Lewis’ and Tein’s attorney, Paul Calli, asserted there was a loan arrangement between the tribe and Billie. He cited a Miccosukee financial statement that he said showed some of those deductions reimbursed the tribe for paying Billie’s legal bills to the Lewis Tein law firm.
The court hearing, which continues Wednesday with expected testimony from Lewis, pitted their attorney, Calli, against Ramon M. Rodriguez. He’s the lawyer for a Miami-Dade family that hasn’t been able to collect the $3.2 million judgment for the wrongful death of 30-year-old Liliana Bermudez, who died in 1998 after Billie crashed her father’s car into Bermudez’s vehicle on the Tamiami Trail.
Earlier this month, Dresnick said in an order that “one of the matters of concern” to him is the defense attorneys’ “obligation of candor to the court.” Dresnick raised that issue because the Miccosukee Tribe issued 61 checks directly to the Lewis Tein law firm for $3.1 million in the representation of the two tribal members — evidence that the defense attorneys never disclosed at a previous sanctions hearing in August 2011.
“Your honor, they never told the court about any of this,” Rodriguez told the judge Monday.
Calli apologized that Lewis and Tein did not appreciate the judge’s concern about the source of their legal fees when they testified during the earlier sanctions hearing.
“Guy Lewis and Michael Tein told you the truth and never intended to mislead you,” Calli told the judge.
At the previous sanctions hearing, Tein testified that his and Lewis’ client was not the Miccosukee Tribe. “The defendants have been responsible for our fees and they ... had been paying our fees,” Tein swore to the judge. Lewis agreed with his partner’s testimony.
The Miccosukee Tribe, which underwent a major political shift with the ouster of former Chairman Billy Cypress in early 2010, was outraged by Tein’s testimony — and turned over the 61 checks to the opposing lawyer, Rodriguez.
The perjury allegation was lodged after the judge sanctioned Lewis and Tein for $3,500 in September 2011 for failing to turn over financial information to the Bermudez family’s lawyer in the post-judgment phase of the case.