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Florida Supreme Court Holds Divorce Lawyer Accountable

Familial disputes, especially and including divorces, can be difficult to resolve. Legislators, courts, lawyers, advocacy groups, and the parties themselves are all integral components in the realm of family law. But, as recently made clear by the Florida Supreme Court, not all of those components always act as they should. Fortunately, there are strong mechanisms in place to make sure that bad actors are held to account.

A "Continuing…Pattern of Neglect"

In early 2007, a Florida lawyer with no association to our firm was retained by a woman to help with her sister's divorce. The sister could not look after her own interests because she was suffering from Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease—a tragedy that was worsened when her husband of two decades left her.

At first, the relationship between the attorney and the client seemed satisfactory. The lawyer was paid $1,500 toward a $5,000 retainer in January 2007 and an additional $1,000 in February. In July, a guardianship court provided the approval needed to proceed with the divorce. And, in August, the attorney met with the two sisters to discuss the case and to receive the final $2,500.

After this August meeting, however, things began to go wrong. The lawyer sent the client an email stating that she would file the divorce papers by mid-August—and only in October did the client receive a copy of the to-be-filed papers. Even then, the papers contained numerous errors and, although the client sent back a new version with suggested corrections, she never received corrected documentation from the attorney.

Indeed, the lawyer never filed the divorce paperwork; and in November, the sister was served with divorce papers from her husband. The client emailed the lawyer, asking for advice, and heard nothing back. She was forced, therefore, to file a reply to the divorce papers by herself.

Severe Professional Repercussions

So crucial is a lawyer's attention to and work for his or her client that disciplinary authorities imposed the harshest professional sanction they could muster: disbarment.

The authorities found the lawyer in violation of three important rules of the practice of law: (1) "a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client," (2) "a lawyer shall keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter," and (3) "a lawyer shall promptly comply with reasonable requests for information."

Additionally, this was not the first time this attorney had violated the rules of the profession. She had already earned a public reprimand and a year-long probation for previous violations.

She fought disbarment and appealed her case all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court. But this summer, in The Florida Bar v. Davis, the Supreme Court agreed with the disciplinary authorities: this attorney broke the rules and disbarment was appropriate.

Contact a Miami Divorce Attorney Today

If you are seeking a divorce or have any other family law-related question you want to hire a competent and dedicated attorney unlike Ms. Davis. Please do not hesitate to reach to the lawyers at Miami based Hager & Schwartz, P.A. today who will handle your matter in an timely fashion and keep you informed about the status of your case.

Categories: Divorce, Family Law