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Florida Supreme Court disbars Spring Hill lawyer

SPRING HILL — The law office on Mariner Boulevard shows no sign of life. A peek inside the darkened windows reveals only gray carpeting on the floor. A neighboring business owner says he has seen no activity there for months.

Lawyer Shawn Michael Brannagan isn't likely to return to the location, at least not to practice law. The Florida Bar announced this week that the Spring Hill attorney was disbarred in March by the state Supreme Court for taking money from two clients for his own use.

In a hearing conducted in November, Bar investigators detailed the case against Brannagan, which dates back to 2012. Court documents show that on Oct. 11, 2012, Brannagan withdrew $3,000 from a trust account set up for client Scott Bohnsack, and in a deposition Brannagan claimed he had permission from Bohnsack and that he used the money to pay bills.

However, Bohnsack testified he didn't know anything about the loan and indicated that if he had entered into such an agreement with Brannagan, he would have required a promissory note or a written agreement as he had done with three previous loans to the attorney.

Brannagan also withdrew $2,300 from the trust account on Jan. 14, 2013, and said in a deposition he spent the money for personal use, but intended to withdraw the money from his own operating account. Investigators found through an audit that Brannagan's operating account was "never more than $465.88" during the time of the transaction, so he would have been unable to withdraw $2,300.

The audit further showed that Brannagan's trust account didn't contain enough money to meet his liabilities and throughout the summer of 2012 had a shortfall of about $7,400.

He admitted he had performed numerous legal services for Bohnsack without charge. He said he had become delinquent in his payments on the three loans only as a result of his suspension from practicing law.

The Bar review concluded that Brannagan's conduct reflected an indifference to compliance with strict rules regarding trust accounts and that he "knowingly and intentionally misappropriated client funds."

Considered the toughest sanction an attorney can face, disbarment terminates the individual's status as a lawyer. Attorneys who are disbarred cannot reapply for five years from the date of the action. To reapply for a license, applicants must past a rigorous review process and successfully complete the Bar examination.

Brannagan, 51, was admitted to the Florida Bar in December 1996 and spent time as an assistant state attorney in the 5th and 13th judicial circuits. He was a past president of the Hernando County Bar Association. In private practice, he specialized in civil litigation, criminal, general practice and personal injury.

Attempts to reach Brannagan for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Florida Supreme Court disbars Spring Hill lawyer 05/01/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2014 11:13pm]
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