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Judge Recommends Disbarment of Three Attorneys in DUI Scandal
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After months of testimony, the prosecution has rested its case in the Dewey & LeBouef criminal trial.

Summary: Three attorneys may face disbarment for their roles in having an opposing attorney arrested for DUI while they battled each other in the courtroom.

According to, three Florida attorneys should get the ax for planning the DUI arrest of an opponent, a judge stated on Thursday. adds that although attorneys were rarely disbarred in the past, more and more attorneys are being punished more severely for misconduct.


Judge W. Douglas Baird wrote, “This malicious tampering with another person’s personal life and career was not only unprofessional, it was inexcusable.”

Baird recommended that Robert Adams, Adam Filthaut, and Stephen Diaco should be found guilty by the state Supreme Court for various ethical violations that made up “a deliberate and malicious effort to put a heavy finger on the scale of justice.”

On bench, from left to right: Diaco, Filthaut, Adams

On bench, from left to right: Diaco, Filthaut, Adams

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In January of 2013, C. Philip Campbell, an opposing attorney, was arrested. During that time, Campbell represented Todd “MJ” Schnitt, a radio personality. Schnitt had filed a slander lawsuit against Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, whose legal counsel included the Adams and Diaco law firm.

Campbell’s attorney in the current matter, John Fitzgibbons, said that Baird’s opinion was “a devastating condemnation of the despicable and unethical conduct of Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut. They will never see the inside of a courtroom again as lawyers.”



Read more about the case here.

Greg Kehoe represented the trio in the bar hearing. He said, “We’re very disappointed and we, of course disagree with the factual recitation…It’s unfortunate none of the mitigating factors were taken into account. We plan on appealing to the Supreme Court.



While Kehoe did not go into the details of the report, he said, “People should know these three men have done outstanding things for this community, legally and socially and have been great individuals for the community. And I think people should understand that and respect that and hopefully come to appreciate that.”

The opinion spanned 72 pages. Baird said that the attorneys were part of a “pattern of intentional conduct” when they attempted to manipulate Campbell’s arrest. Apparently, they attempted to have Campbell arrested so that he would be in the middle of Schnitt’s trial.

The judge recommended, in addition to disbarment, that the three pay in excess of $14,000 for the legal costs associated with the proceedings.

Baird’s request actually exceeds the state bar’s request, which seeks permanent disbarment for Diaco only. For Adams and Filthaut, the bar asked for their licenses to be reinstated after five years.

Baird serves as a referee in the case against the three attorneys. His findings will be sent to the Supreme Court of Florida, which will then decide what punishment is appropriate for the attorneys.

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In the opinion, Baird states that, in November 2012, Filthaut called his buddy, Raymond Fernandez, who was the head of the DUI unit at the Tampa police department. Filthaut told Fernandez about a lawyer who worked in the same building who “gets drunk all the time” and “drives home drunk.” Filthaut also gave Fernandez Campbell’s name, but conveniently did not mention that Campbell was first chair in a lengthy civil action that Filthaut’s firm was defending.



Fernandez then sent an officer to Malio’s Steakhouse, which was across the street from the Bank of America building where the firms were located. The steakhouse was also a favorite watering hole of Campbell’s. That night, Campbell wasn’t seen there, and was not arrested.

An attorney was disbarred for his conduct with an ex-girlfriend.

On January 23, 2013, during the trial, Campbell walked from his office to meet up with his trial partner at Malio’s. The restaurant was within walking distance to Campbell’s condo.

The attorneys saw Melissa Personius, who was a paralegal for the Adams and Diaco law firm. She lied to Campbell about where she worked, and subsequently contacted Adams. Adams told Diaco that Campbell was drinking at the bar. Adams also contacted Filthaut.

Filthaut then called Fernandez, and told him he should set up another stakeout at Malio’s. He never mentioned the trial to him.

When Fernandez set up the stakeout, Personius sat next to Campbell and “openly and obviously flirted with Mr. Campbell, encouraged him to drink, and bought him drinks herself,” the opinion read.

