For those who just joined you can review “Collapse of an Evil Empire” starting with PART I then subsequent PARTS II thru VIII.
For now you need to know that Scot Strems is still fighting as hard as he can. Recall the recommendation by referee, Judge Dawn Denaro of the 11th Circuit Court that, instead of permanent disbarment sought by the Florida Bar, Strems should serve only a two-year suspension followed by one-year of supervised probation. (See Note #1 below)
Last month, December 22nd, Strems’ team formally requested Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court, simultaneously submitting a detailed 52 page “Initial Brief” alleging Denaro’s sentence was too harsh and requesting a reduction to “a probationary term with the same conditions outlined in her…Report…” Strems did admit to some rule violations but argued “A two-year suspension is excessive and not supported by existing case law.”
He also pointed to Denaro’s remarkably accurate understatement that “…education provided by law schools today does not typically include training to run a successful law practice.” Strems said this “… goes a long way towards explaining how, over a matter of weeks, [he] went from operating a successful statewide firm to the Bar seeking his suspension on an emergency basis.”
It’s a good argument, at least in texture, and it’s certainly more credible than the insufferable accusation that Strems “…also faced the efforts of the insurance lobby who coordinated with the Bar in order to reduce Respondent’s effectiveness as an adversary.”
His argument of blaming a “Large and accelerating case load” makes much more sense—his firm had up to 10,000 cases in the hopper and some attorneys were handling 750 suits each. While that’s still of his own doing, it’s far less desperate sounding than a theory about the Bar and insurers locked in a conspiracy to bring him down because he was a successful litigator. Insurers provided information, of course, but who can blame them for pushing the bar to do something about so many lawsuits they believed to be frivolous?
Also Strems reasoned that he should not be vicariously responsible for subordinate attorneys’ “… when he did not direct the subordinate lawyer’s actions or know of any misconduct at a time when consequences could be avoided.” It may be more a matter of law than fact, but…it’s better than the conspiracy theory for sure. I was still unconvinced, however. (See Note #2 below)
Strems brief also continues an attack on judges Holder and Barbas–their accusations, I contend, were more likely to have spawned the Bars initiative than anything the insurance industry could muster. Their testimony was so jarring that Strems’ simply had to attack it. As presiders over hundreds of Strems’ cases, Judges Gregory Holder and Rex Barbas, asserted other judges were also aware the Strems firm violates the Rules of Professional Responsibility in… “virtually every case where he and his firm enter an appearance.”
They provided 17 examples from other judges, of admonishments, including monetary sanctions against the firm. Judge Holder specifically stated that during one in-chamber meeting an attorney with the Strems firm told him Scot Strems instructed him to file cases without proper support, to allege damages not supported by evidence or the insurance contract, to refuse to allow plaintiffs to participate in EUO’s or depositions and to refuse to cooperate with the insurer in basic discovery.
These accusations were vehemently denied during the hearings and in post-hearing documents, by Strems and his team, of course. And, who knows, maybe the insurance industry put the two judges up to it.
But here’s what you should do. As a double check on my opinions and interpretations, and to minimize the impact of any unintended bias in my reporting, please read the pertinent portions of Strems brief; especially Statements of Case & Facts, B2 thru B5—this, for the full breadth of his viewpoint and arguments. He admits wrongdoing and acknowledges mistakes were made. He’s remorseful asserting it was mostly due to mismanagement of a highly active law practice, not the Bar’s allegation of “contumacious” behavior.
Regardless of whether you’re “thumbs up or thumbs down” on Strems, any formal adjudication has been put off until sometime in February, maybe later. This, because on January 8, 2021, the Bar was granted an “Extension of Time” to January 26, 2021 to answer the Strems appeal.
That’s approximately three weeks more for the Bar to carefully analyze Strems brief, draft a response and once again, I suspect, request that his license to practice law be permanently revoked. (See Note #3 below)
NOTE #1: You can read more on the Strems case in reports from Raychel Lean at LAW.COM reporting on behalf of the Daily Business Review. Especially see: Anatomy of an Insurance Scam: Citizens Property, Florida Bar Detail a Florida Lawyer’s Alleged Fraud. Also, Allegations Mount against South Florida Lawyer Accused of Cheating Insurers: “Something Else Going on Here”
NOTE #2: On November 24, The Florida Bar filed additional charges against Strems alleging “A Pattern of Deceit and Solicitation” and stating that, for years, “Strems Consultants” pretended to be public adjusters “or some other manner of insurance professional…whose purpose it was to conscript business into his firm.” These “consultants” signed up homeowners using a “cell phone or electronic tablet” resulting in a “purported attorney-client relationship with counsel not of their own choosing.”
NOTE #3: For another look at what Strems alleged victims experienced see the article by Ron Hurtibise for the Florida Sun Sentinel titled “How a ‘shady’ insurance lawyer sucked homeowners into his alleged ripoff scheme.”