Today, I feel the need to defend my honor (or what little remains of it).
Long time MAOS readers will probably just have snorted themselves in derision. And now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about a post that’s been nearly two years in the making.
We’d also like to give a shout out to Hugh MacLeod, world famous cartoonist whose work adorns this article. Those unfamiliar with his art (on the walls at Microsoft, Intel, Rackspace, and many others) should check out gapingvoid.com.
Not only is Hugh’s stuff uber uber cool, he happens to be a client of ours.
First, I need to begin with a quick primer on the process of “filing a bar complaint.”
1. Stage one is known as the “inquiry” phase and usually starts with a sworn complaint. There are rare instances where the Bar will open grievance files without a sworn complaint, based on news articles, police reports, or even self-reporting by the lawyer. However the case is started, the initial inquiry is handled by an attorney at the Florida Bar’s Tallahassee office.
At this point, the grievance is forwarded to the lawyer referenced in the complaint. The attorney then crafts a response, which is sent to all parties. The complainant is allowed a rebuttal.
With wide latitude available, options available to the Bar include dismissal or forwarding the file to the local office for further investigation.
2. Moving us to the second step, where the file is forwarded to a local Bar prosecutor.
Local grievance committees are made up of attorneys and non-lawyers. Upon receipt of the grievance, one committee member is assigned to investigate the case. This critical stage, presenting both peril and opportunity, is defined as “non-adversarial”, which means the accused lawyer does not enjoy substantive and procedural due process rights.
Eventually the grievance committee will vote to either terminate the case, or send it to the next stage, the referee level, by finding probable cause.
3. At the referee level the lawyer is on trial. The action is an original proceeding in the Florida Supreme Court, and is presided over by an appointed “referee,” who is a county, circuit, or senior judge. Now, the rules and case law favor the Bar and the prosecution. Hearsay is admissible. The referee is directed to try the Bar case and issue a memorandum report within an expedited time frame.
4. Moving us to the fourth and final step. Upon issuing the Report, the Florida Bar referee forwards the record and case materials to the Florida Supreme Court, which reserves to itself the imposition of lawyer discipline, as it alone deems appropriate.
Now with the process explained, let’s apply it to my bar complaint filed against former Deerfield Beach Housing Authority fee attorney William G. Crawford.
We should note that it’s standard operating procedure to keep quiet about a bar complaint. However, as Crawford brought this matter to the public’s attention, we felt the need to speak out to protect our interests.
Stage #1: The Our Bar Complaint
On December 17, 2011 I filed the a bar complaint against Crawford alleging he violated Florida Bar Rule 4-1.2(d) and 4-1.7 (Conflict of Interest).
4-1.2(d) Criminal or Fraudulent Conduct. A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is criminal or fraudulent. However, a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning, or application of the law.
In rebuttal, Crawford, represented by counsel, provided the following explanation to the Florida Bar — “don’t listen to Chaz. He knows not what he talks about.”
Not so fast there f***er we said, submitting his reply was an intentional gross mischaracterization of the facts. To wit:
- I filed six ethics complaints, not five. The sixth complaint, the document that McDonald glaringly overlooks, is against Commissioner Lee Giannino and stands at the very heart of this matter.
- McDonald’s suggestion of this issue being resolved incorrectly portrays the reality of the situation.
- Last week, continuing their yearlong investigation of Giannino, the Florida Commission on Ethics contacted the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority seeking documentation.
- Prosecutors from the Broward State Attorney’s Office have very recently indicated an ongoing and active investigation into this matter.
So, are you following all of this?
- We filed a bar complaint.
- Crawford responded and told us to take a flying f***ing leap.
- Being the consummate professional, we told him to “eat me.”
- The matter is now in Tallahassee’s hands.
Stage #2: Off to the local Bar office
Will this matter be dismissed or sent to the local Bar office for further review? Are you on the edge of your seat in suspense? I’ll let you read the following letter and decide for yourself — “is it good or bad news for Bildo”?