A Miami-Dade appeals court on Wednesday blasted two high-profile Miami lawyers for the way they acted while trying to get a judge thrown off a multi-million dollar wrongful death case involving their clients, two Miccosukee Indians.
The Third District Court of Appeal criticized the courtroom antics of Michael Tein and Guy Lewis, who had sought to have Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick thrown off the case after he commented he could “pass the peace pipe” between them and another lawyer.
“What we have here is a lawyer, and now lawyers, who have acted recklessly and unprofessionally, and are now concerned that their behavior may have tarnished their image,” the appeals court wrote Wednesday in denying their move to throw Dresnick off the case.
Tein and Lewis represent Tammy Gwen Billie, the driver who in 1998 killed Liliana Bermudez on the Tamiami Trail, and Billie’s father Jimmie Bert, who owned Billie’s uninsured Acura Legend.
In 2009, a jury awarded Bermudez’s survivors $3.2 million. The defendants have refused to pay, saying they don’t have the money, but the lawyer for the survivors, Ramon M. Rodriguez, has shown that Tein and Lewis were paid $3.1 million to handle the case.
In March, Dresnick had threatened to hold Tein in contempt after a heated courtroom clash.
“Whether Mr. Tein lost control or was purposely baiting the judge, the result was the same,” Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg wrote in Wednesday’s opinion. “Mr. Tein’s behavior was totally unprofessional, disrespectful, and disruptive.”
Tein, an ex-federal prosecutor, and Guy Lewis, a former Miami U.S. attorney, later sought to disqualify the judge for what they called bias against Native Americans.
The appeals court said Dresnick was “justifiably frustrated” with Tein, and reminded him and Lewis “of their obligations and responsibilities as members of The Florida Bar and as officers of the court.”
On Wednesday, Tein said: “We certainly meant no disrespect to Judge Dresnick. He is an excellent judge. To the extent Judge Dresnick or the 3rd DCA perceived otherwise, we sincerely apologize.”