TALLAHASSEE — Tampa attorney Michael Lewis Forte will be publicly reprimanded by publication in the Southern Reporter following an April Florida Supreme Court order over a "miscarriage of justice" he allegedly created in a negligence lawsuit, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.
"In representing a defendant in a negligence lawsuit, Forte violated the court's directions on at least five occasions and exposed the jury to inadmissible evidence," the state bar said in its May 29 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order. "A new trial was ordered when the judge concluded that Forte's actions were improper and deliberate, and created a miscarriage of justice."
In addition to his reprimand, Forte was ordered to complete an advanced trial tactics seminar within one year of the court's order and to pay more than $9,600 in sanctions and $1,434 in costs, according to the high court's single page order.
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 Forte's suspension.
Forte was admitted to the bar in Florida on Sept. 30, 2002, according to his profile at the state bar website. No prior discipline before the state bar is listed on Forte's bar profile.
Forte represented the defendant in the seven-day circuit court jury trial in June 2014 when his alleged misconduct occurred, according to the consent judgment filed with the court, which Forte signed in March. The consent judgment also includes Forte's conditional guilty plea. Forte's alleged misconduct prompted plaintiff’s counsel to file a motion for a new trial and sanctions against Forte.
The circuit court judge granted the motion, saying Forte's actions were "improper and deliberate" and "the totality of the actions by Mr. Forte, altogether, created a miscarriage of justice," the consent judgment said.
The judge's decision was appealed to the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, which in November 2016 affirmed the decision, after which Forte paid the sanctions. Forte admitted in the consent judgment that he violated rules regarding competence, fairness to opposing party and counsel and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.