Labelle attorney disbarred after noncompliance and causing 'great public harm'

By Kerry Goff | Jul 28, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – Matthew Brennan Cleary III, an attorney who practices in Labelle, was disbarred effective immediately following a Feb. 2 court order for violating the terms of a previous suspension.

After his disbarment by the Florida Bar, the Board of Immigration Appeals, Immigration Courts and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also disbarred him from practicing on July 6.

Cleary was found in contempt for violating the terms of a June 10, 2015, emergency suspension ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. The order was implemented after Cleary allegedly failed to notify his clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals of his suspension and provide the Bar with a sworn affidavit that listed the names and addresses of all persons and entities that received a copy of his suspension order. He also allegedly continued to practice law while suspended.

“Rule 6(b) of the Rules Governing Attorney Discipline, Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, provides that ‘[a]n attorney . . . who shall be suspended . . . on consent . . . from the bar of any state . . . while an investigation into allegations of misconduct is pending shall . . . cease to be permitted to practice before this court and be stricken from the roll of attorneys admitted to practice before this court,’” the district court said. “Under these circumstances involving suspension on consent, service of an order to show cause is unnecessary and the attorney may be immediately suspended.”

According to the 2015 petition for emergency suspension, Cleary appeared to be causing great public harm.

“Two judges found him in indirect criminal contempt for intentionally and deliberately failing to timely appear for trials in April [2015]; at an order to show cause hearing, Cleary appeared in court under the influence of drugs,” the official court document said.

The initial Supreme Court order of suspension, dated Oct. 2, 2015, said that Cleary could not practice law for 91 days.

“That order of suspension was predicated on an uncontested report of the referee, which was based upon a conditional plea for consent judgment,” the document said.

Upon suspension, the courts stressed that Cleary may not resume the practice of law until reinstated by order of the court and was also placed on probation for two years under the terms and conditions set forth in the report and consent judgment.

Furthermore, on June 16, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued an order immediately suspending Cleary based on his disbarment in Florida for failure to notify his clients of his disbarment.

“The proposed sanction is appropriate, in light of the fact that the [Cleary] was disbarred from the practice of law in Florida on Feb. 2, 2016, by the Supreme Court of Florida, after being held in contempt of the court,” the DOJ official document said. “The notice of intent to discipline proposes that the respondent be disbarred from practicing before the Board and the Immigration Courts.”

Consequently, the Disciplinary Counsel for the DHS also asked the Board to extend that discipline to practice before them as well.

“The Board hereby disbars the respondent from practice before the Board, the Immigration Courts, and the DHS,” the document said. “The disbarment is deemed to have commenced on June 16, 2016, and he must maintain compliance with the directives set forth in prior orders.”

Cleary must also notify the Board of any further disciplinary action against him and may petition the Board for reinstatement to practice before the Board, the Immigration Courts and DHS.

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