TAMPA — A Tampa lawyer has been suspended
following allegations that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars
of his clients' money on himself, including vacations and casino
Attorney James Lee Clark has been placed under what
Francine Walker, spokesperson for the Florida Bar Association, told
The Florida Record was an “emergency suspension.”
Clark was given this suspension by the Florida Supreme Court. The
court issued the suspension based on the recommendation in a petition
filed by the Florida Bar.
Clark is a senior attorney with the
Clark Law Group in Tampa.
In its petition for emergency
suspension, the bar wrote
that Clark had taken almost $1 million from client Pier Gasmena. The
bar stated that based on their certified internal investigation,
Clark’s alleged actions violated a number of rules of the bar
Rule 3-4.3 (Misconduct and Minor Misconduct)
4-1.15 (Safekeeping Property)
Rule 4-8.1 (Bar Admission and
Rule 4-8.4(c) (Misconduct)
(Trust Accounts — Application of Trust Funds or Property to
On Nov. 7, The Florida Supreme Court ordered
Clark, however, continued practicing. It was
while he was under suspension that he met Janet and Tom Crawford and
agreed to take them on as clients. They hired Clark to help them deal
with a foreclosure situation. They alleged
that he spent hundreds of thousands of their dollars at casinos, gun
stores and liquor stores, and on lavish vacations around the world.
They are now suing their former lawyer to try and recover what they
Theirs is not the only lawsuit currently working it’s way
through the courts against Clark. Attorney L. Reed Bloodworth, of the
firm Morgan and Morgan, is suing
Clark on behalf of Gasmena, whose case sparked the initial
investigation into Clark’s practices.
Clark’s actions are not
an isolated case, according to attorney Richard B. Marx, who owns The
Law Offices of Richard B. Marx and Associates in Miami.
“I have seen many cases such as this one. I am sure he will not
be practicing law for a long time, if ever,” Marx told The
This is not the first time that the
Florida Supreme Court has cast a wary eye on Clark. In 2014, he was
and received a year of probation following accusations that he was
not diligent with client materials and in client representation among
Clark’s suspension is just one step in a process
that The Florida Bar works through when concerns about a lawyer
“The emergency suspension will remain in effect until it is
either lifted by the court or the court imposes a final disciplinary
sanction…,” Walker said.
For more information on lawyers in
Florida and their standing, go to www.floridabar.org.