Judge Marcia Cooke found:
- “The history of this action, along with the attendant state actions … indicate that a sizeable monetary sanction, in addition to the … recommendation to the Florida Bar for ethical violations, may be the only deterrence that resonates with [the Tribe] and its counsel.”
- “Roman could not, or did not, cite one instance where Defendants Lewis Tein’s billing actually was fake or fraudulent.”
- “Roman disregarded the fact that other lawyers, including himself, had invoices for similar amounts. … Roman testified that he charges the Tribe $300,000 per month, or $3 million a year.”
- “Roman initiated the investigation with a conclusion in mind and searched for facts to accommodate his presupposed conclusion.”
- “Roman’s failure to investigate, or rely upon the facts revealed in his investigation, are inexcusable and merit sanctioning, especially given that there is no justifiable reason for an ignorant filing.”
- The Tribe's lawyer, Bernardo Roman III, should be referred to the Florida Bar and the S.D. Fla. professional committee for investigation and appropriate disciplinary action.
- “I decline the invitation to refer Roman to the United States Attorney’s Office for inquiry into whether he should be criminally charged with any violations of the law. His behavior is egregious and abhorrent, but I will not interfere with the determination of whether it constitutes criminality.”
Obi-wan Pacenti's last article at the DBR was fittingly on this:
A federal judge ordered more than $1 million in sanctions Friday against Miami attorney Bernardo Roman III, who represented the Miccosukee tribe in its feverish pursuit of a federal racketeering suit against its former legal counsel.
The Miccosukee tribe's "internal feud blinded its counsel, Bernardo Roman III, from adhering to the ethical tenants of our profession," U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami wrote. She called his conduct "egregious and abhorrent" more than a year after finding no basis for the lawsuit.
The sanctions order flows from the highly contentious complaint in 2012 against the tribe's former attorneys: Guy Lewis and Michael Tein of Lewis Tein and Dexter Lehtinen of Lehtinen Schultz Riedi Catalano de la Fuente.
Lehtinen and Lewis are former U.S. attorneys in Miami. Cooke ordered Roman to pay Lewis Tein $975,750 and Lehtinen $95,640.
The lawsuit claimed the lawyers helped former Miccosukee chairman Billy Cypress embezzle $26 million. It also claimed Lewis Tein billed the tribe for work never performed and Lehtinen's tax advice to a $170 million Internal Revenue Service lien against the tribe and its members for failing to report gambling profits.
Cooke dismissed the lawsuit in September 2013.
"The wrongful conduct is the filing of the complaints with no reasonable factual basis to support their allegations," she wrote.
Cooke's 27-page order referred Roman to the Florida Bar, where he already faces an ethics investigation, and the Southern District of Florida professional committee for possible disciplinary action.
The judge declined to refer the case to the U.S. attorney's office for criminal prosecution as requested. She also declined to sanction Roman's associates, Yesenia Lara and Yinet Pino.
In response, Lewis Tein attorney Paul Calli of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami accused Roman of filing a "cowardly series of drive-by-shooting-like lawsuits," including the federal "lawsuit devoid of any merit."
Roman did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.