The opinion also noted that meanwhile, Personius “managed to carry on a steady series of cell phone calls and texts” with Diaco, Adams and Filthaut.

By the end of the night, Personius was pretty buzzed, and her friend encouraged her to get a cab. Campbell offered to hail a cab for her, but Personius said she needed to retrieve her car from the valet.

Campbell spoke with the valet, and told Personius that she could leave her car at the bar overnight. However, Personius stubbornly refused to leave her car, and said that it needed to be parked in a public lot nearby. Campbell, frustrated with Personius, agreed to move her car for her.

Campbell “fully admitted that she never asked him directly to drive her car. He chose instead to run the risk of a two-minute drive as a favor to someone who appeared too impaired to drive safely.”

As soon as Campbell pulled out of the lot, the other attorneys “knew the trap was set,” Baird said in the opinion.

Campbell was arrested by Fernandez, and Personius contacted another attorney from the firm to pick her up and give her a ride home. Since she did not do that before Campbell “drove into the waiting police stakeout,” Baird said that this was “…further confirmation of their intent to effect his arrest.” You can read Personius’ statement at this link.

When court resumed, the attorneys dodged the issue, stating they could not remember what happened the night of the arrest, or they pleaded the Fifth Amendment.

A Kansas attorney was disbarred for “inexplicable incompetence.”

In March, Diaco’s “memory improved,” and he filed an affidavit that listed his only involvement was to respond to the police as they sought information. Baird scathingly wrote, “That statement is so misleading and so far from the truth regarding the known events of that night that it amounts to deliberate falsehood.”

Adams was the only attorney to testify at the bar disciplinary hearing. Baird noted that his testimony “was crafted to admit those facts that he knew from discovery he could not deny and to present a set of circumstances that put him in the most favorable light possible.” He added, the “less-than-credible testimony given at the eleventh hour did nothing to aid his defense.”

Baird surmised that Filthaut’s friendship with Fernandez was “the most important single factor that allowed” the attorneys “to plot the arrest of Mr. Campbell. Without the trust and long years friendship that existed between…Filthaut and Sgt. Fernandez, it seems doubtful that the Tampa Police Department would have devoted the resources to spend the better part of three hours staking out a bar for one potentially impaired driver on the unverified ‘tip’ of one citizen.”

Fernandez was terminated due to the event. The scandal rocked the Tampa Police DUI unit, and at least 12 cases in which Fernandez was involved were tossed out.

Baird added that Filthaut’s “willingness to betray a 15-year friendship and sacrifice the career and personal freedom of a fellow attorney for the sake of some potential advantage in an ongoing trial remains stunning.”

Filthaut’s attorney argued that Filthaut was simply a low-level employee who followed instruction from Adams and Diaco.

In response, Baird wrote, “That variation of the Nuremberg Defense is only available when the conduct ordered is ‘in accordance with a supervisory lawyer’s reasonable resolution of an arguable question of professional duty,’ “ Baird wrote. “Using a nonlawyer employee to set up an opposing attorney for arrest in a multi-million dollar, high profile jury trial doesn’t conceivably fall within that exception.”

Baird also slammed Diaco for statements he made to the press when the slander trial was interrupted by Schnitt’s arrest. Baird said that he was “shocked” and “embarrassed to be an attorney.” Baird commented that Diaco made the statements to try to sway jurors who may see them.

The attorneys also presented testimony that suggested they simply wanted to keep drunk drivers off the road. However, Baird said that “would seem more plausible if [it] had not been the” attorneys’ “own employee buying Mr. Campbell drinks and presenting him with an automobile to drive.”

The attorneys also protested that no one forced Campbell to get behind the wheel that night. However, Baird said this was irrelevant. He explained, “If Mr. Campbell had walked away from Malio’s valet that night and left Ms. Personius to her own devices,” the attorneys’ “actions would have been just as unethical and egregious.”


Photo credit:, (Diaco, Filthaut, Adams, Campbell, Fitzgibbons), (Kehoe)



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