TAMPA — Seven bay area lawyers are among those disciplined by the state Supreme Court during January, the Florida Bar announced Monday.
Warren Jay Knaust of St. Petersburg and Bruce Gregory Kaufmann of Clearwater were disbarred and can no longer practice law in the state.
The ruling came after Knaust pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution, the announcement said. Kaufmann was accused of engaging in an intentional pattern of obtaining fees, controlling assets and forcing individuals to pay him before he would resign as trustee. Kaufmann also charged excessive fees, had conflicts of interest and used information obtained from clients to his benefit, the announcement said.
Both lawyers must wait five years to reapply.
The following five lawyers, according to the announcement, received public reprimands or suspensions:
• James Daniel Eckert of St. Petersburg was reprimanded after he wrote a letter threatening to sue a person who filed a complaint against him with the Bar unless the person withdrew it and apologized in writing.
• Thomas P. Fox of Tampa was suspended for 45 days and placed on a three-year probation for failing to diligently represent clients in seven cases. In many instances, Fox failed to keep clients informed, charged excessive fees and failed to communicate.
• David Eric Hammer of Lutz was reprimanded for acting contrary to his obligations to clients in two cases. In one instance, Hammer failed to participate in discovery and failed to appear at a deposition after the court denied his motion to withdraw.
• James M. Thomas of Dunedin was reprimanded and must complete ethics school after he was found guilty of professional misconduct for failing to keep a client reasonably informed and reasonably consulted about means to accomplish the client's objectives.
• Stephen G. Watts of Clearwater was reprimanded after he allowed his legal assistant to prepare a trust document for a client who insisted on making bequests to him and his wife.