Miami-Dade County

What did these lawyers do wrong? The Florida Bar has made its case

Eight South Florida lawyers were discplinied by the Florida Bar.
Eight South Florida lawyers were discplinied by the Florida Bar. Miami Herald File

Of the 22 lawyers in this month’s batch disciplined by the Florida Supreme Court, eight set up shop in Miami-Dade or Broward counties. This month’s violations include ignoring clients and/or The Florida Bar grievance process.

In alphabetical order:

▪  Cooper City’s Marcy Abitz (University of Miami Law, 2002) remains suspended until a further order after being found in contempt for non-compliance and failure to respond in writing to official Florida Bar inquiries. As Abitz was already under suspension for cashing an $8,961.35 check mistakenly sent to her by an insurance company, she’ll stay under suspension until she answers the Bar inquiries in writing.

▪  Coral Gables’ Chris Borgia (University of Miami Law) is suspended until Jan. 28, then on probation for a year after being hired to represent three clients in different disability cases, then neglecting the cases. The Referee’s report says Borgia admits to having a “gastro intestinal illness” that sent him to urgent care facilities and, once, to the emergency room. Besides Borgia not telling clients how much his illness affected his ability to handle their cases, “In some cases, Respondent embellished the extent of his illness to his clients, when he was explaining the reason for his failure to complete a task or to respond to their calls,” according to the Referee’s report. Borgia almost must pay the three clients a total of $6,598 restitution.

▪  Cooper City’s Melissa Heaton (University of Virginia School of Law, 2005), under suspension since Sept. 1, 2015, for contempt, is serving another suspension concurrently until Jan. 13 for the original violation: not providing an opinion letter or communicating with the client after being retained to do so.

▪  Miami’s Gregg Lopez (St. Thomas University School of Law, 2000) is suspended until further notice after refusing to comply with a subpoena for his trust accounting records. As part of a Bar investigation into a grievance filed by Fabio Vazquez against Lopez, the Bar asked Lopez about $159,244 that went to Jesus Gomez in two 2010 payments from Vazquez’s money that he entrusted to Lopez. Also, of $74,000 Vazquez gave Lopez on July 1, 2011, only $27,000 went to Vazquez. Of the rest, $20,000 went to Csorias Management, a since-dissolved company for which Lopez was a registered agent. The Bar noted Lopez disbursed to Vazquez only $10,000 of the $54,000 given the lawyer in March, 2010. The Bar wondered what happened to the other $44,000.

▪ The Florida Bar went for an emergency suspension on Plantation’s David Prince (University of Miami School of Law, 1995) because Prince “appeared to be causing great public harm” by charging excessive fees, failing to protect his clients and abandoning his practice. The Bar has more than 50 open investigations of Prince.

▪ Three disciplinary matters hung over Robert Spallina (Loyola Marymount University Law School, 2000), who pleaded guilty to securities fraud after engaging in insider trading and admitted adding a paragraph to a trust amendment after a client was dead to comply with the client’s wishes. So, Spallina opted for disciplinary revocation, which is similar disbarment. He can apply for reinstatement Oct. 30, 2021.

▪ Fort Lauderdale attorney Peter Stamas (Nova Southeastern University 2007), while handling a misdemeanor petit theft case, lied to a Broward County Circuit Court about an agreement reached with the State Attorney’s office, according to the Bar. If he pulled off the lie, the court would’ve dismissed Stamas’ client’s 18-year-old warrant. Instead, Stamas is suspended until Jan. 6, 2017.

▪ The listed Florida Bar address for Lawrence Wrenn (University of Miami School of Law, 1978) is a Pack and Ship Center mailbox. Not having a valid office is just one of the Florida Bar violations alleged against Wrenn by clients. He’s been suspended by the Bar since Sept. 26 for not responding in writing to a complaint. Wrenn also was slapped with a contempt of court charge for giving Honda the runaround when the company tried to repossess Wrenn’s 2013 Honda CR-V, on which he owed $22,317.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal