of misappropriation was granted, and the Court ordered further proceedings as to the issue of restitution. By order dated March 30, 2023, Kalish was ordered to comply with the confidential restitution agreements made with the parties. (Case No: SC22-0436)
Mark D. Siegel, 3205 Southgate Circle, Suite 4, Sarasota, suspended for three years, effective immediately following a March 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) Siegel personally failed to respond to an arbitration petition, was defaulted, and purposely avoided service of process in the enforcement action. He also avoided service of process of a legal malpractice suit filed against him for lack of diligence, lack of communication and incompetence. Siegel failed to respond to several official bar inquiries, was held in contempt and suspended. (Case No: SC22-594)
Jonathan Clement Zisser, 121 W. Forsyth St., Suite 1000, Jacksonville, suspended for 60 days, effective April 3 following a March 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Zisser was hired to represent the client in a divorce proceeding and in a criminal domestic batter case as her victim advocate. During the representation, Zisser began a sexual relationship with the client. The client’s husband exposed the relationship between the two, and Zisser ended his representation of the client. (Case No: SC22-591)
Richard G. Chosid, 3110 NE 48th St., Lighthouse Point, suspended for six months and ordered to attend The Florida Bar’s Trust Accounting Workshop, effective 60 days following a Feb. 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1963) Chosid accepted a deposit for a client into his trust account and agreed to disburse the funds at the client’s direction for a 10% fee. Chosid ultimately received $1.43 million and disbursed the funds as directed by the client. The funds were intended to secure a standby letter of credit for a third party. Chosid breached his fiduciary duty to the third party by failing to inquire further and apprise himself of the intended purpose of the funds and instead distributed them in accordance with his client’s instructions. (Case No: SC23-183)
Ian Horn, P.O. Box 691, Brandon, disbarred, effective immediately following a Feb. 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) Horn was adjudicated guilty of one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1623(a), a Class D felony. Horn was sentenced to two years of supervised probation, six months of home detention, and 50 hours of community service, with additional terms of probation. Horn further stipulated that he failed to timely notify The Florida Bar of the felony criminal charges. (Case No: SC22-242)
Julio Cesar Marrero, 3850 Bird Rd., #1001, Miami, disbarred, effective 30 days following a Feb. 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Marrero was the subject of three separate complaints, all of which indicated that Marrero engaged in systemic and ongoing abuse of the bankruptcy and/or removal proceedings in federal court to obstruct or forestall state court foreclosures or debt collections. Marrero continued these bad faith litigation tactics in the disciplinary proceedings, where he also made misrepresentations to the referee. Marrero was sanctioned for similar misconduct before. (Case No: SC21-652)
Eduardo Julio Mejias, 283 Cranes Roost Blvd., Suite 111, Altamonte Springs, suspended for one year followed by probation for three years, effective 30 days following a Feb. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Mejias engaged in a pattern of misconduct in which he neglected client matters and failed to comply with court orders. In several matters, Mejias was sanctioned by the court. (Case No: SC21-1610)
Sabine Millien-Felix, 510 27th St., West Palm Beach, suspended for 90 days, effective 30 days following a Feb. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Millien-Felix was hired as general counsel for a homeowners’ association, whom she filed a civil complaint on behalf of and subsequently neglected. Millien-Felix then failed to inform the homeowners’ association, which was also assessed costs, that the lawsuit was dismissed for lack of prosecution. Just before the running of the statute of limitations, Millien-Felix refiled the case after the association terminated her representation. Millien-Felix has been repaying the costs assessed to the former client. (Case No: SC23-141)
Joshua Kelly Moran, 1792 Bell Tower Lane, Weston, suspended until such time as he answers inquiries from The Florida Bar and until further order of the Florida Supreme Court, effective 30 days following a Feb. 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Moran was held in contempt of The Florida Supreme Court and suspended for his failure to respond to investigative inquiries promulgated by The Florida Bar. (Case No: SC22-1545)
Daniel Wayne Perry, 4767 New Broad St., #1007, Orlando, suspended for 60 days and ordered to attend The Florida Bar’s Ethics School, effective 30 days following a Feb. 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) Perry engaged in a pattern of misconduct during his representation of several mobile park homeowners’ associations. Perry filed frivolous lawsuits, violated the confidentiality provisions of the Florida Mediation Act, and paid attorneys’ fee sanction amounts out of his own pocket to convince clients to further litigate their cases. Perry’s conduct created conflicts of interest with his clients. (Case No: SC22-391)
Susan Rachel Torres, 7750 SW 117th Ave., Suite 202B, Miami, publicly reprimanded, effective immediately following a Feb. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2011) Torres failed to timely correct a mistake in an appeal and failed to supervise a nonlawyer assistant in an immigration matter causing an order of deportation to become final. Torres has refunded all the fees paid to her in this matter. (Case No: SC23-155)
Raegan S. Yunger, 125 S. Swoope Ave., Suite 210, Maitland, suspended and a referee was appointed to recommend discipline, effective 30 days following a Jan. 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) On Jan. 19, 2023, Yunger pled guilty to one count of manslaughter, a second degree felony, and one count of possession of methamphetamine, a third degree felony. The trial court adjudicated Yunger guilty and sentenced her to ten years in the Florida Department of Corrections. (Case No: SC23-116)
Summaries of orders issued from January 28, 2023, to April 28, 2023.
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. 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.