Posts Tagged ‘disciplinary action against attorneys’

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners is Seeking Members from the General Public

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The Florida Board of  Bar Examiners is currently seeking two people  from the general public to help in the process of recommendations for The Florida Bar.  This would be a three year term for the board members chosen.

The duties of the Board of Bar Examiners is to make sure all of the requirements for the applicants are met.  These requirements include such things as education, character and fitness, technical competence, to name a few. The deadline to apply is April 25, 2014.  The Florida Supreme Court has the final decision once the Board makes the recommendation.

For the general public member positions, lawyers are not eligible and you must have a bachelor’s degree, also experience or education in areas such as educational testing, statistics, psychology or medicine.  Expenses will be covered and approximately three days per month of work.

If you are interested in the position, please contact The Florida Bar.  Information is available also on their website.

Soreide Law Group represents those seeking admittance to The Florida Bar, and existing lawyers, for both Investigative Hearings and Formal Hearings in front of The Florida Bar. Please call (888) 760-6552.

Florida Bar Hearing Defense Lawyer’s Tip of the Month for March 2014

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
Having just returned from the recent hearings before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners in Tampa, I felt that the topic of child support obligations should be the topic of discussion for this month’s post.
Florida Rule 4-8.4(h) prohibits a lawyer from willfully refusing to timely pay a child support obligation. Florida Statute 61.13015 provides the basis for The Florida Bar to suspend a lawyer or deny a professional license for the willful non-payment of child support obligations.  Child support is an issue that I am beginning to see more often before the Board of Bar Examiners at investigative and formal hearings.
If you have delinquent payment obligations and are currently applying to the bar, try to make every effort to make all payments current. Your scorned ex-spouse will most likely also be contacted the Bar’s examiners and this will give them every opportunity to air out your dirty laundry and pour gasoline on the fire, creating all sorts of new issues you will have to defend.
Being a law student is no excuse for not paying your child support. Make arrangements to keep current at all times. If you have an investigative or formal hearing with the Florida Bar, feel free to call for a consultation at no cost to discuss your situation with a Florida Bar Hearing Defense Attorney. Call Soreide Law Group at (888) 760-6552. Our main office is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our attorneys travel to all locations throughout Florida to appear before the Board of Bar Examiners.

Florida Supreme Court Disciplines 22 Attorneys

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
The following information was obtained on The Florida Bar’s website:
Summaries of orders issued between Feb. 15 – March 11, 2013

The Florida Bar, announced that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 22 attorneys; disbarring five, suspending 13 and publicly reprimanding four. Three attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Two were placed on probation and one was ordered to pay restitution.  The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the 95,000-plus lawyers admitted to practice law in Florida. Since 2007, case files have been posted to attorneys’ individual Florida Bar profiles and may be reviewed at and/or downloaded from The Florida Bar’s website.

This ends the information from the Florida Bar’s website.

Attorney Lars Soreide, of Soreide Law Group, PLLC, represents those seeking admittance to The Florida Bar, and existing lawyers, for both Investigative Hearings and Formal Hearings in front of The Florida Bar. Please call (888) 760-6552.

Last Minute Check List before Appearing Before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners for an Investigative Hearing

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Character and fitness hearings before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners are becoming increasingly common. No two hearings are the same, however the Board is going to weigh the new or further evidence you present at the investigative hearing with the elements listed in Florida Bar Admission Rule 3-12 “Determination of Present Character” during all hearings. If you are unrepresented, and the trend over the last several years is to hire representation for this hearing, carefully examine and consider the rules before appearing.

3-12 Determination of Present Character. The board must determine whether the applicant or registrant has provided satisfactory evidence of good moral character. The following factors, among others, will be considered in assigning weight and significance to prior conduct:
(a) age at the time of the conduct;
(b) recency of the conduct;
(c) reliability of the information concerning the conduct;
(d) seriousness of the conduct;
(e) factors underlying the conduct;
(f) cumulative effect of the conduct or information;
(g) evidence of rehabilitation;
(h) positive social contributions since the conduct;
(i) candor in the admissions process; and,
(j) materiality of any omissions or misrepresentations.
Upon reading these elements what documents can you show the Board that will highlight each and every element under 3-12.  Remember it is a weighing test so the Board is already aware of the bad conduct it is now your responsibility to mitigate or outweigh the bad conduct with good conduct as outlined by 3-12.
For a free consultation regarding your upcoming investigative, formal or rehabilitative hearing before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners call (888) 760-6552 to speak to a Florida Bar Defense Lawyer now.

