Posted May 09, 2014 10:00 pm CDT
The Florida Bar has found probable cause to pursue a legal ethics case against three lawyers accused of playing a role in setting up opposing counsel for a mid-trial drunken-driving arrest.
No formal ethics complaint has yet been filed against attorneys Robert D. Adams, Stephen Diaco and Adam Filthaut, but the probable cause determination is a green light for ethics charges to be drafted, the Tampa Tribune reports.
At issue in the case is an evening at a downtown Tampa steakhouse in January 2013. Attorney Charles Phillip Campbell Jr. went there after a day of trial in a defamation case brought by one radio shock jock against another radio shock jock. A paralegal who—unbeknownst to Campbell—worked for Adams & Diaco, the law firm representing his client’s opponent in the trial, reportedly sat down next to him at the bar and bought him a drink. Then, several drinks later, she persuaded him to get behind the wheel of her car.
Meanwhile, text messages and phone calls had reportedly been made between the paralegal, others at her firm and Tampa police. The department responded to the restaurant and waited outside for two hours before arresting Campbell a few blocks away after he drove off with the paralegal, in her car, as an earlier ABAJournal.com post details.
After Campbell’s arrest, his bag, including his trial notes, was reportedly left in the paralegal’s car and for a while was in the hands of at least one Adams & Diaco lawyer. However, the firm said its lawyers never looked at the contents and denied any wrongdoing.
In Friday’s notice of its finding of probable cause, the 13th Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee said the January 2013 incident implicated a number of legal ethics rules. They include prohibitions against the use or threat of criminal charges solely to gain advantage in a civil matter; making it difficult for an individual to gain access to material that a lawyer should know is relevant to or needed for a proceeding; and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, the Tribune article reports.
Responding to the probable cause finding, an Adams & Diaco spokesman provided a written statement Friday to the Tampa Bay Times. It said no probable cause was found that a criminal act had occurred and additionally said a bar grievance committee member agreed no “set-up” occurred, the newspaper reports.
The drunken-driving case against Campbell was dropped last year by prosecutors, who instead turned their focus to Adams & Diaco and obtained search warrants to confiscate cellphones. Search warrants showed they were investigating possible civil rights violations, but at last report no case had been pursued against the law firm or any individual, according to an earlier Tampa Bay Times article.
ABAJournal.com: “Was mid-trial DUI a set-up by lawyer’s opposing counsel in DJ defamation case?”
ABAJournal.com: “Bar probes 3 lawyers accused of setting up opposing counsel for mid-trial DUI arrest”
ABAJournal.com: “As libel trial losers battle $1M legal bill, FBI probes claimed mid-trial DUI set-up of their lawyer”
ABAJournal.com: “DUI case dropped against lawyer who claimed he was set up, mid-trial, by opposing counsel”