Florida Bar v. Bruce Edward Committe, No. SC11-468: Florida Attorney Suspended After Bringing Frivolous Claims against Defendant

The Florida Supreme Court has entered a judgment suspending an attorney for three years, after finding that he violated the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.  In Florida Bar v. Bruce Edward Committe, an attorney filed a lawsuit on behalf of a client against a defendant, alleging that he maliciously interfered with a business relationship of the client and slandered the client.

The defendant moved for summary judgment.  The court granted the motion, holding that there was no admissible evidence to support either count of the client’s complaint.  Following a hearing on the motion, the court ordered the attorney and his client to compensate the defendant a total of $13,000 for his attorney’s fees and court costs.  The attorney subsequently appealed.

The Florida First District Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision.  After the appeal, the defendant sent two letters to the attorney requesting that he pay his portion of the judgment.  After he received the second letter, the attorney wrote to his local district attorney and claimed that the defendant was attempting to extort him.

The district attorney reported him to the Florida Bar, who appointed a special referee to review the information and conduct a preliminary hearing.  The referee recommended that the attorney be suspended for a period of 91 days and pay $8,934.35 to the Florida Bar for their costs.  The attorney then filed a petition for review in the Florida Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reviewed the referee’s recommendation and found that the attorney’s conduct warranted more severe punishment.  Thus, the Court entered a judgment suspending the attorney for three years, instead of the proposed 91 days, and affirmed the order to pay costs.

Decision: Florida Bar v. Bruce Edward Committe

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