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Robert Trigaux

Twenty Tampa Bay attorneys disciplined by Florida Supreme Court in 2011 so far

scales-of-justice-ap.jpgWake up and good morning. Yes, there are bad eggs in any profession. It's especially unfortunate among lawyers who people turn to often in great need and often without the background to know if they're being taken for a ride. On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court announced recent court orders disciplining 25 attorneys, disbarring five and suspending 13. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. One attorney was placed on probation; seven attorneys were publicly reprimanded. Four attorneys were ordered to pay restitution.

Five of those 25 are from the Tampa Bay area. Is this a pattern? Let's look at who's had their knuckles rapped in 2011. Of 114 disciplined so far this year, 20 (17.5 percent) are from the Tampa Bay area. Which means the latest batch of five in May represents 25 percent of the whole regional bunch for the first five months of the year. 

In April, the state Supreme Court disciplined 16 attorneys statewide. Three (four including one listed again in May) are from the Tampa Bay area. Read more here.

In March, the state Supreme Court disciplined 26 attorneys statewide. Only two are from the Tampa Bay area. Read more here.

In February, the state Supreme Court disciplined 27 attorneys statewide. Six are from the Tampa Bay area. Read more here.

And in January, the state Supreme Court disciplined 20 attorneys statewide. Four are from the Tampa Bay area. Read more here.

In this latest batch announced on May 31, read more here about the five disciplined attorneys from the Tampa Bay area here. Or read these versions of their alleged wrongdoings:

* Peter James Cannon, Tampa, suspended until further order, found in contempt for repeated failure to respond to official Florida Bar inquiries and failure to show good cause for non-compliance.

* William M. Holland Jr., Tampa, publicly reprimanded after he represented a client in a civil suit involving medical negligence and she died during the course of the litigation. Holland was negligent in not disclosing his client's death to opposing counsel within a reasonable period of time. That resulted in the dismissal of the decedent's legal claims.

* Nilesh Magan Patel, Tampa, disbarred effective immediately, and ordered to pay restitution of $10,500 to one client. Patel represented the seller and the buyer in the proposed sale of a gas station and accepted money from both to be used toward the sale. After a dispute, one party asked to cancel the sale and sought the return of his $58,000. Patel subsequently admitted to both clients that he improperly used the trust account funds. He failed to provide trust accounting records to The Florida Bar as requested.

* Donald Ray Peyton, New Port Richey, suspended for 90 days, after preparing legal documents for an elderly client who feared her son was stealing from her. Peyton appointed himself and his wife power of attorney and designated themselves as health care surrogates and beneficiaries of her estate. In another instance, Peyton accepted a $2,050 retainer from a client to probate her mother's estate. The client called on multiple occasions, but never spoke to Peyton. Instead, he delegated communication to his non-lawyer assistant. After contacting the court, the client discovered that a petition for administration had not been filed.

* Gyneth S. Stanley, Clearwater, publicly reprimanded after serving as successor trustee for an elderly friend. The client lived in a facility that provided for her care and Stanley paid the woman's expenses out of her $100,000 trust account. Without her knowledge, Stanley's office assistant wrote checks to herself out of the client's account and forged Stanley's name. Stanley replaced the missing funds with her own money.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 7:02am]


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