IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA

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Filing # E-Filed 08/31/ :46:56 PM IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA THE FLORIDA BAR, v. Petitioner, Supreme Court Case No. SC- The Florida Bar File No ,098(4D)NES CHRISTOPHER M. CHESTNUT,
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Filing # E-Filed 08/31/ :46:56 PM IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA THE FLORIDA BAR, v. Petitioner, Supreme Court Case No. SC- The Florida Bar File No ,098(4D)NES CHRISTOPHER M. CHESTNUT, RECEIVED, 08/31/ :48:49 PM, Clerk, Supreme Court Respondent. / PETITION FOR EMERGENCY SUSPENSION This petition of The Florida Bar seeks emergency relief and requires the immediate attention of the Court pursuant to R. Regulating Fla. Bar The Florida Bar seeks the emergency suspension of Christopher M. Chestnut, Attorney No , from the practice of law in Florida based on facts that establish clearly and convincingly that respondent appears to be causing great public harm as will be shown by facts supported by the record and the affidavits of Anthony D. Jordan, Sr., and Matisha Ward attached hereto and incorporated herein as follows: 1. The filing of this Petition for Emergency Suspension has been authorized by the Executive Director of The Florida Bar. 2. Respondent, Christopher M. Chestnut, is and at all times hereinafter mentioned, was a member of The Florida Bar and otherwise subject to the jurisdiction and disciplinary rules of the Supreme Court of Florida. 1 3. Respondent is currently the subject of nine bar disciplinary matters which have been identified as: A. SC16-797, The Florida Bar File Nos ,161(4B), ,505 (4C), ,565(4D), ,047(4C), ,193(4A) & ,229(4B); B. SC , The Florida Bar File Nos ,473(4B) & ,517(4D); and, C. The Florida Bar File No ,098(4D) the instant file. 4. The bar s investigation of respondent reveals the following history: A. On September 26, 2014, The Florida Bar filed a four-count complaint against respondent alleging among other things, lack of competence, candor, diligence, and communication, solicitation, dishonesty, and excessive fee. B. In that case, although the bar voluntarily dismissed three counts, respondent was found guilty of lack of diligence and communication. C. As a result, respondent received a public reprimand on October 8, D. Thereafter, on May 6, 2016, the bar filed a six-count complaint (SC16-797) against respondent alleging egregious conduct involving among other things, lack of competence, candor, diligence, and communication, solicitation, dishonesty, failure to supervise, and excessive fee. 2 E. Count I, TFB File No ,161(4B), Lakay Smith, alleges that respondent neglected Ms. Smith s Georgia case despite not being admitted in Georgia and that he discontinued his representation in the case two weeks before the statute of limitations expired. F. Count II, TFB File No ,505(4C), The Florida Bar, alleges that respondent schemed to defraud his own client out of settlement funds by attempting to have two state court judges, unconnected to the proceedings, enter an ex parte order authorizing his increased share of settlement funds obtained in a federal case. Respondent also tried to coerce his client into retroactively agreeing to his increased fee resulting in the client being forced to sue respondent in order to get his money. In that case, after trial, the jury found that respondent committed civil theft, breached his fiduciary duty, and exploited his client. Jury Finding attached as Exhibit A. G. Count III, TFB File No ,565(4D), Johnny Winthrop Powell, alleges that respondent undertook to represent Mr. Powell in Maryland even though respondent is not licensed in Maryland. And as a result of respondent s neglect and his failure to comply with Maryland law, Mr. Powell s claims against the state were barred and lost forever and the statute of limitations ran. Mr. Powell sued respondent for malpractice in federal court resulting in a settlement. 3 H. Count IV, TFB File No ,047(4C), Andrew Levy, alleges that respondent neglected Mr. Levy s case for years and then discontinued his representation close to the end of the statute of limitations. I. Count V, TFB File No ,193(4A), Dr. John T. Hoehn, alleges that after signing a letter of protection, respondent ignored his obligation to pay for years and then only remitted a partial payment that was rejected. J. Count VI, TFB File No ,229(4B), Kashara Taylor, alleges that respondent neglected Ms. Taylor s case for years resulting in its dismissal. K. The foregoing Counts, comprising SC16-797, are in active litigation and scheduled for final hearing starting December 12, L. On August 16, 2016, the bar filed a new two-count complaint (SC ) against respondent alleging lack of competence, candor, and communication, solicitation, dishonesty, failure to supervise, and excessive fee. M. Count I, TFB File No ,473(4B), Anthony D. Jordan, Sr., alleges that respondent solicited two clients Ms. Berry and Mr. Jordan. When Mr. Jordan declined respondent s services, respondent caused Ms. Berry to file false petitions with the Georgia probate court alleging that Mr. Jordan s whereabouts were unknown. This allegation was patently false since respondent had already contacted Mr. Jordan and had signed him up as a client. As a result of respondent s 4 conduct, Mr. Jordan was prevented from participating as guardian for his son s wrongful death