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Florida State Bar Wants Bernardo Roman III Permanently Disbarred
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Bernardo Roman

Summary: The Florida State Bar is recommending permanent disbarment for an attorney that made false claims and filed false lawsuits against Miccosukee Tribe’s former attorneys.

A Florida Bar lawyer is recommending disbarment for a Miccosukee tribal lawyer that filed numerous frivolous lawsuits for the tribe. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dava Tunis is hearing the case against Miami lawyer Bernardo Roman IIIby the state bar association.

  
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The Florida State Bar explained to the judge that Roman filed lawsuits on behalf of the Miccosukee Tribe against their former lawyers Guy Lewis and Michael Tein. Roman led the tribe’s years-long fight against Lewis and Tein. The Florida Bar filed a formal complaint last year regarding allegations of dishonesty and false claims made by Roman when he represented the tribe. The Miccosukee Tribe is comprised of roughly 600-members that live in the Everglades near the Miccosukee Resort.

Tein, a former federal prosecutor, testified, “The tribe with its lawyers destroyed our law practice. Destroyed our reputations that we spent a lifetime building.” He continued that “The tribe built the bonfire and Mr. Roman … poured kerosene on it on a daily basis.” Tein argued that Roman was “unrepentant” in his relentless attacks on them, putting their firm through negative attention for years.

The fight began in 2012 when Roman, on behalf of the tribe, sued Lewis and Tein for engaging in fraudulent activities with former Miccosukee Chairman Billy Cypress. The two attorneys, who used to represent the tribe, were accused of conspiring with Cypress to get kickbacks while hiding Cypress’s elaborate spending.

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A federal judge dismissed the tribe’s claims on the basis of “no evidence or only patently frivolous evidence.” The judge sanctioned the tribe and Roman for filing the lawsuit. The tribe agreed in May 2016 to pay $4 million to Lewis and Tein for suing them. The duo has since sued the tribe with the lawsuit still pending.

Roman also went after another former lawyer for the tribe, Dexter Lehtinen. He testified that he worked for the tribe for years, dealing with their water management issues and income tax issues. He claims the work took a toll on his life and career. His wife, retired Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, accompanied him to court. He said, “Virtually unlimited Indian gaming money, buying frivolous litigation and an unethical lawyer, was the sword; and false claims of exaggerated Indian sovereign immunity was the shield.”



Judge Tunis will weigh the testimonies and evidence against Roman when deciding on a proper course of discipline for him. Tunis already found him guilty last month of legal misconduct charges. This includes Roman falsely claiming that a rival attorney put pistachios and peanuts in the food of his law clerk, knowing of her nut allergy. The incident happened during a deposition with Lewis, Tein, and their attorneys in 2013 with retired judge Ellen Leesfield overseeing the case. Leesfield had placed bowls of peanuts and pistachios on the conference room table. When law clerk Shenna Perez-Martin informed Leesfield about her nut allergy, the bowls were moved to another room. However, her allergy was so strong that she started having a reaction after being near the bowls. She left to seek medical care. About an hour later lunch was delivered. Roman then called 911 to claim she “was just the victim of a battery.” Perez-Martin told police that Roman’s version of events was false. She claimed he was mad at her for contradicting his story and refusing to press charges.

The Florida Supreme Court will have the final say on Roman’s future as an attorney. He asked for a suspension since he has no prior disciplinary record.

Do you think Roman should be permanently disbarred? Tell us what punishment you would give him in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys making false claims, read these articles:

Photo: dailybusinessreview.com



 

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