Covering legal ethics, judicial ethics, bar admissions in Florida, Tennessee, and nationally. See our Subject Index to past postings.
Florida Bar Admissions - ADMISSION DECISIONS
Supreme Court rejects applicant for readmission despite unanimous recommendation from Board of Bar Examiners because applicant failed to show sufficient “positive action” to prove rehabilitation. [Added 5/4/18]
Lawyer was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to obstruct justice. His conduct including improperly notarizing documents. Following a suspension, the Supreme Court granted his petition for disciplinary resignation from the bar in 2000. About a year later Lawyer pleaded guilty to additional money laundering-related charges. He also failed to file income tax returns for many years.
Lawyer later applied for readmission to the Florida Bar but his application was denied in 2014. Two years later he applied again. The Board of Bar Examiners investigated and noted conduct adversely reflecting on Lawyer’s character and fitness. The Board filed three specifications against Lawyer. The Board found most of the specifications proven, but not disqualifying. Lawyer presented evidence of rehabilitation in the form of recommendations, witnesses, and activities performed. The Board unanimously found that Lawyer demonstrated his rehabilitation by clear and convincing evidence and recommended that he be readmitted to the bar.
The Supreme Court rejected the recommendation and denied readmission, without leave to reapply for two years. The “sole issue” before the Court was whether Lawyer clearly and convincingly established rehabilitation. In the Court’s view, he did not. He “failed to produce sufficient evidence of positive action under Bar Admission Rule 3-13(g),” which requires that an applicant demonstrate “positive action showing rehabilitation by occupation, religion, or community or civic service.” The rule explains that “[m]erely showing that an individual is now living as and doing those things he or she should have done throughout life, although necessary to prove rehabilitation, does not prove that the individual has undertaken a useful and constructive place in society. . . .”
Lawyer produced documentation that he volunteered 791 hours with a Helping Hands organization from 2011-2017. He testified that he volunteered about 600 hours with Habitat for Humanity between 2001 and 2006, but did not provide documentation of those hours. “As with all applicants seeking to establish their rehabilitation from prior misconduct, [Lawyer] was required to document his positive action with a degree of specificity. [Citation omitted.] This includes not only documenting the type of positive action performed and when it occurred, but the number of hours spent engaged in it.” The Court noted that, even if the “purported” Habitat hours were considered, Lawyer averaged about 86.9 hours per year of volunteer work since his disciplinary resignation from the bar. The Court concluded: “Simply put, [Lawyer’s] evidence of positive action fails to clearly and convincingly establish that he put forth the extra effort to overcome his past mistakes.” Because his prior misconduct was “appalling,” more was required in order for Lawyer to prove rehabilitation.
Three members of the Court dissented. The dissenting opinion suggested that, while a decision to never consider readmitting Lawyer might have been understandable, the Court had permitted him to reapply and show should not be “quibbling” about whether the number of volunteer hours was “sufficient ‘extra effort to overcome his past mistakes.’” Further, the dissent stated: “[N]otions of fundamental fairness dictate that if the basis for our rejection of [Lawyer’s] application for readmission is really too few community service hours, we should at least tell him how many hours we think it would take, in the next two years, to atone for his past misconduct. Without that type of guidance, in the rules or elsewhere, the decision to reject Ferguson’s application for readmission on this basis alone appears unsettlingly arbitrary.” Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Donald L. Ferguson, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC17-1494, 5/3/2018), 2018 WL 2057270.
Rejecting recommendation of Board of Bar Examiners, Supreme Court permanently denies admission to applicant who “has demonstrated a lifetime of dealing in falsehoods.” [Added 12/3/14]
J.R. B. was convicted of 5 felony counts of defrauding his employer in 2002. He later went to law school and had his civil rights restored in 2005, shortly before his graduation. While in law school J.R.B. filed for bankruptcy. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners (FBBE) filed specifications against J.R. B. regarding his felonies and related conduct, as well as his failure to timely amend his law school application to report the arrest. In September 2006 FBBE and J.R. B. agreed to a consent judgment for a 3-year denial of J.R. B.’s admission to the bar.
J.R. B. filed an updated bar application in October 2009, in which he disclosed that his employment as a professor at an online college had been terminated in 2007. A student had researched J.R. B. on the Internet and discovered news articles about his 2002 arrest. The college terminated J.R. B. because he had not disclosed on his employment application that he was a convicted felon. After a hearing in 2011, FBBE decided to withhold J.R. B.’s application for one year. At the end of that year, J.R. B. was to submit evidence of rehabilitation. In 2013 FBBE reviewed his statement of rehabilitation and recommended that J.R. B. be conditionally admitted to the bar.
