The Florida Bar Strikes a Blow for Unjustice Everywhere

You know I write about outrageous acts performed by public officials all the time, but it's almost always impersonal. Sure, I may get a little righteous indignation running through my veins, but I don't really get angry.

Not this time.

I learned this morning that the Florida Bar Association is going after lawyer Lawrence "Chris" Roberts. Nobody filed a complaint against Roberts; the bar just decided to do it after reading about him.

Roberts, you see, had the audacity to tell the truth. He told of Judge Larry Seidlin's improprieties as a judge, about his soliciting of a purse for his wife and a shirt. And about his exploitation of an elderly widow in his building, whom he and his family stand accused of fleecing hundreds of thousands of dollars from.

Roberts' courage to come forward have earned him bitter enemies at the courthouse -- and should earn him a medal from the Florida Bar. Instead, it earned him the bar's wrath. I learned that the bar filed its own complaint against him for failing to promptly report wrongdoing by a judge.

You have to understand: Lawyers constantly fail to report judges' improprieties. So for the bar, which is notoriously lax on attorneys, to single out Roberts for punishment because he did so well after the fact stinks of retribution for his having the balls to come forward in the first place. It looks like a way to punish a whistle blower, and it makes the bar look not like a vehicle for justice (I couldn't even type that with a straight face) but a tool of the corrupt establishment, putting a whip-cracking on those bold enough to tell truth to power.

I just learned that at a June 10 Bar hearing for Roberts, Bar counsel Juan Carlos Arias became irate with Roberts, practically yelling at him for not coming forward years before when Seidlin first asked him to buy his wife a purse for her birthday. Yeah, that's right, Arias got all red and puffy about it.

And I'm thinking, Juan Carlos Arias, eh? You mean the guy who is lifelong friends with Ana Gardiner, the disgraced Broward judge who blatantly lied under oath about her improper contact with former prosecutor Howard Scheinberg? The judge whose death-penalty case was tossed by the Florida Supreme Court because of her misconduct? Read here for more, including allegations of an improper relationship with former prosecutor Peter Patanzo, another Arias chum.

Yeah, the fit by Arias, which led to a recess at the hearing, seemed to have some personal animus in it. Maybe Arias is just a little sick and tired of these oh-so-honorable judges getting pot-shotted by guys like Roberts and he wants to make an example out of him.

It's no secret that the powers-that-be at the courthouse aren't happy that Gardiner and Seidlin have been outed as judicial degenerates. So Arias might also just making himself a good little tool and throwing those same powers a bone named Chris Roberts. You see, Arias, if nothing else, is ambitious. And he's one of these people whose careers are made up more of social networking than any real work. A former prosecutor, he works for the do-nothing bar, serves as president for the Hispanic Bar Association, and likes to put on his penguin suit and do charity balls like Dancing With the Broward Stars (yes, that really is Arias in the photo above). Here's a blurb from a recent JAABlog piece:   

Is former ASA Juan Arias in danger of being overexposed?  He seems to be everywhere these days.  On June 6th he'll be introducing Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga at the annual Broward Hispanic Bar's Installation Dinner, as the Association's President.  On Thursday, June 11th, he'll be receiving the Young Lawyers' Section Paul May Professionalism Award at the annual Broward Bar Association's Installation Dinner.  All this, and he still finds time to dance the night away for charity and prosecute lawyers on behalf of the Florida Bar. All we want to know is when will he announce his candidacy, and for what office?

Judge Juan Carlos Arias, maybe? I called Arias' office, but he wouldn't talk. His secretary said Arias instructed her to tell me to talk to Adria Quintela, the bar's regional counsel. I told his secretary to tell Arias that he can hide all he wants, but it's him that I'm writing about him and either he talks to me or he refuses to do so. Haven't heard back from him yet.

So Arias isn't talking. Sort of ironic, since that's the message he and the Florida Bar are sending to lawyers who might have the courage to blow the whistle on judicial misconduct. And if Chris Roberts is punished for doing just that, then it will be yet another dark day for Broward County.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman