TAMPA —The Florida Bar has found probable cause that lawyers representing disc jockey Bubba the Love Sponge Clem violated the bar’s professional and ethical standards related to a DUI arrest of an opposing lawyer in a civil suit against Clem.
The Bar’s 13th Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee issued notice Friday of probable cause of further disciplinary proceedings against Tampa attorneys Robert D. Adams, Stephen Diaco and Adam Filthaut. The committee will now draw up a formal complaint against the lawyers and ask 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.
The Bar decided to consider charges against the lawyers based on news reports of events surrounding the DUI arrest of attorney Charles Phillip Campbell Jr.
Campbell, attorney for disc jockey Todd “MJ” Schnitt, was arrested during a trial over Schnitt’s ultimately unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against Clem.
The Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office dropped the DUI charge and issued a scathing report saying lawyers at the Adams and Diaco law firm, with help from Tampa police, set up the arrest of Campbell.
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. A Tampa police sergeant who was friends with a lawyer at the Adams and Diaco firm was later fired because of his role in the arrest.
“The bar conducted an investigation that lasted over a year in the grievance committee process,” said Richard Martin, the bar committee’s investigating attorney. “I am fully confident in the results that were reached as a result of this week’s meeting.”
But the lawyer for the three attorneys and a public relations firm representing Adams & Diaco had a different take on the Bar committee’s findings. What’s important, the advocates said, was that the committee found no probable cause that a criminal act was committed.
“We are going to address each and every one of the allegations that have come forward,” said Greg Kehoe, attorney for Adams, Diaco and Filthaut. “When that happens and each of these individuals is allowed to give testimony before the referee, I’m absolutely confident they are going to be exonerated.”
Kehoe also said that Martin, the Bar attorney, had “conceded” in an April 30 meeting that Adams & Diaco did not “set up” Campbell’s arrest, as has been widely reported in the media.
Martin denies he said that.
“The volume of evidence in this particular matter is much more substantial than in your average grievance committee investigation,” Martin said.
Among the probable rules violations found by the committee:
♦ Unlawfully obstructing a person’s access to evidence or altering, destroying or concealing a document or other material a lawyer should know is relevant to a pending or foreseeable proceeding.
♦ Presenting, participating in presenting, or threatening to present criminal charges solely to get an advantage in a civil matter.
♦ In representing a client, using means chiefly to embarrass, delay or burden a third person, or knowingly use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.
♦ Violating or attempting to violate the Bar’s rules of professional conduct, or knowingly assisting or inducing someone else to break the rules.
♦ Conduct involving fraud, dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation.
♦ Engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, including knowingly or through callous indifference, disparaging, humiliating, or discriminating against parties in a lawsuit, jurors, witnesses, court personnel or other lawyers.