Acts of Disbarred Lawyers Called ‘Most Shocking, Unethical’ Ever

     (CN) — Disbarring two lawyers who got opposing counsel arrested for drunken driving, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday slammed the misconduct as some of “the most shocking, unethical, and unprofessional” it has ever seen.
     The scandal erupted in Tampa during the high-profile trial between two area DJs, Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem and Todd “MJ” Schnitt.
     Clem was also embroiled around this time in Hulk Hogan’s sex-tape drama with Gawker, but the trial at hand stemmed from on-air rants in which Clem had called Schnitt “a lying piece of crap” and a “snitch.”
     On Jan. 23, 2013, the Clem-Schnitt case had been ongoing for roughly five years. Trial had recessed for the day, and a paralegal at the firm representing Clem found herself at the same restaurant as Schnitt’s attorneys.
     The ensuing melee resulted Thursday in the disbarment of Clem’s three attorneys, Robert D. Adams, Stephen Diaco and Adam Robert Filthaut, formerly of the Tampa firm Adams & Diaco.
     As recounted in the court’s ruling, paralegal Melissa Personius recognized attorney Phillip Campbell at the restaurant as her bosses’ courtroom opponent. Campbell did not recognize Personius.
     Cellphone records from that night show that Campbell called Adams, and Filthaut called his friend at Tampa police.
     Meanwhile, Personius flirted with Campbell at the restaurant, buying drinks and encouraging the attorney to drink. Because of Filthaut’s call, a Tampa police officer waited outside the restaurant to see if Campbell would attempt to drive home.
     It turned out Campbell did not even have a car that night. He had walked to the restaurant and planned on walking home, just a few blocks away.
     Personius ensured that the lawyer got behind the wheel, however, by insisting on retrieving her car from valet.
     The ruling says Campbell agreed “out of frustration … to move the car to a lot near his apartment building and call her a cab from there.”
     After he was promptly arrested for drunken driving, attorney Diaco vilified Campbell in the media, saying the “behavior was a mockery of the judicial system and an embarrassment to Diaco as an attorney,” as summarized in the ruling.
     Campbell soon realized he had been set up, and disciplinary proceedings against Adams and Filthaut quickly uncovered more misconduct.
     The ruling says Campbell had inadvertently left his trial bag in Personius’ car, and that Adams and Flithaut “made no attempt to inform him or return the bag until after Personius’ identity was discovered.”
     Campbell’s co-counsel wound up having to demand return of the bag.
     It also turned out that Flithaut had attempted back in November 2012 to get Campbell arrested for drunken driving. The lawyer’s report to his sergeant friend caused Tampa police to conduct 45 minutes of surveillance on Nov. 29, but “Mr. Campbell was not observed driving that night and no arrest was made,” according to the referee’s findings in the disciplinary proceedings.
     The referee, William Douglas Baird, recommended permanent disbarment for Diaco, Adams and Filthaut. Only Adams and Filthaut challenged the recommendations, but the Florida Supreme Court approved the requested discipline in full.
     “The respondents’ actions constituted a deliberate and malicious effort to place a heavy finger on the scales of justice for the sole benefit of themselves and their client,” the unsigned opinion states.
     Personius’ ex-husband had testified, as quoted in the ruling, that Diaco told her “she would receive a big bonus and would be his best-paid paralegal” for her role in the setup.
     The court conceded that Adams and Filthaut’s actions did not match the usual threshold for permanent disbarment: “continuing egregious and unrepentant misconduct demonstrating that the respondent attorney is not amenable to rehabilitation and is beyond redemption.”
     It is worth noting though, the court said, that Adams and Filthaut’s behavior was “unique and essentially unprecedented.”
     “The respondents’ willingness to inflict and indifference to causing such harm is, in the words of the referee, quite ‘stunning,'” the court wrote. “The referee did not find remorse as a mitigating factor for either respondent, and neither of them challenges this.”
     Each attorney’s disbarment was effective immediately, and each must also pay more than $14,000 in costs.
     None of the listed numbers for Adams or Filthaut connected to a working phone line, and their firm is listed on Google as “permanently closed.”
     Campbell’s assistant did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.

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