The Florida Bar last week announced that the state Supreme Court punished 27 Florida lawyers for offenses including fraud and false advertising. Of the 27 attorneys who were disciplined, eight were disbarred, seven were suspended, two were publicly reprimanded, three were ordered to pay restitution and three were placed on probation.
Two lawyers were suspended for failing to reply to complaints brought up by the Florida Bar. Others were punished for their involvement in more serious crimes.
Charles Behm, of Pomona Park, had not filed a federal tax return since being admitted to his practice in 1999. According to a press release from the Florida Bar, “He declared in court that he has no intention of filing federal income tax returns in the future.” Gary Gramer, a Naples-area attorney, was found guilty of grand larceny in the third degree. Miami attorney Thoams Hurst was disbarred immediately following a June 3 court order. This marks the fourth suspension for Hurst, who began practicing law in 1972. The latest suspension came about as a result of failing to respond to inquiries regarding the misappropration of a client’s funds.
One of the more bizarre cases came courtesy of Robert Joseph Ratiner — a Miami attorney admitted to practice in 1990. According to The Florida Bar’s press release, Ratiner was punished for exhibiting odd behavior during a deposition:
During a deposition, Ratiner’s behavior was disruptive and intimidating to the witness, opposing counsel and other persons present. While on probation, Ratiner is required to undergo mental health counseling and prepare and mail letters of apology to those who were present during the deposition at issue. Further, Ratiner shall be accompanied by co-counsel approved by the Bar during depositions and other legal proceedings or he shall ensure that such appearances or proceedings are video-recorded.
Ratiner was suspended for 60 days, publicly reprimanded and placed on probation for two years.
Though many of those punished were found to be involved in money laundering scams, a few of the attorneys’ problems seemed to stem from issues in their personal lives. R. Scott Whitehead, of Destin, was suspended “until further notice” for engaging “in a systematic scheme to deprive his clients of their money in the form of fees and costs, while not performing the legal services for which he was retained. When looking for an attorney, try hiring one with the opposite character of these defamed attorneys, hire lawyers with high integrity and moral stature. Be sure not to hire these types of lawyers that were arrested four times for alcohol-related problems since May 2009.”