TALLAHASSEE – An attorney who allegedly deliberately targeted and caused the wrongful arrest of an opposing counsel has been permanently disbarred following a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.
Robert D. Adams of Tampa was at the center of a high-profile scandal during the defamation trial involving two radio personalities.
Adams and two other lawyers defending radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem against a claim of defamation, allegedly set up the plaintiff’s attorney who was arrested for driving under the influence.
In its Aug. 25 ruling, the Supreme Court eviscerated Adams and the other lawyers, Adam Filthaut and Stephen Diaco, for the “unique and essentially unprecedented,” wrongdoing.
“The misconduct giving rise to the disciplinary actions against these three attorneys is among the most shocking, unethical, and unprofessional as has ever been brought before this [Supreme] Court,” the 13-page ruling said.
Flithaut was also permanently disbarred by the Supreme Court on the same day as Adams, while Diaco suffered the same fate last year.
The court was working on a factual findings report by a referee, who recommended permanent disbarment of Adams and Flithaut.
“The respondents’ willingness to inflict and indifference to causing such harm is, in the words of the referee, quite ‘stunning,’” the ruling concluded.
Adams’ and Filthaut’s disbarment stems from an incident during the January 2013, defamation trial involving Clem and fellow radio personality, Todd Schnitt.
Phillip Campbell, Schnitt’s attorney, and a co-counsel had walked to a restaurant in Tampa for dinner and drinks, where they were spotted by a paralegal, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
The paralegal allegedly contacted Adams and told him Campbell was in the restaurant. She, the paralegal, reportedly then had drinks with Campbell, without telling him she worked for the Adams & Diaco.
While they were in the restaurant drinking, Filthaut allegedly called a friend, then-Tampa police Sgt. Raymond Fernandez and told him Campbell was drinking and might drive while intoxicated.
But Campbell was planning to walk to his home a short distance from the restaurant. He offered to call a cab for the paralegal, who refused because she did not want to leave her car overnight in valet parking and wanted it moved to a more secure lot.
Campbell agreed to move the car to a lot near his apartment building and was pulled over by Fernandez and subsequently charged with DUI. Campbell’s bag containing trial information was left in the paralegal's car.
“The next day, Stephen Diaco made several statements to the media about the DUI of his opposing counsel Campbell, how the arrest caused the trial to be continued, and how Campbell’s behavior was a mockery of the judicial system and an embarrassment to Diaco as an attorney,” the ruling said.
“The respondents’ actions constituted a deliberate and malicious effort to place a heavy finger on the scales of justice for the sole benefit of themselves and their client,” the ruling said. “The personal and professional harm inflicted upon Campbell (a fellow attorney) and his clients’ case, upon Sgt. Fernandez (a personal friend of Filthaut and officer of the law), and upon the legal system, the legal profession, and the public’s confidence in both, was simply collateral damage from the respondents’ point of view.”