TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Bar recently filed a complaint against attorney
Bernardo Roman III for three lawsuits that he filed against Michael Tein and
Guy Lewis with the Lewis Tein law firm.
Roman also inserted himself into a pending motion for
sanctions in a separate lawsuit to which he was not a party and, in a separate
incident, allegedly filed a false police report.
The complaint is the most recent development in a long saga
involving Roman, Tein Lewis and the Miccosukee Tribe. Tein Lewis represented the
tribe between 2005 and 2010 until tribal elections brought in new leaders, who
hired Roman. The Miccosukee Tribe declined to comment on the complaint or
In the allegedly false police report filed by Roman, he asserted that
Paul Calli, who was representing Lewis and Tein, deliberately exposed Roman’s
assistant, Shenna Perez-Martin, to nuts during a deposition. Judge Ellen
Leesfield had placed a bowl of peanuts in the conference room and when
Perez-Martin announced that she was allergic to nuts, the bowl was removed.
Leesfield later brought a bowl of pistachios into the conference room,
thinking that Perez-Martin suffered only from a peanut allergy.
When Perez-Martin stated again that she was allergic to
nuts, the bowl was moved to the back of the room and later to the reception
area. At approximately 12:15 p.m., Perez-Martin indicated to Roman that the nuts
had triggered an allergic reaction. During this conversation, Calli walked
between Perez-Martin and Roman carrying a handful of pistachio nuts.
Perez-Martin then left the deposition to go to an urgent care center.
In a 911 call to the Coral Gables Police Department more
than an hour later, Roman said that Perez-Martin “was just the victim of a
battery by an attorney on the other side who has a history of domestic
violence,” according to the complaint. He also allegedly stated that Calli put the nuts
in Perez-Martin’s food and that she had to be taken to the hospital.
Perez-Martin reportedly later told police that she was already
experiencing an allergic reaction when Calli walked by, that she left the
deposition prior to lunch being delivered and that she did not feel there was
any intention by anyone at the deposition to harm her.
She also reportedly said that Roman became angry when she would not
change her story or agree to press charges against Calli. Roman later
terminated her employment, according to the complaint.
The Florida Bar’s formal complaint document includes
considerable information regarding Roman’s lawsuits against Lewis Tein. Not
only were the claims in the suits deemed frivolous and the allegations against
Lewis and Tein false, but Roman himself allegedly possessed evidence that proved the
allegations were false.
“Each court that has examined this issue has determined that respondent’s actions results from the bad blood, or personal animosity, held by respondent and the new tribal leadership against the former tribal administration
and its associates, including Lewis and Tein,” according to the complaint.
In another action cited in the complaint, Roman allegedly went so far
as to collude with an opposing attorney to attempt to discredit Lewis and Tein,
even though doing so led to a $7 million judgment against Roman’s client (a
judgment that was later overturned).
“Because of bad blood
the tribe did whatever it could to hurt Lewis and Tein,” said Judge Ronald Dresnick
in the complaint.
Among Roman’s accusations against Lewis Tein was that the
firm had engaged in fraudulent billing practices that generated kickbacks to
the former tribal chairman. However, Roman testified that he could not cite a
single instance in which Lewis Tein’s billing was fraudulent.
“The tribe has failed to identify one fictitious time entry,
invoice or legal matter attributable to Lewis Tein,” said Judge John Thornton
in his motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit.
Lewis and Tein, who are represented by Paul Calli, managing
partner at Calli Law, were vindicated earlier this year when their accusers
were ordered to cover attorney fees and costs related to the cases.
"The history of the thing is long and sordid and shaggy,”
Calli told the Florida Record. “It’s
the longest piece of litigation I’ve been involved with."
Pending the results of the Florida Bar’s trial by referee,
recommended sanctions against Roman could range from admonishment to disbarment.