Miami attorney Luis Fernandez, practicing in Florida nearly 39 years, has been publicly reprimanded following a Jan. 11 Florida Supreme Court order regarding allegations he failed to adequately supervise a former attorney working in his office as a paralegal, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.
"In a sworn statement, an attorney from the Dominican Republic said he believed the paralegal was a lawyer, and he communicated with him about a probate matter from 2010 until the end of 2011," said the state bar's Feb. 27 announcement of Fernandez's discipline and the Supreme Court's order.
In addition to his reprimand, Fernandez also agreed to submit to an office procedures and record-keeping analysis under direction of the state bar, according to a consent judgment filed with the court. The consent judgment also includes Fernandez's conditional guilty plea. Fernadez also was ordered to pay $1,250 in costs, according to the Supreme Court's single-page order.
Fernandez was admitted to the Florida bar April 12, 1979, according to his profile at the state bar website.
Allegations against Fernandez stemmed from his employment beginning in 2002 of a former attorney, who had tendered his disciplinary resignation about five years prior, as a paralegal in his office. In early 2010, as part of a client's local estate administration, the paralegal accepted the client's retainer check, provided her a receipt, deposited the check into Fernandez's trust account and gave advice to the client about opening a parallel probate proceeding, according to the consent judgment.
Several weeks later Fernandez's office received correspondence from an attorney who thought the paralegal was an attorney and communicated with him about the client's matter until the end of 2011, according to the judgment.
Fernandez contended the other attorney was informed the paralegal was not a lawyer and that the paralegal did not work on the client's matter, according to the consent judgment. The paralegal denied giving legal advice or representing himself as an attorney to either the client or the other attorney, the consent judgment said.
Fernandez took full responsibility for allowing the paralegal to deposit the funds in trust account "and for confusion caused to the parties involved," the consent judgment said.