TALLAHASSEE — Wellington, Florida, attorney Avery Spencer Chapman was sentenced to be publicly reprimanded via publication in an order filed on Jan. 19 by the Florida Supreme Court.
Chapman’s discipline stems from a matter in which he represented a client in business dealings for a three-year time period and discovered an accounting error in his client trust account after the relationship dissolved.
Court documents said that Chapman met the claimant, a doctor with “varied and substantial business interests” through the men’s significant others. In 2011, Chapman began helping the doctor in foreclosure proceedings for his property. Chapman later began to take on more legal work for the doctor including the client’s divorce and taxes. The attorney created a trust for the client who would then deposit money directly into the account. This arrangement went on for approximately three years.
Because of the large amount of legal work and the immediacy in which it needed to be completed, Chapman allegedly had trouble keeping up with the accounting for the trust account. Chapman reported that he intended to hire a bookkeeper when he informed the client of a legal issue that led the client to end the business relationship in 2014.
Chapman preformed an audit of the account and found that he had underpaid himself for two years and overpaid for one. The Florida Bar's audit confirmed these findings, but also found that the misappropriation was not intentional.
Several mitigating factors were taken into account when determining Chapman’s discipline. The attorney had no prior record of discipline and did not intentionally misappropriate funds. Additionally, Chapman fully disclosed the matter to the client and provided character witnesses. The attorney also authored various articles on equine law and two chapters of the Florida Bar’s Business Litigation in Florida manual.
The Florida Supreme Court, in Tallahassee, was established in 1846. It is presided over by seven justices. For more on the court, go to FloridaSupremeCourt.org.