Few lawyers in Florida face disciplinary actions

By Karen Kidd | Mar 30, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – A Live Oak attorney is one of a relative few lawyers who has endured legal discipline in the state, according to statistics provided by the Florida Bar.

If 2016 is like the last few years, the number of lawyer suspensions would rank only in the dozens out of more than 100,000 attorneys in the state. Reprimands, disbarments and other forms of discipline also are relatively low in Florida, according to Florida Bar Disciplinary Statistics for 2010 through 2015 and information provided to the Florida Record by Florida Bar Director of Public Information Francine Walker.

In 2014-2015, 43 Florida attorneys were placed on probation, 39 were admonished, 35 received disciplinary revocation, 61 were publicly reprimanded, 165 were suspended and 60 were disbarred.

That suspension number does not included the temporary suspension of Live Oak attorney Ryan Jennings Peters handed down by the Florida Supreme Court in February. Peters also was placed on probation for a year following his reinstatement with the Florida Bar providing mentoring and monitoring, according to court documents.

The Florida Bar filed its complaint against Peters over three cases, according to court documents. Those cases included client complaints that Peters was difficult to reach, that he did not perform his duties, that he improperly billed for his staff's time as well as his own, that he inflated one bill and failed to tell a client it was possible to attend court pro se, according to court documents.

Peters faced accusations related to competence, diligence, communication, conflict of interest, expediting litigation, dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, and misapplication of trust funds when he filed his conditional guilty plea for a consent judgment in November. He was ordered to pay costs of $1,548 in the case, in addition to the 30-day suspension and probation.

Peters did not respond to requests for comment. Florida Bar board members representing Peters' district, Lawrence E. Sellers, Jr. and William H. Davis, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Though Peters' suspension was expected to begin on February 27, it could have begun later or sooner, depending on a number of factors. Walker told the Florida Record that the disciplinary status of any Florida attorney, including Peters, can be viewed via the attorney's "Bar profile" at the Florida Bar's website.

Peter's "Bar profile" is here.

"All Florida Bar members’ status is posted as well as the key documents if under disciplinary order," Walker said.

The Florida Bar also issues monthly discipline releases, which includes information about why attorneys are disciplined, Walker said.

Beginning in 2013, the Florida Bar changed its discipline statistics table in light of amendments to The Florida Bar Rules of Discipline. Attorneys facing disciplinary charges now may petition for a disciplinary revocation and an emergency suspension serves as a formal complaint based on the misconduct alleged.

The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation is an official arm of the state's Supreme Court that administers a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct. By the end of 2015, there were 101,093 attorneys admitted to the bar and permitted to practice law in Florida.

"The Florida Bar accepts complaints against attorneys, investigates those complaints and prosecutes attorneys who engage in unethical conduct," the Florida Bar's website says.

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