Tampa attorney Patricia Anne Horal has been suspended for 90 days following a Nov. 9 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations she had an improper business partnership in 2014 with a man who wasn't a lawyer and who later was prosecuted for practicing law without a license.
Horal's suspension was effective 30 days from the date of the high court's two-page order. The Florida State Bar announced the discipline and the Supreme Court's order on Dec. 28.
In Florida, court orders are not final until after the time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion would not alter the effective date of the Horal's suspension.
Horal was admitted to The Florida Bar on Sept. 24, 2007, according to her profile at the state bar website. Horal has had no other discipline before the state bar for at least 10 years, according to her profile.
Tampa attorney Patricia Anne Horal has been suspended for 90 days. File photo
Allegations against Horal stem from the spring and early summer of 2014 when she was working as an independent contractor for another Hillsborough County attorney and met Joseph V. Cannistra, an investigator and paralegal for the other attorney, according to the consent judgment filed with the court. The judgment also includes Horal's conditional guilty plea.
In June 2014, the pair formed the Cadillac Law Group, the consent judgment said. Cannistra, allegedly without Horal's knowledge, solicited clients, negotiated with criminal prosecutors, accepted funds from new clients, and gave "the impression that he was an attorney," the judgment said.
When Horal found out, she warned Cannistra "to refrain from engaging in similar conduct in the future," the judgment said. "Cannistra failed to heed [Horal's]'s warnings."
In October, after Horal found herself locked out of the firm’s office, Cannistra removed her as an officer and replaced her with another attorney, according to the consent judgment.
Horal admitted to the improper business partnership and was cooperative in the state bar's investigation and prosecution of Cannistra, the consent judgment said. On Nov. 28, 2016, the state bar filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of its case against Cannistra without prejudice.
This past February, the state bar filed a new petition against the Cadillac Law Group and Cannistra as the firm's sole director, alleging unlicensed practice of law.