Elements of Rehabilitation in a Formal Hearing

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

 If Specifications have been filed by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and you have to attend a formal hearing before the Board, you may want to consider pleading “rehabilitation” as an affirmative defense. This is the only affirmative defense that must specifically be plead in your Answer, or else that defense is waived and you may not be permitted to put on evidence of rehabilitation at your formal hearing. In considering what to do to effectively establish rehabilitation, Florida Bar Rule 3-13 codifies the “elements of rehabilitation”.

3-13 Elements of Rehabilitation.
 
Any applicant or registrant who affirmatively asserts rehabilitation from prior conduct that adversely reflects on the person’s character and fitness for admission to the bar must produce clear and convincing evidence of rehabilitation including, but not limited to, the following elements:
(a) strict compliance with the specific conditions of any disciplinary, judicial, administrative, or other order, where applicable;
(b) unimpeachable character and moral standing in the community;
(c) good reputation for professional ability, where applicable;
(d) lack of malice and ill feeling toward those who, by duty, were compelled to bring about the disciplinary, judicial, administrative, or other proceeding;
(e) personal assurances, supported by corroborating evidence, of a desire and intention to conduct one’s self in an exemplary fashion in the future;
(f) restitution of funds or property, where applicable; and,
(g) positive action showing rehabilitation by occupation, religion, or community or civic service. Merely 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. The requirement of positive action is appropriate for applicants for admission to The Florida Bar because service to one’s community is an implied obligation by members of The Florida Bar.
Florida Bar Defense Lawyer, Lars Soreide, is available to represent you at an investigative or formal character and fitness hearing before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. Call 888-760-6552 for a free consultation or visit http://www.floridabarhearing.com.

Investigative Hearing Character and Fitness Considerations

Thursday, December 13th, 2012
 
If you must attend an investigative hearing before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, the Board will consider your present character and fitness. This is codified in Florida Board of Bar Examiner Rule 3-12.
 
3-12 Determination of Present Character.
 
The board must determine whether the applicant or registrant has provided satisfactory evidence of good moral character. The following factors, among others, will be considered in assigning weight and significance to prior conduct:
(a) age at the time of the conduct;
(b) recency of the conduct;
(c) reliability of the information concerning the conduct;
(d) seriousness of the conduct;
(e) factors underlying the conduct;
(f) cumulative effect of the conduct or information;
(g) evidence of rehabilitation;
(h) positive social contributions since the conduct;
(i) candor in the admissions process; and,
(j) materiality of any omissions or misrepresentations.
Florida Bar Defense Lawyer, Lars Soreide, is available to represent you at an investigative or formal character and fitness hearing before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. Call 888-760-6552 for a free consultation or visit our website at: http://www.floridabarhearing.com.

Can I Still Get Admitted to the Florida Bar if I Have Had Past Drug, Alcohol, or Psychological Problems?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
As a attorney who frequently represents applicants before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners in investigative and formal hearings, I see this issue a lot. I tell my clients that they can be admitted, in most instances conditionally, depending on all the surrounding circumstances. I point them first to rule 3-22.5(b) which relates to conditional admissions.
Under rule 3-22.5(b), Rules of the Supreme Court Relating to Admissions to The Bar, the board will make the determination that a Consent Agreement be entered into with an applicant in lieu of the filing of Specifications pertaining to drug, alcohol, or psychological problems. Admission to The Florida Bar under the terms of a conditional admission is confidential and under rule 5-15, limited to persons who will live in Florida, who will be engaged in the practice of law primarily in Florida, and who will be monitored in Florida during the entire period of conditional admission.
The following comes directly off the Board of Bar Examiners website relating to conditional admissions.
Substance Issues
 
In a Consent Agreement, the board is authorized to recommend to the Court the admission of the applicant who has agreed to abide by specified terms and conditions on admission to The Florida Bar. The conditions will include:
  • prohibiting use of alcohol and controlled substances;
  • requiring participation in Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. (FLA); and,
  • random screenings for alcohol and controlled substances.
Board’s Guidelines on Documented Sobriety
 
Applicants who may be candidates for conditional admission must provide documentation of at least 6 months of sobriety before being considered for conditional admission. It is preferred that documentation of sobriety be completed by entering into a monitoring program that requires daily log-ins to determine if testing is required that day, attend attorney support meetings, attend AA/NA (if dependent), and undergo random alcohol/drug screenings. If an applicant resides within Florida, the preferred program is Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. (FLA). Any applicant attempting to provide documentation of sobriety through FLA or similar program must fully comply with the program contract, including strict adherence to the random drug test procedure, no missed daily log-ins, no missed or positive tests, and compliance with the meeting and monitoring requirements as outlined in the contract. In all unexcused cases where log-ins are missed, whether a test was required that day or not, the applicant must immediately make arrangements to be tested no later than the following day. Any missed test or failure to test after a missed log-in will be viewed by the board as a positive test. Documentation of the period of sobriety starts upon execution of a FLA or similar contract or the last date of noncompliance with the contract; whichever is most recent.
Acceptable Documentation of Sobriety
 
