Monday, June 17, 2013

Playing Fast & Loose With Trust Accounts, Attempted Legal Fee Ripoffs Among Reasons For Attorney Discipline Recently Meted Out By Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Bar recently published its periodic 'gossip sheet' announcing the discipline meted out to some of its wayward members.

The following lawyers were disciplined for either playing fast & loose with client's trust funds, or attempted to improperly rip off clients out of unwarranted legal fees:

  • Rosalyn Dunlap, P.O. Box 616705, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately, following an April 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) Dunlap admitted to intentionally misappropriating more than $40,000 from a trust account belonging to an estate. She did not maintain the required trust account records, did not regularly perform mandatory trust accounting procedures, and entered into a business transaction with a client with interests adverse to the client. Dunlap failed to communicate the status of a client’s case, failed to show reasonable diligence, and failed to provide adequate and timely representation. (Case No. SC12-145)

    David A. Hoines, 3081 E. Commercial Blvd., Suite 200, Fort Lauderdale, suspended for 30 days, effective 30 days from an April 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1975) Hoines shall also return $25,000 in equal shares to three clients. Hoines entered into a contingent fee agreement with out-of-state clients in a probate matter involving assets of an indeterminable value. Hoines’ use of the contingent fee contract was improper because it caused him to obtain a pecuniary interest in the matter and receive a larger than normal fee. (Case No. SC12-229)

    C. Michael Magruder, 203 S. Clyde Ave., Kissimmee, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter, following an April 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) Magruder was hired by a client to handle business related to an estate and a pending lawsuit. He delegated the estate matter to a paralegal firm and failed to take adequate steps to ensure that the client understood his legal matter. Magruder also failed to timely account to the client regarding the settlement proceeds of the lawsuit, all of which went to pay the hospital lien for services rendered prior to the death of the testator. Magruder also failed to maintain minimum trust accounting records and he failed to follow minimum trust accounting procedures. (Case No. SC12-519)

    Scott Elliott Rovenger, 8 Port Side Drive, Fort Lauderdale, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following an April 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1978) Rovenger was disbarred for trust accounting violations in May 2012. In September 2012, Rovenger gave a sworn statement to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office, as a result of a criminal investigation. He admitted to misappropriating more than $1 million in client funds over a period of several years. He also admitted to settling clients’ matters without their knowledge or consent and forging client signatures on settlement checks. (Case No. SC12-1819)

    Guy Bennett Rubin, 1649 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville, to be publicly reprimanded by the Board of Governors at a date and time to be determined by the Board, following an April 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) Rubin filed a suit against a former client alleging breach of contract. A court later ruled that Rubin was not entitled to recover any fees because the agreement violated Bar rules. (Case No. SC12-2059)

    Silvia Rodriguez Sanders, P.O. Box 974, Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter, following an April 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) Sanders and her husband practice law together. She failed to exercise reasonable diligence to ensure that her firm’s trust account was in compliance. Her husband had managerial authority over the trust account and her mother was the firm’s bookkeeper in the two-attorney law firm. (Case No. SC12-2174)

    Tristan Wilson Sanders, P.O. Box 974, Orlando, suspended for two years, effective 30 days from an April 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) Sanders and his wife practiced law together. Funds that should have been held in trust on behalf of the firm’s personal injury clients were transferred to the law firm operating account and used for other purposes. Sanders had primary responsibility for the law firm’s trust account at the time the violations took place. His violation of misconduct is based on the grossly negligent supervision of his bookkeeper in the administration of his firm’s trust account. (Case No. SC12-2173)

    Harold Milton Windlan III, 6334 Madison St., New Port Richey, suspended for one year, effective 30 days from an April 16 court order. Windlan shall pay restitution totaling $2,040 to three clients. (Admitted to practice: 2003) Windlan failed to provide adequate representation to clients. In several instances he accepted attorneys' fees and subsequently failed to communicate. He did not take action on cases but led clients to believe he had. Windlan also failed to refund fees he did not earn. (Case No. SC12-666)

    Lawrence Philip Zolot, 3864 Sheridan St., Hollywood, disbarred effective retroactive to Jan. 12, 2011, following an April 22 court order. Zolot shall pay restitution totaling $1,089 to two clients and shall deposit more than $130,000 into the court registry for the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County. (Admitted to practice: 1974) Instead of disbursing the funds to his clients, in two separate matters, Zolot misappropriated trust funds and used them to pay his personal expenses. (Case No. SC11-267)

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