TALLAHASSEE (Florida Record) — Christopher M. Chestnut faces disbarment following a May 3 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations concerning mishandling multiple cases, trust fund issues and other charges, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.
"In multiple cases, Chestnut incompetently handled matters, charged excessive fees, failed to effectively communicate with clients, failed to properly supervise lawyers and nonlawyer staff practicing without a license in another state, was dishonest, failed to provide a settlement statement to a service provider, failed to hold in trust disputed settlement funds and solicited clients," the state bar said in its May 30 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order.
In its two-page order, the court ruled it considered the referee's preliminary and final reports, in addition to briefs filed in the consolidated cases against Chestnut and approved the referee's findings of fact and recommendations of guilt. However, the court disapproved the referee's recommended discipline of a three-year suspension and disbarred Chestnut.
Chestnut's disbarment was effective 30 days from the date of the court's order to allow him time to close his practice and protect his existing clients' interests, according to the high court's order.
The Supreme Court also ordered Chestnut to pay $2,000 to a third party medical provider mention in one case against him, in addition to almost $28,050 in the state bar's 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 Chestnut's suspension.
Attorneys disbarred in Florida generally cannot reapply for admission for five years and must pass an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.
Chestnut was admitted to the bar in Florida April 25, 2006, according to his profile at the state bar website.
Chestnut's "timely good faith effort to make restitution or to rectify consequences of misconduct" was considered mitigating factors in the referee's final report.
In a prior discipline, Chestnut was publicly reprimanded following an October 2015 Supreme Court order. The reprimand came after Chestnut stipulated in a negotiated conditional consent judgment to having mishandled a wrongful death case.