The board requires applicants to demonstrate a reasonable period of sobriety (abstinence) prior to conditional admission. Six months is presumed to be reasonable. Documentation of sobriety is made through verification of completion of a treatment program that includes random testing through records documenting compliance with a FLA contract.
To document a period of sobriety prior to admission:
  1. Contact FLA for assistance.
  2. Enter into a contract with FLA.
  3. Forward a copy of the FLA contract to the board.
  4. Arrange for FLA to provide monthly documentation to the board beginning immediately and continuing until all portions of the Florida Bar Examination are successfully completed.
  5. Full compliance with the FLA contract including strict adherence to the FLA random drug test procedure, no missed daily log-ins, no missed, or positive tests, and compliance with the meeting and monitoring requirements as outlined in the FLA contract. In all unexcused cases where log-ins are missed, whether a test was required that day or not, the applicant must immediately make arrangements to be tested no later than the following day. Any missed test or failure to test after a missed log-in will be viewed by the board as a positive test.
Missed Log-ins
 
The board, while working with FLA, established the following policy regarding excused log-ins. The only missed log-ins that will be excused are documented instances of the following:
  • Death in the family;
  • Admission of the participant, family member or significant other to the hospital or emergency room;
  • Victim of a natural disaster;
  • Arrested and in jail.
In all unexcused cases where log-ins are missed, whether a test was required that day or not, the applicant must immediately make arrangements to be tested no later than the following day. Any missed test or failure to test after a missed log-in will be viewed by the board as a positive test.
Length of Conditional Admission
 
The board’s policy on the length of conditional admission in substance abuse/dependence cases is a 1-5 year period, depending on individual circumstances.
Mental Health
 
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners must assess effectively the mental health of each applicant. A lawyer’s untreated or uncontrolled mental disorder, if severe, could result in injury to the public. The board assures each applicant that the Supreme Court, on the board’s recommendation, regularly admits applicants with a history of both mental ill-health and treatment by mental health professionals. The board considers satisfactory mental health to include: (1) the current absence of an untreated, uncontrolled mental illness that impairs or limits an applicant’s ability to practice law in a competent and professional manner; and (2) the unlikelihood of a relapse of such a prior mental illness. With respect to either, evidence of treatment by a mental health professional is useful. The board encourages applicants to seek the assistance of mental health professionals, if needed.
Consent Agreement
 
In a Consent Agreement, the board is authorized to recommend to the Supreme Court of Florida the admission of the applicant who has agreed to abide by specified terms and conditions on admission to The Florida Bar. The conditions will include:
  • consult with a licensed mental health provider at least quarterly, or more frequently as such mental health provider deems necessary;
  • follow all instructions by the mental health provider;
  • have the mental health provider submit quarterly reports to The Florida Bar during the entire probationary period;
  • have the mental health provider immediately notify The Florida Bar if the applicant misses a scheduled appointment without prior rescheduling; and,
  • have the mental health provider submit quarterly sworn statements to The Florida Bar during the entire probationary period attesting to the applicant’s compliance with the conditions.
Length of Conditional Admission
 
The board’s policy on the length of conditional admission in mental health cases is from 1 year to an indefinite period, depending on individual circumstances.
For more information contact License Defense Attorney, Lars Soreide, of Soreide Law Group, PLLC, to discuss what options are available to you if you are applying to the Florida Bar or have an investigative or formal hearing. Call 954-760-6552 or visit http://www.floridabarhearing.com.

Disqualifying Conduct

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

There are many scenerios considered ‘disqualifying conduct’ to The Florida bar. According to Rule 3-11 a lack of honesty, trustworthiness, reliability or diligence may cause you denial to The Florida Bar.

The following list was compiled by The Florida Bar.  This information appears on their website.  These reasons may give cause for further inquiry before admittance.

 
  • Unlawful conduct by applicant
  • Academic misconduct
  • Making or procuring any false or misleading statement or omission of relevant information, including any false or misleading statement or omission on the Bar Application, or any amendment, or in any testimony or sworn statement submitted to the board
  • Misconduct in employment
  • Acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
  • Abuse of legal process
  • Financial irresponsibility
  • Neglect of professional obligations
  • Violation of an order of a court
  • Evidence of mental or emotional instability
  • Evidence of drug or alcohol dependency
  • Denial of admission to the bar in another jurisdiction on character and fitness grounds
  • Disciplinary action by a lawyer disciplinary agency or other professional disciplinary agency of any jurisdiction
  • Any other conduct which reflects adversely upon the character and fitness of the applicant

This concludes the information acquired from The Florida Bar’s website.

