Last month, a Florida judge recommended permanent disbarment for three lawyers who set up their legal opponent to be arrested for a DUI. His findings will be sent to the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide the lawyers’ ultimate punishment.
A month earlier, Judge W. Douglas Baird found the lawyers Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams, and Adam Filhaut guilty of arranging the 2013 DUI arrest of opposing attorney C. Phillip Campbell to gain an advantage in a multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit. Diaco, Adams, and Filhaut represented the defendant, a radio personality who was being sued by his rival for slander.
Judge Baird placed most of the blame with Diaco, finding him guilty of almost twice as many professional violations as his colleagues, including lying to a judge regarding his cell phone provider. Diaco’s attorneys asked Judge Baird for leniency, pointing to Diaco’s years of charitable giving and the fact that he apologized for his actions.
In his subsequent recommendation to the Florida Bar that all three lawyers be permanently disbarred, Judge Baird called the lawyers’ actions “unprofessional” and “inexcusable.” In a 72-page opinion, he detailed the lawyers’ participation in a “pattern of intentional conduct,” which began 60 days before Campbell was jailed during the middle of the trial.
According to the opinion, in November 2012, Filthaut called his close friend in the Tampa police DUI unit, Raymond Fernandez, and told him that Campbell worked in the same building and frequently drove home drunk. Filthaut did not disclose to Fernandez that Campbell was the lead attorney in a five-year-long lawsuit defended by Filthaut’s firm.
Fernandez dispatched an officer to stake out Campbell’s favorite hangout across the street from the building where the firms were headquartered. Campbell wasn’t seen that night. Then, on January 23, 2013, in the midst of the trial, Campbell went to his hangout. A paralegal for Filthaut’s firm saw Campbell drinking and notified her boss, who told Filthaut. Filthaut again called Fernandez, who set up a stakeout.
The paralegal sat next to Campbell at the bar, flirting with him and encouraging him to buy more drinks. At the end of the night, the paralegal was visibly intoxicated. Campbell offered to drive her car home for her after she refused to leave it. As soon as Campbell pulled the paralegal’s car out of the lot, Fernandez arrested him.
After Campbell was arrested, the paralegal arranged to have another lawyer pick her up and take her home. The fact that she didn’t do that before Campbell drove into the stakeout, Baird wrote, supported the lawyers’ intent to effectuate Campbell’s arrest. In the courtroom aftermath, Baird wrote, the lawyers were evasive, pleading the Fifth Amendment or claiming lack of memory regarding what happened the night of January 23. Adams was the only one to testify at the bar disciplinary trial, and Baird wrote that his testimony was crafted to diminish his appearance of guilt.
Baird concluded that Filthaut’s friendship with Fernandez was the single most important factor allowing the lawyers to plot Campbell’s arrest. Without the friendship, Baird wrote, it seemed unlikely that the Tampa Police Department would have devoted the resources to spend almost three hours staking out a bar for one potentially impaired driver based on a single unverified tip. Fernandez lost his job as a result of the scandal.
Judge Baird’s recommendations exceeded the request from the Florida Bar, which included permanent disbarment only for Diaco and asked that the other two be disbarred but allowed to reapply in five years. Judge Baird, however not only recommended the permanent disbarment of all three but also suggested that each of the lawyers be required to pay more than $14,000 in fines.
Lawyer Greg Kehoe, who represented all three lawyers in the bar hearing, expressed disappointment that the judge took none of the mitigating factors into account. He stressed that the lawyers have all done “outstanding things” for their community, “legally and socially.” He plans to appeal Judge Baird’s recommendation.
If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation for people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses. To learn more and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 217.525.0520.
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