Pinellas County attorney disbarred for allegedly collecting fees without filing cases

By Kerry Goff | Aug 1, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court issued an order on April 21 to disbar attorney Angela Morton Armstrong, who practices law in Pinellas County.

The decision was based off of a 44-page Florida Bar complaint that listed 22 counts of alleged failure to keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases and also was not diligent in her performance of the services for which she was retained.

“The Florida Bar prays (Armstrong) will be appropriately disciplined in accordance with the provisions of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar as amended,” the complaint said.

It was detailed in the uncontested report that she also collected excessive fees by failing to perform the services for which she had been retained, as well as failure to respond, in writing, to any official inquiry by Bar counsel and the court.

Armstrong is not unfamiliar with the Bar’s inquiries and procedures.

Previously, Armstrong was found in contempt for failing to respond to Bar inquiries regarding two disciplinary cases in 2014. She also failed to appear before a grievance committee regarding the cases and failed to inform the committee that she would be unable to attend. She was suspended for 91 days.

In another case, she was suspended for one year following a Feb. 17, 2015, court order. Armstrong was found in contempt for failing to allegedly comply with the terms of a previous suspension order. Specifically, Armstrong was ordered to notify her clients, opposing counsel and the courts of her status and provide a sworn affidavit to the Bar listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of her suspension order.

“On Feb. 17, 2015, the Supreme Court of Florida issued an order suspending respondent for one year for failing to supply an affidavit of notification of her suspension pursuant to Rule 3-5.1(h) within 30 days of the order dated Jan. 28, 2014,” the complaint said. “The Supreme Court required her to supply an affidavit of notification of her suspension pursuant to Rule 3-5.1(h) within 30 days of the order dated Feb. 17, 2015, to which she has failed to respond.”

The original Feb. 17 suspension was ordered after Armstrong purportedly collected attorney and filing fees from clients without following through with the bankruptcy services for which she was retained.

Since the previous suspension, there have been more cases that have come to light.

Approximately $40,000 of attorney’s and filing fees were reportedly collected by Armstrong with no Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcies filed, and in some cases mortgage re-negotiations, on behalf of certain clients between 2007 and 2014. None of the money was returned and no correspondence was attempted after the clients’ payments were made to Armstrong, according to documents.

Based on the evidence provided from previous cases, as well as the current 22 cases addressed in the most recent complaint, the Florida Supreme Court did not hesitate to agree with the Florida Bar’s complaints, which were considered justifiable.

 “The uncontested report of the referee is approved and (Armstrong) is disbarred,” the Supreme Court order said. “(Armstrong) is currently suspended; therefore, this disbarment is effective immediately. Respondent shall fully comply with Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 3-5.1(h). Judgment is entered for the Florida Bar…for recovery of costs from Angela Morton Armstrong in the amount of $1,791.40, for which sum let execution issue.”

Despite continuous restrictions and required clarifications imposed upon Armstrong, she has refused to respond to Florida Bar and Court inquiries, or inform clients and opposing council of her credentials in the ability to practice as an attorney.

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