The South Florida lawyers on the most recent Florida Bar’s monthly discipline report include a convicted fraudster doing federal time, both name partners of a Miami law firm and an attorney who has trouble putting things in writing.
In alphabetical order:
▪ James Casey, Slesnick & Casey, Coral Gables — A 20-day suspension beginning Saturday.
In June 2012, Patricia D’Orsa-Dijamco hired Casey to file a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration. The suit was filed in Broward State Court in May 2013. The DEA got the suit moved to federal court and in December 2013, and filed a motion to dismiss.
When the court demanded in March 2014 that Casey show cause why the DEA’s motion shouldn’t be granted, he filed a motion for an extension and claimed he never received the DEA’s motion. The court rejected his motion and pointed out the 67-year-old lawyer hadn’t checked the court docket nor provided an email address to receive electronic filings, a requirement for attorneys practicing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The case was dismissed without prejudice. So, the whole process began again in May 2015. Casey filed in Broward, DEA got the case moved to federal court and filed for dismissal.
By then, it was July 2016 and Casey wasn’t responding to D’Orsa-Dijamco. She couldn’t get an answer via e-mail or phone, not even when she asked for her files after finding out about the latest DEA motion to dismiss. Casey never filed a response to that motion and a Final Order of Dismissal was entered in October 2016.
Casey did respond to the Florida Bar complaint. All of the above is from the consent judgment signed by the University of Miami School of Law graduate.
▪ Rene Julian Garcia, Garcia & Associates, South Miami — Disbarred. Read why in this Miami Herald article.
▪ Juliana Gonzalez, McGuinness & Gonzalez, Miami — Public reprimand and probation until Aug. 23, 2020.
After the departure of the bookkeeper who managed the firm’s trust account, Gonzalez took over the task as the partner responsible for the trust account. In reconstructing trust account records after they fell below snuff, Gonzalez found the former bookkeeper transferred $43,000 from the trust account to the operating account without recording it any place it should have been recorded. Gonzalez and her partner replaced the money in the trust account as soon as they discovered the transfers.
Noting the University of Miami School of Law graduate’s training didn’t prepare the labor lawyer for managing trust accounts or managing those who managed trust accounts, the Bar found no nefarious behavior on Gonzalez’s part. The firm has a certified public account handling its books now.
▪ Salina Jivani, Key Biscayne — Public reprimand.
While representing the opposition in a lawsuit involving a condominium, Jivani showed up at a special assessment condo board meeting with a videographer. Her presence and that of the videographer violate no rules or ethics. But when Jivani started talking about the lawsuit and asking questions of the board members without the condo’s lawyer William Essig being there, that was a violation. Miami-Dade Circuit Civil Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola upbraided Jivani.
“But, you were grilling people. You were inquiring of them. Mr. (William) Essig claimed that you were taking a deposition. Let me just say this,” Hogan said. “I looked at his motion, and I said, “Oh, this is balderdash, this is exaggeration,” and after I saw that videotape, I was absolutely shocked and appalled at your behavior because, you don’t take someone’s deposition who is represented and she’s not only individually a party and said she had and wanted to have her counsel there, but the association was represented and there was no indication that Essig was told that you were going to be there asking questions and recording it.”
▪ Madsen Marcellus Jr., The Marcellus Law Firm, North Miami Beach — Suspended for 18 months. Read why in this Miami Herald article.
▪ Liana Martinez, North Miami — Suspended for 60 days beginning Saturday and on probation for three years.
The Suffolk University Law School graduate knew neither enough about keeping trust account records to keep them herself nor enough to properly guide a newbie bookkeeper. The Bar found slipshod record keeping, but “no evidence of malfeasance.” In her discipline documents, Martinez said she’ll no longer practice real estate law once pending matters conclude nor will she maintain a trust account.
▪ Larry Joseph McGuinness, McGuinness & Gonzalez, Miami — A 30-day suspension beginning Sept. 22 and $10,000 restitution to client Dania Torres.
McGuinness represented Torres in a wrongful termination whistleblower suit against a home healthcare agency. He won a judgment for $24,560. Alas, he found the agency had no assets.
Faced with a stone from which no blood could be pulled, McGuinness accepted an offer to sell the judgment for $10,000. McGuinness maintains he told Torres about the judgment and tried to communicate properly via phone and regular letter about the offer to sell. Torres said she knew nothing.
▪ Donovan Parker, Pembroke Pines — A public reprimand and return of his $1,000 fee.
Hired to represent a married couple in an eviction, the University of Florida School of Law graduate did so until a mediation hearing that was e-mailed on short notice. Parker didn’t show up.
Parker’s “explanations of the timing of receipt of the mediation notice were unclear,” the consent judgment says. “Despite the short notice, (Parker) should’ve appeared at mediation.”
Parker didn’t do anything about the problems caused by his failure to show up and the eviction case was dismissed because of that failure.
▪ Oscar Rodriguez, Coral Gables — A public reprimand.
You wouldn’t think you’d have to remind a lawyer to “put it in writing.”
According to the Rodriguez’s conditional guilty plea for consent judgment, Arturo Mendoza thought he might be under federal investigation for trafficking weed, so he proactively hired Rodriguez, a criminal lawyer out of the University of Miami School of Law. Because Rodriguez would have large upfront expenses, Mendoza paid a large upfront — and nonrefundable — fee of $40,000.
About a month later, Mendoza dropped Rodriguez and asked for a partial refund. Rodriguez stood on the definition of “nonrefundable.”
“However, (Rodriguez) failed to confirm the nonrefundable nature of the fee and explain the intent of the parties as to the nature and amount of the nonrefundable fee at the time the representation began.”
The only other item besmirching Rodriguez’s 10-year history: a disagreement with a client over contingent fees after Rodriguez didn’t put any agreement over such fees in writing. Rodriguez received an admonishment for violating Bar rules.
▪ Lee Robert Rohe, Big Pine Key — A 30-day suspension that began Sept. 1.
While representing clients in a Monroe County lawsuit, Rohe sent a Michigan couple subpoenas telling them they needed to show up for depositions or “you may be held in contempt of court. You are subpoenaed to appear by the following attorney and unless excused from this subpoena by the attorney or court, you shall respond to the subpoena as directed.”
Just one problem: Neither Florida law nor Michigan law required the couple to obey the subpoena.
Rohe admitted violating three Bar rules and not being attentive enough to the actions of his paralegal, who handled the subpoenas. The Referee found that the Bar didn’t prove “overt fraud, honesty or deceit” on Rohe’s part, “misrepresentation is another matter.”
▪ Norman Segall, Lubell & Rosen, Coral Gables – A public reprimand.
The Bar says Segall created a subaccount in the firm’s trust account, put some of his own money in there and “made disbursements for a personal matter.”
▪ Marquista Shipman, Hollywood — Disbarred, as of Aug. 2.
Three clients and one opposing counsel filed complaints with the Bar after Shipman stopped responding to them in 2016. The University of Miami School of Law graduate also declined to participate in the discipline process.
▪ Rafael Ubieta, Ubieta Law Group, Miami — Disbarred, as of July 5.
The prime client for this general practitioner from the Nova Southeastern Law Center is Rafael Ubieta and his office is now the Miami Federal Correctional Institution. Ubieta is trying to get his sentence overturned after getting 20 years for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. There’s also the $4.8 million in restitution.
Ubieta was convicted in 2013 with Angel Barroso, John Romney, William Hartnett, Joel Zaldivar, Kyle Baker, Martha Otero and Fernando Tolon. The group worked a mortgage fraud scheme in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.