Lawyer accused of threat to have opposing counsel’s ‘rear end sanctioned’ faces ethics complaint

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Ethics

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A Florida insurance defense lawyer is accused of unprofessional conduct toward opposing attorneys and a litigant, including a threat to have an opposing counsel’s “rear end sanctioned” over objections made during a deposition.

The Florida Bar accused lawyer Curtis Lee Allen of Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig in Tampa, Florida, in an Oct. 7 ethics complaint, Law.com reports.

The ethics complaint has two counts relating to cases in Pinellas County and Pasco County. Allen represented Avatar Property and the Casualty Insurance Co. in both cases.

According to allegations in the first count, Allen advised the plaintiff during a deposition that it is a third-degree felony to make a misstatement under oath and to commit insurance fraud. Allen also informed the plaintiff that he knew the presiding judge and insinuated that the judge would throw the plaintiff in jail for lying, the ethics complaint says.

The “tone of questioning during the deposition was aggressive and intimidating toward the witness,” the ethics complaint says.

After being questioned for a significant amount of time, the plaintiff decided to dismiss his complaint without prejudice and end the deposition.

The first count also accused Allen of engaging in a “unprofessional and hostile verbal exchange” with an opposing lawyer.

The dispute concerned the nature of the opposing lawyer’s objections during a deposition. Allen told the attorney that he should not “say a word,” other than “form or instruct not to answer.” The attorney replied that he would speak when needed.

Allen responded: “And I’ll call the judge, and I’ll have your rear end sanctioned for this. We do not do speaking objections. Understand?”

According to allegations in the second count, an opposing lawyer informed Allen that he had been accidentally copied on an email that was “intended to be privileged and confidential.” Allen did not respond to two requests to delete the email. At a hearing on the matter, a lawyer representing Allen finally confirmed that the email had been deleted.

The judge in the case later entered a case management order that criticized the conduct of Allen and the opposing lawyer as “childish.”

“To say that this litigation has been hotly contested is an understatement,” the judge wrote. “Unfortunately, the aggressive advocacy of the attorneys of record has not been rooted in the zealous representation of their respective clients but rather flows from a clear disdain counsel have for each other.

“The multiple volumes of the court file are full of accusations that opposing counsel is being dishonest, has a reputation for litigating in bad faith, or has a history of being admonished by other courts. During hearings, the animosity is palpable. On multiple occasions, the court has had to intervene to prevent an attorney from saying something that was disparaging to opposing counsel and unnecessary to the issue being addressed.

“The manner in which counsel for both the plaintiff and defendant have conducted themselves in this case fails to uphold the ideals of the profession and has been quite simply, childish.”

Allen did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal email requesting comment.



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