Bad Lawyers

Filing Excessive Lawsuits Cost Bernardo Roman His Law License
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Bernardo Roman

Summary: A former lawyer for an Indian tribe in Florida lost his license after he filed bogus lawsuits for years against the tribe’s former lawyers.

A former attorney for the Miccosukee Indians, of West Miami-Dade, had his law license revoked for filing a number of bogus lawsuits on behalf of the tribe. Bernardo Roman has his license disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday.

  
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When Roman was representing the small tribe, he filed lawsuits against the tribe’s former attorneys. He alleged in the suits that Guy Lewis and Michael Tein conspired with the tribe’s former chairman, Billie Cypress. The suit claimed that Lewis and Tein worked out a deal with Cypress to get kickbacks in exchange for hiding Cypress’ spending from the tribe.

A federal judge dismissed the suits and ordered a sanction on the Miccosukees and Roman for filing a lawsuit with “no evidence or only patently frivolous evidence.” The tribe eventually paid $4 million to Lewis and Tein for the suit and a series of other failed lawsuits.

The Florida Bar was not pleased with Roman’s conduct and sought disbarment. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dava Tunis, acting as a referee, agreed with the state bar, finding Roman guilty of a number of legal misconduct charges such as falsely claiming that a rival attorney attacked his nut-allergic law clerk by putting pistachios and peanuts in her food.

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Roman argued during his hearing that he had no prior disciplinary record so a suspension was a fair punishment.

Lewis and Tein testified that the years of bogus lawsuits damaged their careers, putting their reputations through the dirt with Roman’s “unrepentant” lawsuit. Tein said, “The tribe with its lawyers destroyed our law practice. Destroyed our reputations that we spent a lifetime building.” He added, “The tribe built the bonfire and Mr. Roman … poured kerosene on it on a daily basis.”



Roman’s lawsuits also targeted another former lawyer for the tribe, former Miami U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen. He represented the tribe on issues ranging from water management to income taxes. The tribe, with about 600 members, run a casino and resort near the Everglades.

Lehtinen testified that his work for the tribe took a heavy toll on his life and career. He said, “Virtually unlimited Indian gaming money, buying frivolous litigation and an unethical lawyer, was the sword; and the false claims of exaggerated Indian sovereign immunity was the shield.”

Lewis and Tein has since sued the lawsuit. That lawsuit is still pending.

Do you think disbarment was a fair punishment? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about other ridiculous lawsuits, read these articles:

Photo: law.com



 

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