Margate attorney Elaine S. Laura has been has been voluntarily disbarred following a Jan. 4 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations she misused client funds and neglected a client’s case, according to a recent announcement by the Florida Bar.
The high court granted Laura's petition for a disciplinary revocation, tantamount to disbarment, with leave to seek readmission after five years. "Disciplinary matters pending against Laura involved allegations of misuse of client trust funds and neglecting a client's case after being retained," said the state bar's Jan. 29 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's two-page order of disciplinary revocation.
Laura's disbarment was effective 30 days from the date of the court's order to allow her time to close out her practice and protect existing clients' interests. Laura also was ordered to pay a little more than $1,560 in costs.
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 Laura's suspension.
Attorneys disbarred in the state cannot reapply for admission for five years. Even then they must pass an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.
Laura was admitted to the bar Florida bar Oct. 1, 2000, according to her profile at the state bar website. Laura had no prior discipline before the state bar, according to her profile and petition for a disciplinary revocation.
The Florida Bar began its investigation in April 2017 after receiving a bank notice that a check for $6,200 written on Laura's trust account had been dishonored. "The client in question was made whole shortly after being notified of the dishonored check," Laura's petition said. "[Laura] had misused some funds held in trust for a client's medical expenses."
A friend of Laura's hired her for representation in a civil matter but the two "had a falling out", the petition said. The client alleged - and Laura denies - that after Laura accepted the case and received the fee, Laura failed to communicate property with her client, according to the petition.
Laura already has closed her practice and trust account, and she has been fully cooperative with the Florida Bar, according to the petition.