Thursday, March 02, 2006

Jailhouse Lawyers?

According to a Mar. 1, 2006 article in the Florida Times-Union, a Federal Court convicted attorney David Fleet in Oct. 2005 of "multiple counts of wire fraud, money laundering and other charges" and U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers sentenced him this week to three years incarceration. The article states that Fleet is to report to prison on May 1, 2006.

On Mar. 2, 2006, The Florida Bar's online records show Fleet is still a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and licensed to practice law. He is with the law firm Fleet, Spencer, Martin & Kilpatrick, P.A. and the firm's web page states he practices in the areas of criminal defense and business and commercial litigation out of the its Destin office.

Does this strike anyone beside me as being odd? How can The Florida Bar allow an attorney convicted four months ago of "multiple counts of wire fraud, money laundering and other charges", and scheduled to report for a three year prison sentence, to continue practicing law?

This is not an isolated case. A Feb. 4, 2006 article in the Miami Herald reports that attorney Samuel I. Burstyn was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison in a money-laundering case and ordered to permanently resign from The Florida Bar. According to the article, he entered a plea agreement in Sept. 2005 and has already served seven months of his sentence. The Florida Bar is plainly well aware of Burstyn's conviction and sentencing according to a Feb. 6, 2006 posting on its web site. On Mar. 3, 2006, The Florida Bar's online records still showed Burstyn as being a member in good standing and eligible to practice law.

The Florida Bar's web site, states,

"The Florida Bar has an important role in the regulation of lawyer misconduct. A complaint of unprofessional conduct against a Florida Bar member is a serious matter. The processing and investigation of inquiries and complaints are a basic responsibility of the Bar as mandated by the Florida Supreme Court. The Bar seeks to protect the public from unethical lawyers."

Maybe The Florida Bar is waiting for someone to file formal inquiries or complaints with it as though the criminal convictions are not enough to prompt action. More likely, the lawyers may just be politically well-connected.

In any event, this gives new meaning to the term "jailhouse lawyers".

Copyright © 2006 by Jeffrey R. Hill. All rights reserved.

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