Florida Record

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Tallahassee attorney disbarred after allegedly misappropriating more than $300,000

Discipline

By Karen Kidd | Dec 2, 2019

Money053

TALLAHASSEE (Florida Record) — Tallahassee attorney Keith Adam Halpern has been disbarred following an Oct. 24 Florida Supreme Court order over allegations he misappropriated more than $300,000, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.

"Halpern received $15,000 from a client to perform a quiet title action but failed to use the funds for that purpose," the state bar said in its Nov. 26 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order. "A Florida Bar audit of his trust account revealed that it did not comply with minimum trust account requirements and that he had misappropriated more than $339,777 by writing checks to himself without any billing records, client ledgers or accounting."

Halpern was alleged to have violated professional conduct rules, including those regarding dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, application of trust funds or property to specific purpose, trust accounting records and minimum trust accounting procedures.

In its single-page order, the state Supreme Court approved the uncontested referee's report filed in the matter before disbarring Halpern, effective immediately, and ordered him to pay nearly $7,607 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 Halpern's disbarment. 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.

Halpern was admitted to the bar in Florida on March 20, 2009, and had no prior history of discipline in Florida, according to the referee's report.

He has not provided the state bar with his "historical trust account records," despite a grievance committee's subpoena in March 2017, the referee's report said.

"Throughout these proceedings, [Halpern] has attempted to avoid responsibility for his trust account violations by blaming others," the referee's report said. "In spite of the fact that [Halpern] is the sole signatory for his trust account, he blamed his office manager and various bookkeepers."

Halpern "consistently maintained, without credible proof" that an employee had embezzled money from the trust account, the referee's report said.

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