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 related lawsuits.
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.