claim. N. When the Georgia probate court realized what respondent had done, it entered its order finding that respondent: although not a member of the State Bar of Georgia, was practicing law in the state of Georgia and knew, or should have known, that Ramona Berry was never going to be individually entitled to any proceeds from the wrongful death of Deidre Spear, that Ramona Berry was never going to be a beneficiary of the Estate of Deidre Spear because Ms. Spear died intestate and her only heir was her minor son, and that Ramona Berry was not the Personal Representative of the Estate of Deidre Spear on either February 24, 2014 or February 25, The contract with Universal Funds was negotiated between Universal Funds and [respondent]. Ramona Berry never defrauded, misrepresented or deceived anyone; she never received any money and was not entitled to receive any money from the wrongful death of her daughter in any of the capacities listed on the contract of February 24, 2014 or February 25, The contract negotiated between Universal Funds and [respondent] with a $3,050 origination/ processing fee and a 35.40% APR was unconscionable under the circumstances even if Ms. Berry had authority under any of the listed capacities, which she did not. Copy of Georgia Probate Court order attached as Exhibit B. O. As a result of respondent s actions, Mr. Jordan filed his grievance with the bar and his Affidavit which details the history of his case and respondent s wrongdoing. Copy attached as Exhibit C. 5 P. In the Georgia Probate Court, Mr. Jordan also filed his Petition for Removal of Conservator and for an Accounting. Copy attached as Exhibit D. Q. Count II, TFB File No ,517(4D), Toni Washington, alleges that respondent solicited Ms. Washington, undertook her representation, settled the case without fully explaining the terms to his client, and disbursed funds without a proper settlement statement causing the client to file her grievance. R. The foregoing Counts, comprising SC , are in active litigation and scheduled for case management conference on September 22, In the instant case, TFB File No (4D), on August 23, 2016, respondent was sued in Texas. That complaint alleges that respondent is guilty of barratry, solicitation, civil conspiracy, joint enterprise & partnership liability, agent and respondeat superior. Copy attached as Exhibit E. A. That complaint begins with TO THE COURT AND JURY. THE DARKEST HOUR IN ANY MAN S OR WOMAN S LIFE IS WHEN THEY SIT DOWN TO SCHEME AND PLAN HOW TO GET MONEY WITHOUT LAWFULLY EARNING IT. THE CRIMNAL CONDUCT COMPLAINED OF HEREIN DEMANDS A JURY S WRATH. B. The facts in this case are particularly egregious: In Dallas, a woman was tragically killed by a pack of dogs. While she lay dying in ICU, the woman s daughter, Matisha Ward, received a text from a previously unknown Dallas City Councilwoman offering sympathy and prayers. This same Councilwoman continued 6 contacting the daughter thereafter and eventually put respondent on the phone to talk to the daughter who declined his services. The record reveals that the Councilwoman and respondent are college friends. C. Respondent is not admitted in Texas and he also misrepresented himself as a Georgia attorney. D. The texts from the Councilwoman are part of the underlying record as is the recording of respondent himself repeatedly offering his services to the daughter. Transcript of respondent s conversation with Ms. Ward is attached as part of Ex. F. E. Both the texts and respondent s recording were broadcast to the general public in news stories that have garnered national attention. F. In that case, respondent has not denied the allegations. G. Instead, respondent is on record as saying I perceive it as Ms. Young [the Councilwoman] trying to help a constituent who just lost her mom tragically in a horrific death.... She was just following with the lady to see if I could help. H. And respondent s conduct in that case was just a few days after the bar filed SC I. In support of her complaint, Ms. Ward s affidavit details the history of her case and respondent s wrongdoing. Copy attached as Exhibit F. 7 J. Evidently, respondent does not understand The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, does not think the Rules apply to him, and/or is flagrantly disregarding the Rules despite knowing that his conduct is being scrutinized. 6. The foregoing Exhibits and the attached affidavits of Anthony D. Jordan and Matisha Ward are used by the bar to support this Petition for Emergency Suspension. 7. By reason of the foregoing, respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: (Competence), 4-1.7(a)(2)(Conflict of interests), 4-2.1(Adviser), 4-5.5(a) (Unlicensed practice of law), (a)(Direct contact with prospective clients), 4-8.4(a)(Misconduct), and 4-8.4(c)(Conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). WHEREFORE, based on the aforementioned facts, the bar asserts that respondent has caused, is continuing to cause, and is likely to continue causing, immediate and serious harm to clients and/or the public and that immediate action must be taken for the protection of respondent s clients and the public. Therefore, pursuant to R. Regulating Fla. Bar 3-5.2, The Florida Bar respectfully requests this Court to: A. Suspend respondent from the practice of law until further order of this Court. 