Attorney Lars K. Soreide, of Soreide Law Group, PLLC, represents those seeking admittance to the Florida Bar, and existing lawyers, for both Investigative Hearings and Formal Hearings in front of the Florida Bar. For more information about our services please call (888) 760-6552 or visit: http://www.floridabarhearing.com.

 

THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINES 18 ATTORNEYS

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The following information appeared on the Florida Bar’s website:

Summaries of orders issued between Oct. 2 and Oct. 15, 2012

The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announced that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 18 attorneys, disbarring two and suspending 11. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Five attorneys were publicly reprimanded; two were placed on probation and one was ordered to pay restitution.

The Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined.

 

Attorney Lars Soreide, of Soreide Law Group, PLLC, represents those seeking admittance to The Florida Bar, and existing lawyers, for both Investigative Hearings and Formal Hearings in front of The Florida Bar. Please call (888) 760-6552 or visit: www.floridabarhearing.com.

The Ohio Supreme Court Denied Law License for Law School Graduate with $170,000 in Student Loans

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Many law school graduates are all too aware of their accumulating pile of debt, but few may realize it can prevent them from practicing law and destroy any hopes of paying down their loans, wrote Susanna Kim of abcnews.com in a recent article.

The highest court in Ohio denied recent law school grad, Hassan Jonathan Griffin, his bar application because he didn’t have a plan to pay back $170,000 in school debt.

The Ohio Supreme Court, on January 11, said Griffin lacked a “feasible plan to satisfy his financial obligations.”  Griffin’s debts include $150,000 from law school, $20,000 from his undergraduate studies and $16,500 in credit card debt.

The Ohio Supreme Court, which regulates admission to the practice of law in Ohio, requires that an applicant be at least 21 years old, have a bachelor’s degree and law degree, and pass the Ohio bar examination.

The state’s rules specify that prior to taking the bar exam, applicants must demonstrate they possess “the requisite character, fitness, and moral qualifications for admission to the practice of law.”

Griffin, 40, had applied in November, 2009, for the February, 2010 bar exam, but his increasing financial obligations led to an investigation by the state’s Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness.

Griffin graduated from Arizona State University in 2004 when he was 34 and worked full-time as a stockbroker for over five years before attending The Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law.

It was reported that since completing his first year of law school, Griffin has worked 24 to 32 hours a week at the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office.  Though he graduated from law school in 2008, he has been unable to obtain a full-time job and still earns $12 per hour at the public defender’s office.

The board recommended that the court reject Griffin but permit him to reapply for the February, 2011 bar exam. Griffin confirmed he is re-applying for the February exam and said his financial matters are now in better order.

Many law school grads are unemployed,  but it is rare they fail the character and fitness test because of their personal finances.

In April, 2009, the Texas Court of Appeals revoked the probationary law license of a man in Houston with undergraduate and law school loans of around $90,000 plus interest and $58,000 in “unsecured loans.”

“We handle about 100 contested hearings a year, and very rarely is financial responsibility the subject of the hearing, and even more rarely is the situation where the board decides to deny” the license,  the Texas Board of Law Examiners’ executive director Julia E. Vaughan told The Texas Lawyer.

The New York state appellate court rejected the license application of Robert Bowman in April 2009, according to a story in the New York Times. A court subcommittee cited student debt of over $430,000 belonging to the University of California’s Hastings law school graduate.

The Education Department recently decided that Bowman’s debts will be recalculated and he is not in default, allowing him to re-apply for his license.

Kim writes that the American Bar Association (ABA) reported that the average amount borrowed for law school was $91,506 for private schools and $59,324 for public schools in 2008.  A committee from the ABA wrote in a report that these figures do not include debt from students’ undergraduate years and an average law school student will graduate with debt “well in excess of $100,000.”

But among law graduates from the class of 2008, 42 percent of graduates had an annual salary of less than $65,000. And the ABA report said prospects are even bleaker now, with students competing for half as many jobs at top law firms.

“Far too many law students expect that earning a law degree will solve their financial problems for life,” the ABA committee wrote. “In reality, however, attending law school can become a financial burden for law students who fail to consider carefully the financial implications of their decision.”

Attorney Lars Soreide, of Soreide Law Group, PLLC, represents those seeking admittance to the Florida Bar, and existing lawyers, for both Investigative Hearings and Formal Hearings in front of the Florida Bar. For more information about our services please call (888) 760-6552 or visit: www.floridabarhearing.com.