TAMPA — The e-mail messages show two lawyers trying to schedule hearings and depositions for a lawsuit. They can't agree on dates, or much of anything else.
Then it gets ugly.
Tampa lawyer Nicholas F. Mooney calls his opponent a jerk and a "junior lawyer." Palmetto lawyer Kurt D. Mitchell questions Mooney's mental health. The name-calling continues over six months.
Now the Florida Supreme Court has weighed in, issuing sanctions for both lawyers.
After two complaints by the Florida Bar, Mitchell was suspended for 10 days and was ordered to attend an anger management class. Mooney gets a public reprimand and must take a class on professionalism.
All because the men refused to be civil.
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Neither lawyer answered calls for comment or responded to e-mails Thursday. But several e-mail exchanges between them included in the Bar complaints paint a vivid picture of their disagreements.
It started in May 2008. Mitchell was representing a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Volkswagen of America. Mooney was the attorney for the car company.
The two men couldn't agree on the date of a hearing. The first volley came from the 50-year-old Mooney, who addressed his colleague as "Junior."
"Please do not send me any more of these absurd emails. While I am happy to know that you are also the judge in this case, your continued unprofessional & juvenile behavior is not necessary," he writes.
Mitchell, 36, responds in kind: "Old Hack: Your unprofessional and otherwise asinine behavior is not necessary. Learn to litigate professionally and these issues will be avoided."
The issues were not avoided.
In another exchange in August, the two men tried to schedule a deposition. Mitchell accused Mooney of not being able to handle the pressure of litigating. Mooney said his caseload includes more than 200 cases, "many of which were more important/significant than these little Mag Moss claims that are handled by bottom feeding/scum sucking/loser lawyers like yourself."
Other nicknames found in the messages: "Sparky" (for Mitchell) and "Corky" (for Mooney).
In October, the insults got truly personal. Mitchell said he was looking online for a mental disability based on Mooney's "symptoms," such as "closely spaced eyes, dull blank stare, bulbous head, lying and inability to tell fiction from reality." Mooney, who said his son has a birth defect, called Mitchell a jerk and suggested he look in the mirror for signs of mental disability. "Then check your children (if they are even yours. … Better check the garbage man that comes by your trailer to make sure they don't look like him)."
Mitchell's reply: "While I am sorry to hear about your disabled child; that sort of thing is to be expected when a retard reproduces. … Do not hate me, hate your genetics. However, I would look at the bright side, at least you definitely know the kid is yours."
This fall, a judge dismissed the car company lawsuit with prejudice. That means the two sides can't re-litigate the case.
News researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Lee Logan can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.