The Florida Supreme Court rejected FBBE’s recommendation and denied admission to J.R. B., who “has demonstrated a lifetime of dealing in falsehoods.” After recounting J.R. B.’s numerous misdeeds, the Court concluded: “Applicant has an extensive and documented record of dishonest conduct. His egregious behavior does not demonstrate that he would respectfully obey the professional ethics of the legal profession. The Court has consistently held that ‘no moral character qualification for Bar membership is more important than truthfulness and candor.’ [Citations omitted.] Accordingly, the underlying facts of the instant case impact so adversely on the character and fitness of J.R.B. that the misconduct mandates that he not be admitted to The Florida Bar now or at any time in the future.” Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: J.R.B., __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC14-759, 11/30/2014).
Supreme Court rules that applicants for admission to Florida Bar are required to demonstrate that they are legally present in the United States. [Added 3/6/14]
Responding to a petition for advisory opinion filed by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for admission to the Florida Bar.
The Court based its decision on 8 U.S.C. sec. 1621(c), which the Court noted provides "aliens who lack lawful immigration status are ineligible for certain public benefits (unless a state takes specific action as set forth in 8 U.S.C. § 1621(d))." The Court indicated that the state legislature must take this "specific action" in the form of enactment of a state law. No such law exists in Florida, per the Court.
The Court summarized: "Simply stated, current federal law prohibits this Court from issuing a license to practice law to an unlawful or unauthorized immigrant."
Justice Labarga filed an opinion, joined by Justice Pariente, in which he "reluctantly" concurred in the majority's decision. Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Question as to Whether Undocumented Immigrants are Eligible for Admission to the Florida Bar, __ So.3d __ (Fla., No. SC11-2568, 3/6/2014).
No “special background” in type of litigation at issue needed for out-of-state lawyer to be admitted pro hac vice in Florida state court. [Added 10/25/13] -- Kelley v. Kelley, 123 So.3d 692 (Fla. 4th DCA 10/23/2013).
For financial irresponsibility and lack of candor, Supreme Court denies conditional or regular admission to applicant recommended by Bar Examiners. [Added 10/14/13] -- Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: B.U.U., 124 So.3d 172 (Fla. 10/10/2013).
Supreme Court revokes lawyer’s bar admission for lack of candor in amending application. [Added 6/7/13] -- Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Daniel Mark Zavadil, 123 So.3d 550 (Fla. 5/30/2013).
Court erred in denying pro hac vice admission based on alleged conflicts of interest. [Added 7/9/12] -- THI Holdings, LLC, v. Shattuck, 93 So.3d 419 (Fla. 2d DCA, No. 2D11-5913, 2012).
Supreme Court rejects stipulation for reinstatement of suspended lawyer due to her failure to pay restitution and costs. [Added 2/19/10] -- Florida Bar re: Thompson (Fla. 2010).
Supreme Court sanctions disbarred lawyer who submitted numerous filings seeking readmission. [Added 9/2/09] -- Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Anthony Eladio Ramos, 17 So.3d 268 (Fla. 2009).
Supreme Court refuses reinstatement for a lawyer who engaged in the "practice of law" while suspended; definition discussed. [Added 7/13/09] -- Florida Bar re: Michael Howard Wolf, 21 So.3d 15 (Fla. 2009).
Supreme Court approves Board of Bar Examiners' decision to cease processing disbarred lawyer's application for readmission. [Added 2/4/09] -- Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Webster, 3 So.3d 1058 (Fla. 2009).
Court's order revoking an out-of-state lawyer's pro hac vice admission is reversed [Added 2/15/08] -- Brooks v. AMP Services Limited, 979 So.2d 435 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) (on motion for clarification).
Rejecting Board of Bar Examiners' recommendation, Florida Supreme Court denies readmission to lawyer who had resigned for disciplinary reasons. [Added 6/17/07] -- Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Allan Barry Marks, 959 So.2d 228 (Fla. 2007).
Supreme Court rejects recommendation from Board of Bar Examiners that applicant be conditionally admitted. [Added 2/5/07] -- Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: M.B.S., 955 So.2d 504 (Fla. 2007).
Supreme Court rejects Bar Examiners' recommendation to readmit lawyer who resigned for disciplinary reasons; rehabilitation not shown. Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Fred C. McMahan, 944 So.2d 335 (Fla. 2006).
Resigned lawyer's failure to rectify "financial irresponsibility" results in denial of readmission. Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Steven A. Papy, Sr., 901 So.2d 870 (Fla. 2005).
Lawyer's conditional bar admission revoked for material misstatements regarding meeting child support obligations; Supreme Court discourages "credit string" conditional admissions. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: Chavez, 894 So.2d 1 (Fla. 2004) (as revised).
Bar applicant's lack of candor results in denial of admission and extended disqualification period. Florida Board of Bar Examiners re: O.C.M., 850 So.2d 497 (Fla. 2003).