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Will Florida Bar Tackle Complaint Against LeMieux?

If you've followed the recent machinations of the Florida Bar Association, it's hard to imagine it will hold Sen. George LeMieux accountable for what appear to be grievous professional sins he committed in 2008.

But at least there's some pressure building, as evidenced by this weekend's Miami Herald article about the same touchy topic we wrote about this past week: LeMieux's apparent conflicts of interest in representing Florida in negotiations with the Florida East Coast Railroad, which was looking to sell its infrastructure to the state for use as commuter rail.

As blogger Andrew Perez first pointed out on The New Argument, LeMieux's firm Gunster Yoakley listed Florida East Coast's parent company as a client as recently as August 2008 -- nearly two years after it had been retained by the state to negotiate with the railroad.

Let's see what the Florida Bar rules say about such things.

Specifically, let's check out the Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, Section 4.3, which states:

Disbarment is appropriate when a lawyer, without the informed consent of the client(s)... simultaneously represents clients that the lawyer knows have adverse interests with the intent to benefit the lawyer or another, and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client.
In this case, the client LeMieux represents is you -- and the rest of Florida taxpayers who have a collective stake in our attorney's driving a hard bargain with the railroad. The "adverse interests" would be those of the railroad, which may have also been a client of LeMieux's firm. As for the "benefit" for LeMieux and his firm, Gunster Yoakley: $621,000 in legal fees from the state. And if Gunster simultaneously was representing the railroad, then that would have been lucrative too. Who knows? Maybe you can charge extra when you're rigging the deal.

Gunster has said it stopped representing Florida East Coast in 2005, but it made that assertion in the weakest way: through a source at the firm speaking anonymously, on background, to the Herald. LeMieux and his former firm had better be equipped to make a stronger case to the bar, which should be digging through the Gunster billings.

Or to take a much more cynical view, the firm had better hope that it has some good friends at the bar who can help sweep this little scandal under the rug.

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Thomas Francis

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