8 B. Order respondent to accept no new clients from the date of this Court s order and to cease representing any clients after 30 days from the date of this Court s order. In addition, respondent shall cease acting as personal representative for any estate, as guardian for any ward, and as trustee for any trust and will seek to withdraw from said representation within 30 days from the date of this Court s order and will immediately turn over to any successor the complete financial records of any estate, guardianship or trust upon the successor s appointment. C. Order respondent to furnish a copy of the suspension order to all clients, opposing counsel and courts before which respondent is counsel of record as required by Rule 3-5.1(h) of the Rules of Discipline of The Florida Bar and to furnish Staff Counsel with the requisite affidavit listing all clients, opposing counsel and courts so informed within 30 days after receipt of the Court s order. D. Order respondent to refrain from withdrawing or disbursing any money from any trust account related to respondent s law practice until further order of this Court, a judicial referee appointed by this Court or by order of the Circuit Court in an inventory attorney proceeding instituted under R. Regulating Fla. Bar 1-3.8, and to deposit any fees, or other sums received in connection with the practice of law or in connection with the respondent s employment as a personal representative, guardian or trustee, paid to the respondent after issuance of 9 this Court s order of emergency suspension, into a specified trust account from which withdrawal may only be made in accordance with restrictions imposed by this Court. Further, respondent shall be required to notify bar counsel of The Florida Bar of the receipt and location of said funds within 30 days of the order of emergency suspension. E. Order respondent not withdraw any money from any trust account or other financial institution account related to respondent s law practice or transfer any ownership of any real or personal property purchased in whole or in part with funds properly belonging to clients, probate estates for which respondent served as personal representative, guardianship estates for which respondent served as guardian, and trusts for which respondent served as trustee without approval of this Court, a judicial referee appointed by this Court or by order of the Circuit Court in an inventory attorney proceeding instituted under R. Regulating Fla. Bar F. Order respondent to notify, in writing, all banks and financial institutions where the respondent maintains an account related to the practice of law, or related to services rendered as a personal representative of an estate, or related to services rendered as a guardian, or related to services rendered as a trustee, or where respondent maintains an account that contains funds that originated from a probate estate for which respondent was personal representative, guardianship estate for which respondent was guardian, or trust for which 10 respondent was trustee, of the provisions of this Court s order and to provide all the aforementioned banks and financial institutions with a copy of this Court s order. Further, respondent shall be required to provide bar counsel with an affidavit listing each bank or financial institution respondent provided with a copy of said order. G. Order respondent to immediately comply with and provide all documents and testimony responsive to a subpoena from The Florida Bar for trust account records and any related documents necessary for completion of a trust account audit to be conducted by The Florida Bar. H. And further to authorize any Referee appointed in these proceedings to determine entitlement to funds in any trust account(s) frozen as a result of an Order entered in this matter. Respectfully submitted, Carlos Alberto Leon, Bar Counsel The Florida Bar 651 East Jefferson Street Tallahassee, Florida (850) Florida Bar No ADRIA E. QUINTELA Staff Counsel The Florida Bar Lakeshore Plaza II, Suite Concord Terrace Sunrise, Florida (954) Florida Bar No /s/ John F. Harkness, Jr. JOHN F. HARKNESS, JR. Executive Director The Florida Bar 651 East Jefferson Street Tallahassee, Florida (850) Florida Bar No CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I certify that this document has been E-filed with The Honorable John A. Tomasino, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida with a copy provided via to Respondent, using the E-filing Portal and that a copy has been furnished by United States Mail via certified mail No , return receipt requested to Respondent, whose record bar address is Christopher M. Chestnut, 841 Prudential Drive #1220, Jacksonville, Florida, , and via to Carlos Alberto Leon, Bar Counsel, on this 31st day of August, ADRIA E. QUINTELA Staff Counsel The Florida Bar Lakeshore Plaza II, Suite Concord Terrace Sunrise, Florida (954) Florida Bar No NOTICE OF DESIGNATION OF PRIMARY ADDRESS PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that bar counsel in this matter is Carlos Alberto Leon, Bar Counsel, whose address, telephone number and primary address are The Florida Bar, Tallahassee Branch Office, 651 East Jefferson Street Tallahassee, Florida , (850) and Respondent need not address pleadings, correspondence, etc. in this matter to anyone other than bar counsel and to Adria E. Quintela, Staff Counsel, The Florida Bar, Lakeshore Plaza II, Suite 130, 1300 Concord Terrace, Sunrise, Florida 33323, 14
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