Bay Harbor Islands attorney reprimanded for inappropriate contact with opposing counsel's client

By Karen Kidd | Nov 1, 2018

TALLAHASSEE (Florida Record) – Bay Harbor Islands attorney Sheldon J. Burnett was publicly reprimanded  following an Oct. 18 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations he inappropriately contacted an opposing counsel's client during litigation in 2016, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.

"Burnett continued to contact a represented party, even after opposing counsel directed that all communications come through him," the state bar said in its Oct. 31 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order. "Burnett contacted the woman directly and did not copy her attorney on many of the communications. The correspondence referenced settlement offers, the substance and merits of the lawsuit and possible legal theories and defenses. Many of the communications contained a threatening or harassing tone."

In its single-page order, the high court approved the uncontested referee's report filed in the matter before reprimanding Burnett and ordering him to pay $1,250 in costs.

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 Burnett's reprimand.

Burnett was admitted to the bar in Florida on Sept. 30, 1996, according to his profile at the state bar website. No prior discipline before the state bar is listed on the profile.

Burnett admitted received instructions not to make any direct contact with the opposing client in the litigation, according to the consent judgment filed with the court. The consent judgment also includes Burnett's unconditional guilty plea.

"In flagrant disregard of such instructions," Burnett contacted the opposing client multiple times in February and March 2016 with many of the communications being "threatening and/or harassing in tone," the consent judgment said.

"For instance, in these communications (Burnett) insinuated that he would expose (the opposing client)'s alleged sexual encounters with other men to her boyfriend if she did not settle the case." the consent judgment said.

The opposing counsel and client also alleged that Burnett "issued numerous and irrelevant subpoenas for deposition to unrelated third parties in order to burden, harass and/or embarrass those third parties," the consent judgment said.

Burnet admitted to violating professional conduct rules regarding communication, respecting rights of third persons and not engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, according to the consent judgment.

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