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  1. Florida Politics

Lawyers in 'worst case of greed' question Florida Bar's ethics

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente asks questions of attorneys during a hearing last year. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times (2015)]
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente asks questions of attorneys during a hearing last year. [SCOTT KEELER | Times (2015)]
Published Apr. 8, 2016

TALLAHASSEE — Three lawyers could be disbarred in an ethics case the Florida Supreme Court heard Thursday. But the case has raised new ethical questions of its own under claims that the Florida Bar broke its own rules in the process.

The case itself is mired in insurance law. But the crux is this: The Florida Bar, as well as a judge, contend a group of lawyers deceived clients in hopes of getting rich.

"This is the worst case of greed and dereliction of duties of people admitted to the Florida Bar that I have seen," Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente said.

The state Supreme Court is deciding the fates of three South Florida lawyers — Charles Kane, Harley Kane and Darin Lentner — who could face suspended licenses or even be disbarred, losing their ability to practice law in the state.

But the Kanes say the Bar secretly consulted with attorney Larry Stewart in prosecuting the case.

Stewart ghost-wrote an affidavit for the Bar's lawyers, even though he was the person who originally brought the complaint to the Bar, according to court filings by the Kanes' attorney, Scott Tozian of Tampa. What's more, Tozian and the Kanes say, the affidavit isn't entirely true.

"It's our belief that the Bar's misconduct in this case is egregious enough to warrant dismissal," Tozian said, adding later, "The system has been completely adulterated."

That's their argument: This case should be thrown out because the process has to be fair in order for the outcome to be fair.

As for the Bar, special counsel David Rothman of Miami said he did everything he could to remedy concerns, even stopping Stewart — his key witness — from testifying.

What's more, he said, the Kanes have given false testimony, too.

The court hasn't yet ruled on the case. But justices suggested that the allegations brought by the Bar are serious.

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.

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