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A lawyer behaved badly during his first divorce. He’s been put in career timeout

Nine years and two divorces ago, North Miami Beach attorney Madsen Marcellus Jr. began a pattern of behavior unbecoming an attorney — ignoring court orders, taking evasive action to avoid writs, being connected to a forgery, causing a family home to go into foreclosure.

For these and other actions, the Florida Supreme Court has suspended Marcellus until Jan. 20, 2020.

The court didn’t go for disbarment despite stating Marcellus’ connection to the forgery and the foreclosure fallout from it. Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Howard K. Coates, acting as referee, repeatedly used polite clauses such as “not to be credible” to describe Marcellus’ testimony.

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In November 2009, Marcellus and first wife Kellie Peterson Gudger were ordered to either refinance the home solely in Marcellus’ name or sell it within 30 days. Two days before a sale and after Marcellus and Gudger had moved out of the house, the Supreme Court said, Marcellus moved back in and left his part of the sale paperwork unfinished. So, the sale fell through.

While still violating the court order by living in the house, Marcellus tried for a loan modification with the help of friend Curt Francis, a notary public. But Marcellus’ income proved inadequate for getting the modification. He needed Gudger’s signature, which she didn’t want to give.

Marcellus claimed Francis said he convinced Gudger to sign and gave Francis permission to sign for her during a phone call. He signed her name and notarized it.

The referee’s report noted Marcellus made no attempt to verify Gudger’s change of mind and watched Francis commit the forgery. Gudger said there was no change of mind and no phone call.

“Gudger first learned of Marcellus’s modification of the mortgage using the forged signature upon being served a foreclosure complaint filed by the lender on Dec. 8, 2011, after Marcellus failed to make payments on the mortgage following modification thereof,” the Supreme Court stated.

Also, the court noted, “in May and June 2013, Gudger served Marcellus with various discovery requests regarding his alleged noncompliance with family court orders concerning child support and other matters. At a July 24, 2013, hearing, the family court found that Marcellus had not responded to any of the discovery requests and ordered him to do so within ten days of that hearing. Marcellus did not comply with that order and did not comply with any of the discovery requests for the next year of litigation.”

This caused Marcellus to rack up fines he didn’t pay, another version of violating a court order. Eventually, the family court ordered Marcellus to explain on Sept. 15, 2014 why he hadn’t complied with court orders and convince the court he shouldn’t be sanctioned.

Marcellus didn’t show up, so the family court issued a “writ of bodily attachment.”

It was this writ that the Supreme Court said Marcellus tried to avoid by swapping cars with his second wife “so that he would not be found driving the vehicle described in the writ and avoiding his children’s activities for fear of being arrested.”

The University of Florida College of Law alumnus previously had a clean professional discipline record. His second divorce became final in July 2017.

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