Actually, this is a two-for-one. We can also get a Benchslap of the Day out of this item. From the Miami Herald:
Prominent attorney Hank Adorno — already under Florida Bar investigation for his role in Miami’s fire-fee scandal — on Wednesday was blasted by the Third District Court of Appeal for what the judges called his ”reprehensible conduct” in the now infamous case.
In a unanimous opinion that upheld a lower-court decision invalidating Miami’s $7 million fire-fee settlement with just seven people, the appeals court ripped into Adorno, who had represented the so-called ”lucky seven.” The Adorno & Yoss firm stood to earn a $2 million share of the $7 million payout, while some 80,000 taxpayers got nothing.
Huh? How did that almost come to pass?
More discussion, plus the benchslap-worthy language from the court’s opinion, after the jump.
Still from the Herald article:
Miami paid only $3.5 million — the first half of the settlement — before the details became public that nearly all taxpayers were left out. The city refused to pay the second installment and took the matter to court, saying the agreement was a huge mistake.
That explanation was met with skepticism after a former assistant city attorney and a deputy fire chief testified under oath that Miami, hoping to save money, left out most taxpayers on purpose.
A judge invalidated the deal last year, and ordered the money returned to City Hall. The repayment happened, but Adorno & Yoss — along with the ”lucky seven” — appealed the decision in hopes of keeping the $7 million.
We like their argument — and their chutzpah:
[T]he law firm argued that although it was hired to represent all taxpayers, the class-action status had not been certified when the $7 million deal was struck. Therefore, Adorno & Yoss told the appeals court, the law firm and the handful of people included in the settlement legally could take the money.
Sounds good to us! If there’s any profession in which you should be able to get away with standing on technicalities, it’s the law.
Alas, the appeals court didn’t see things the same way:
”Plain and simply, this was a scheme to defraud,” the judges wrote, noting that Adorno, 59, a former Miami-Dade prosecutor, was supposed to be representing taxpayers and instead worked behind the scenes to stiff them. “More unethical and reprehensible behavior by attorneys against their own clients is difficult to imagine.’”
Judges: Miami fire-fee attorney acted reprehensibly [Miami Herald]
Masztal v. City of Miami [Third District Court of Appeal (PDF)]