Lawyer accused of threat to have opposing counsel’s ‘rear end sanctioned’ faces ethics complaint
Originally Published; Oct 21, 2020 | Republished by LIT; Oct 23, 2020
A Florida insurance defense lawyer is accused of unprofessional conduct toward opposing attorneys and a litigant, including a threat to have an opposing counsel’s “rear end sanctioned” over objections made during a deposition.
The Florida Bar accused lawyer Curtis Lee Allen of Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig in Tampa, Florida, in an Oct. 7 ethics complaint, Law.com reports.
The ethics complaint has two counts relating to cases in Pinellas County and Pasco County. Allen represented Avatar Property and the Casualty Insurance Co. in both cases.
According to allegations in the first count, Allen advised the plaintiff during a deposition that it is a third-degree felony to make a misstatement under oath and to commit insurance fraud. Allen also informed the plaintiff that he knew the presiding judge and insinuated that the judge would throw the plaintiff in jail for lying, the ethics complaint says.
The “tone of questioning during the deposition was aggressive and intimidating toward the witness,” the ethics complaint says.
After being questioned for a significant amount of time, the plaintiff decided to dismiss his complaint without prejudice and end the deposition.
The first count also accused Allen of engaging in a “unprofessional and hostile verbal exchange” with an opposing lawyer.
The dispute concerned the nature of the opposing lawyer’s objections during a deposition. Allen told the attorney that he should not “say a word,” other than “form or instruct not to answer.” The attorney replied that he would speak when needed.
Allen responded: “And I’ll call the judge, and I’ll have your rear end sanctioned for this. We do not do speaking objections. Understand?”
According to allegations in the second count, an opposing lawyer informed Allen that he had been accidentally copied on an email that was “intended to be privileged and confidential.” Allen did not respond to two requests to delete the email. At a hearing on the matter, a lawyer representing Allen finally confirmed that the email had been deleted.
The judge in the case later entered a case management order that criticized the conduct of Allen and the opposing lawyer as “childish.”
“To say that this litigation has been hotly contested is an understatement,” the judge wrote. “Unfortunately, the aggressive advocacy of the attorneys of record has not been rooted in the zealous representation of their respective clients but rather flows from a clear disdain counsel have for each other.
“The multiple volumes of the court file are full of accusations that opposing counsel is being dishonest, has a reputation for litigating in bad faith, or has a history of being admonished by other courts. During hearings, the animosity is palpable. On multiple occasions, the court has had to intervene to prevent an attorney from saying something that was disparaging to opposing counsel and unnecessary to the issue being addressed.
“The manner in which counsel for both the plaintiff and defendant have conducted themselves in this case fails to uphold the ideals of the profession and has been quite simply, childish.”
Allen did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal email requesting comment.
A Partner at Butler, Curt L. Allen practices in the Extra-Contractual Claims department. He has extensive experience with criminal law and insurance coverage, and he focuses on areas including healthcare fraud, RICO, sexual harassment, whistleblower’s act, and white-collar crime. He has prosecuted nearly every crime in existence, ranging from First Degree Murder Death Penalty to Racketeering cases based upon wiretap applications. Curt is based in the Tampa office.
Curt received his Bachelor of Science, cum laude, from Valdosta State University in 1990 and his Doctor of Jurisprudence from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in 1994. He is a member of the Florida Bar and the State Bar of Georgia. Curt has been admitted in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Prior to joining the firm, Curt served Florida citizens for over eleven years as an Assistant State Attorney for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit. He became Felony Division Chief, where he was assigned to the Homicide Division, the Narcotics Division, the Major Crimes Division and General Felony Divisions. Over the course of 11 years, he tried 282 felony jury trials and successfully handled numerous high profile cases.
The Florida Bar: 4-3.3(a)(1) (a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal); 4-3.4(a) (a lawyer shall not unlawfully obstruct another party’s access to evidence or otherwise unlawfully alter, destroy, or conceal a document or other material that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is relevant to a pending proceeding, or counsel or assist a witness to testify falsely); and 4-8.4(c) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).
The Florida Bar v. Miller, 863 So. 2d 231, 233-34 (Fla. 2003)