Tampa attorney Debra Denise Newman has been suspended for 15 days following an Aug. 24 Florida Supreme Court order after sending what the Florida State Bar called "a misguided and threatening letter to a law firm."
"She later apologized and blamed her conduct on personal family and health matters," said the state bar's Sept. 27 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order.
Newman herself referred to the correspondences as a "misdirected, nasty letter", according to the consent judgment filed with the court. The judgment also includes Newman's conditional guilty plea.
The state supreme court's two-page order also placed Newman on probation for six months or until she completes an ethics school and professionalism workshop and directed her to play about $1,377 in costs. Newman's suspension was effective 30 days from the date of the order to allow time for her to close out her practice and protect the interests of her existing clients, according to the order.
In Florida, court orders are not final until after time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion would not alter the effective date of the Newman's suspension. Newman was admitted to the bar in Florida on May 19, 1980, according to her profile at the state bar website.
Newman was representing plaintiffs, an individual and a corporation, in a civil action last year when she electronically served a subpoena to a law firm that formerly represented a company in other litigation against her client, according to the consent judgment. The principal of that law firm replied to Newman that he was not the registered agent and was no longer counsel for the other, according to the consent judgment.
Newman replied that Florida rules allow for electronic service on counsel of record and that she was not required to research the statutory registered agent when she'd been communicating with the other attorney as the attorney of record, the consent judgment said.
Newman's "response" was also threatening in nature, the judgment said.
Newman later filed a motion to withdraw, which was granted, and still later sent a letter of apology to the other attorney "for her unprofessionalism in her written communications", the judgment said.