Tallahassee attorney John Bischof has been publicly reprimanded by publication following an Aug. 10 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations he failed to communicate with clients and closed his office without informing them or returning their fees.
Allegations against Bischof stemmed from client matters in two separate cases in which he subsequently refunded both clients in full, according to the consent judgment filed with the state's high court. The consent judgment also includes Bischof's conditional guilty plea.
The state court's single-page order also directed Bischof to pay costs of $1,250. The Florida State Bar announced the discipline and the supreme court's order Sept. 27.
In Florida, court orders are not final until after time to file a rehearing motion expires
Bischof was admitted to the bar in Florida on Oct. 4, 1999, according to his profile at the state bar website.
The clients hired Bischof in May 2015 to represent them in separate bankruptcy cases, for which Bischof was paid fees of $1,685 and $1,150 respectively, according to the consent judgment. The clients soon were unable to contact Bischof or his associate by phone, email or via the office website, despite leaving numerous messages, according to the judgment. The clients later discovered the office was closed, the door locked and a 'for lease' sign in place, the judgment said.
Bischof didn't inform his clients that he was closing his practice and he did not initially return their unearned fees, according to the consent judgment. Bischof turned his bankruptcy practice over to another firm in about November of that year, according to the consent judgment.
Prior to entering his conditional guilty plea, Bischof entered into a repayment agreement in one of the two client matters and subsequently repaid the fees in full, according to the judgment. In the other client matter, the judgment said Bischof voluntarily attended fee arbitration at that client's request and later repaid that client's fees in full.
In a previous discipline, Bischof was admonished in 2015 after a state bar investigation found his paralegal had engaged in the unlicensed practice of law and voluntarily executed a cease and desist affidavit, according to a report of minor misconduct filed with the high court at the time.