Lakeland attorney reprimanded, placed on probation after appearing in court 'impaired'

By Karen Kidd | Feb 3, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — Lakeland attorney Justin Scott Gaines has been reprimanded and placed on probation following a Florida Supreme Court order over allegations he appeared multiple times in court "impaired," according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.

"Court personnel reported that Gaines appeared in court impaired on at least two occasions, looking gaunt, nervous and with dilated pupils," the state bar said in its Jan. 31 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order. "Another time he failed to timely appear in court for jury selection, causing the jury panel to be released. He arrived 15 minutes late for another court appearance."

In its single-page order, the high court approved the uncontested referee's report filed in the matter before reprimanding Gaines by publication in the Southern Reporter, placing him on six months probation and ordering him to pay almost $5,336 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 Gaines's reprimand or probation.

Gaines was admitted to the bar in Florida on April 24, 2001, according to his profile at the state bar website.

Gaines entered "an unnegotiated admission of guilt" during his final hearing in September, "admitting to the facts and rule violations alleged in the bar's complaint," the referee's report said.

Gaines also stated during the hearing that he would accept a public reprimand and probation and would pay disciplinary costs, according to the referee's report.

"Due to the respondent's admission of guilt, this referee did not conduct an evidentiary hearing," the report said.

The referee did recommend Gaines be found guilty of violating professional conduct rules, including those regarding diligence and abuse of the legal process. The referee considered Gaines' absence of a prior disciplinary record and "personal or emotional problems" he suffered to be mitigating factors in the case.

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