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FL Lawyer Goes Nuts: Embellishes Nut-Allergy Story, Faces Ethics Charges

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on August 02, 2016 7:00 AM

Things can get a little juvenile when one plays lawyer for long enough, as this recent Florida incident aptly illustrates. In this case, an attorney falsely accused opposing counsel in a big case of essentially intentionally battering his law clerk with peanuts and pistachios knowing she was allergic to nuts. The problem is, that isn't how it happened at all.

Florida Bar Complaint

The State Bar of Florida has begun a formal complaint against Miami attorney Bernardo Roman on a host of ethics concerns ranging from dishonesty during his representation of the Miccosukee Tribe to making false claims -- including this most recent claim that opposing counsel attacked his nut-allergic law clerk with peanuts and pistachios.

The "nut incident" -- as we'll call it -- was the icing on the cake of what has turned out to be a very contentious and hostile dispute over tribal monies and political interests. Years ago, Roman's client sued its previous lawyers Guy Lewis and Michael Tein on fiduciary theories, alleging they engaged in fraudulent shenanigans with the then chairman of the tribe, Billy Cypress.

After one failed lawsuit after another, the tribe settled with the lawyers for $4,000,000, but not before Roman was sanctioned for pushing the matter based on "no evidence or only patently frivolous evidence." Roman has called the dismissal a win for procedural technicalities. Incidentally, he's also no longer the tribe's counsel.

The "Nut Incident"

The incident took place during a 2013 deposition during which two bowls of nuts -- peanuts and pistachios -- were placed on the deposition table before the parties. Roman's law clerk announced that she was allergic to nuts and the bowls were removed to another room. During a break in the deposition, the law clerk told Roman that simply being near the nuts was bothering her and that she would be leaving to seek medical attention. Lewis and Tein's attorney then grabbed some nuts and walked between the two lawyers to reenter the deposition room. Roman's law clerk left.

Hours later, Roman called 911 and claimed that the opposing attorneys assaulted his law clerk with nuts. According to the Florida Bar complaint, Roman was angry that his law clerk refused to support his claims. The judges present at the deposition later opined that the deposition was actually a "setup" by Roman to get the opposing attorneys into trouble.

Who's in trouble now?

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