Miami attorney Arturo Dopazo III faces a year of suspension following an Oct. 5 Florida Supreme Court opinion over allegations that he solicited a client at a hospital following an automobile accident more than a decade ago.
"Unethical violations of the solicitation rule, such as the ones committed by Dopazo in this case, have the potential to harm people who are already in a vulnerable condition and bring dishonor and disgrace on the entire legal profession," the high court said in its 13-page opinion.
Dopazo received the harsher penalty also because he was a repeat offender, having been publicly reprimanded for solicitation in 2004, according to the opinion.
Dopazo's suspension is scheduled to be effective 30 days from the high court's opinion. The court found Dopazo guilty of professional misconduct, approved a referee's findings of fact but rejected the recommended 60-day suspension and instead imposed the longer suspension, according to the 13-page opinion.
The state supreme court also ordered Dopazo to pay almost $6,770 in costs.
The Florida State Bar announced the discipline and the Supreme Court's order on Oct. 30. In Florida court orders are not final until the time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion would not alter the effective date of the Dopazo's suspension.
Dopazo was admitted to the bar in Florida on Nov. 18, 1996, according to his profile at the state bar website.
In March 2007, Dopazo allegedly approached a woman at Jackson Memorial Hospital Ryder Trauma Center days after her son suffered traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident and successfully solicited her to become his client for a fee, according to the court's opinion. The woman's "limited education and fragile emotional condition at the time likely rendered her unable to make a rational decision whether to retain counsel," the opinion said.
The state bar was informed by the FBI of the alleged solicitation in December 2011, began an inquiry about four months later and filed a formal complaint in July 2015, according to the opinion. The final hearing was in 2016.
Dopazo argued the remoteness of the offense should have been considered a mitigating factor but the high court opined that his 2004 public reprimand "should have been fresh in his mind" during the alleged solicitation three years later.