TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Supreme Court has accepted a request for disciplinary revocation of license to practice law belonging to attorney Stephen M. Newman.
Newman, who was admitted to the Florida Bar Association in 1976 and is also licensed in New York, submitted the request as a stipulation for pleading guilty to a felony. The attorney was brought up on charges of grand larceny in the second degree (a Class C felony) in New York State earlier this year. The case stems from an ongoing theft committed by Newman against two of his New York-based clients between 2008 and 2011.
In 1999, Newman, an estate attorney based out of West Palm Beach, arranged living trusts for siblings June and Worth Farrington, who are now deceased. The combined total monies of the siblings equated $20 million. According to the New York Attorney General’s report, between 2007 and 2009, Newman began naming himself as the sole trustee for both Farringtons' trusts.
From 2008 and 2011, Newman moved money from various charities and nonprofits outlined in the 1999 living trusts to his personal accounts. Newman allegedly stole more than $900,000 in that three-year period, and also involved Joan M. Morgante, an unlicensed caretaker Newman met through another client. The report states that Morgante received cash and property in the form of a $325,000 townhouse from Newman. In total, she received approximately $400,000.
On March 10, Newman pleaded guilty to the felony charges in New York County under the stipulation that he no longer be eligible to practice law in both the state of New York and Florida. Newman also was required to pay $800,000 in restitution. Morgante pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years probation. Neither party will face any jail time. Newman filed his petition for disciplinary revocation with the Florida Supreme Court at the beginning of April.
According to court documents, the Florida Bar Association previously held their own investigation into the matter in January 2015. A notice was sent by Navin Ramnath, Bar Counsel, stating that “the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee G found no probable cause for disciplinary proceedings.”
Newman filed the request for disciplinary revocation with the possibility for reapplication to the Florida Bar at a future time. The court documents also note that Newman, at age 71, has not practiced law in either state since suffering a stroke in August 2015 from which he claims to not have fully recovered.
The Supreme Court order states that Newman’s petition went uncontested and that he may have the opportunity to apply for readmission as long as he is within full compliance with the Florida Bar. The order also indicates that revocation is “tantamount to disbarment.” Newman will have 30 days to close his practice and see that any remaining clientele is protected. He also will be responsible for paying the recovery costs and court fees of $1,250. The order was accepted by Navin Ramnath.