The Florida Bar has filed formal complaints against three lawyers stemming from last year's arrest of an opposing lawyer on a drunk-driving charge during the high-profile libel trial against shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
The Florida Bar, which regulates the state's 98,000 licensed attorneys, on Monday filed disciplinary complaints alleging misconduct by lawyers Robert Adams, Stephen Diaco and Adam Filthaut. The complaints were filed with the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide what action to take.
Adams and Diaco are partners in the firm that represented Clem at trial; Filthaut is an associate. The case settled out of court for an undisclosed amount last March.
Attorney C. Phillip Campbell Jr. was representing radio personality Todd “MJ” Schnitt against Clem when Campbell was arrested one night in January 2013 in the middle of the trial.
According to the Bar's investigation, Campbell had walked to a downtown restaurant and was at the bar when a paralegal employed by Clem's attorney joined him and bought him a drink. After several more drinks, the paralegal persuaded Campbell to move her car, at which time he was stopped by police.
The State Attorney's Office concluded that Campbell's arrest was set up by Clem's legal team. Tampa police also investigated its role in the arrest and eventually fired Sgt. Raymond Fernandez, then head of the department's DUI unit.
Fernandez and Filthaut were longtime friends. Filthaut texted Fernandez on the night of the arrest to tell him Campbell would be driving drunk, according to the investigation. Over the course of the evening, the two exchanged 92 text messages.
Prosecutors dropped the case against Campbell in July, and Tampa police fired Fernandez in September.
In the formal complaint filed Monday, the Bar asks the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court to name a judge as a referee. The referee will hear testimony and consider evidence, then make a recommendation to the Supreme Court, which will make a final decision on whether to issue sanctions, which could range from admonishment to disbarment.
Attorneys for the lawyers have previously said testimony before the referee will show the lawyers were not guilty of misconduct.