TALLAHASSEE (Florida Record) — Incarcerated Punta Gorda attorney Steven Paul Burch has been indefinitely suspended following a July 19 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations he abandoned his practice, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.
"According to a petition for emergency suspension, Burch appeared to be causing great public harm by abandoning his law practice without notifying his clients and without taking reasonable steps to protect their interests," the state bar said in its Aug. 31 announcement of the discipline and the state Supreme Court's three-page order.
Florida court orders are not final until time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion does not alter the effective date of Burch's suspension
Burch, 43, was admitted to the bar in Florida on Dec. 4, 2008, according to his profile at the state bar website. No prior discipline before the state bar is listed on Burch's state bar profile.
Steven Paul Burch in 2016 mugshot
In March 2016, Burch was indicted by a grand jury on a single-count indictment of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and he was placed on pretrial release, according to court documents included with the petition for emergency suspension. Despite the trafficking charges, Burch remained eligible to practice law in Florida.
In March another grand jury handed down additional charges against Burch, including making a false statement to the FBI and witness and evidence tampering.
Burch was booked into Pinellas County Jail for violating pretrial release conditions May 25 and remains there awaiting trial, according to information provided by the jail and in the state bar's petition for emergency suspension.
In June the state bar learned Burch was in jail and a staff investigator who contacted Burch's office and determined the attorney had "approximately 44 active cases", the petition said. An office assistant informed the investigator that she referred Burch's clients to another attorney who "has appeared in court about six or seven times" on behalf of Burch's clients, the petition said.
"Due to [Burch]'s abandonment of his clients and cases, the judges before whom [Burch] had pending cases were compelled to inform [Burch]'s clients about his arrest and detention in open court so that the clients can make a determination as to their choice of legal representation," the petition said.