TALLAHASSEE – In its latest round of disciplinary actions, the Florida Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of three attorneys and also revoked the license of one attorney.
For court orders issued between March 3 and April 11, an additional 12 attorneys were suspended and five were publicly reprimanded. One attorney was ordered to pay restitution and five attorneys were placed on probation.
Comparatively, 24 attorneys were disciplined between Dec. 3 and March 24, with four being disbarred, four having licenses revoked, nine suspended and seven publicly reprimanded. Five attorneys were also placed on probation. In the prior reporting period, a similar 24 disciplinary actions were carried out.
According to Francine Walker, director of public information for the Florida Bar, which opens approximately 7,500 disciplinary files each year, the number of disciplinary actions in the past year has generally remained steady.
"It tends to be less than 1 percent of our membership that gets disciplined by the Supreme Court," Walker told the Florida Record.
Walker said that even as the Florida Bar membership grows, the number of attorneys receiving disciplinary action still tends to remain steady. There are currently 101,093 members of the Florida Bar, and between 2014 and 2015, 60 disbarments were ordered.
The Florida Bar is in charge of administering the statewide disciplinary system for lawyers, and citizen complaints are funneled through the organization’s Attorney-Client Assistance Program.
“All of our complaints have to be sworn affidavits,” Walker explained.
While an issue with an attorney may be indicated by a citizen, a sworn complaint must be filed before further action is initiated.
Among those attorneys recently disbarred is Jack Alan Bellan of Coral Springs, who was indefinitely suspended from practicing law before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida. According to the Florida Bar, Bellan consistently failed to properly, competently and diligently represent a debtor, and also failed to appear at every hearing or comply with the court's order.
Stuart Carl Hoffman of Boca Raton was disbarred, effective immediately, after he was paid for his services but allegedly took little or no significant action on behalf of his client. Additionally, he purportedly abandoned another client's matter altogether. While clients made attempts to contact him, an investigation led the Bar to discover that Hoffman had vacated the office space at the address on record.
Horecia Ingram Walker of Miramar was permanently disbarred and ordered to pay restitution of $11,321.60 to a client after she allegedly misappropriated client funds that should have been held in trust. A Bar audit showed that Walker did not maintain minimum trust accounting records and procedures, and she additionally did not respond to inquiries regarding the matter or provide requested records to a subpoena.
Robert Hill Hosch Jr., of Dallas, Texas, was granted a request for a disciplinary revocation, which is equivalent to disbarment. Hosch had a disciplinary matter pending against him that alleged he ceased operations as a company because of a lender financing dispute. Hosch was granted leave to seek readmission after five years of disbarment.
Once disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court, a lawyer cannot apply for readmission for five years, though many requests are denied. Once a lawyer applies for readmission, they must go through a rigorous background check and retake the Bar exam. In the state of Florida, fewer than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers go on to seek readmission.