It never ceases to amaze me the lengths some lawyers will go to gain any kind of advantage in a trial, no matter what the ethical implications may be. Take for instance the actions of Stephen Diaco, his partner Robert D. Adams and one of their associates Adam Fithaut, all on trial (being live streamed on ABC Action Newsin Tampa) together before a bar referee as this is being written.
Diaco and Adams were representing the defendant in the trial of the infamous "Shock Jock Case" (one shock jock suing the other for defamation) in Tampa. The lawyer representing the plaintiff was Phil Campbell, who's office was in the same building as Diaco and Adams, PA, and was well known as one who imbibes frequently, if not daily. Mr. Campbell, actually lived directly across the street from his favorite watering hole.
Diaco and Adams were not doing particularly well in the trial. It was conceded at the time that Campbell was kicking them around the courtroom. Diaco hatched a plan with Adams' knowledge and consent, to have Adams' paralegal, a very attractive, married women, go to Campbell's favorite bar, cozy up to him, and when it was time to go, claim she was too drunk to drive home and ask him to place her car in his community's parking lot for her.
Diaco had a friend on the Tampa Police Department, who was made aware of the plan and when Campbell took control of the young lady's car, was to arrest him and charge him with DUI, which the officer did. This arrest was immediately tweeted to all news media, and the trial was disrupted for a time while Campbell dealt with the immediate aftermath of the arrest. Eventually the plan unraveled, and it became public what Diaco and Adams had done.
(Oh did I mention that when the paralegal got home, and drunkenly made a phone call to tell a girlfriend what she had done, her (now ex) husband overheard the conversation, and was so incensed at her conduct he videoed the call with his cell phone.)
After an investigation the Bar filed charges. (Stephen, Adams, Fithaut) A plea agreement was reached for Diaco to be disbarred with leave to re-apply, and the other two to be suspended for 90 days. The referee rejected the plea agreement, signalling to Diaco that permanent disbarment was on its way, and at least 91 day suspensions for the others.
At 8:30 the morning the trial was to start (Monday) Diaco petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to surrender his license to practice with leave to apply for re-admission after five years. This was done with the intent of delaying the trial pending his petition, which did not happen.
Throughout the entire pre-trial procedure (including depositions), all the defendants, as well as the paralegal asserted their 5th Amendment right to remain silent. Adams then waived his rights and testified at the trial attempting minimize his involvement in way that a good prosecutor will argue conscious denial or fabrication. The police officer has admitted to his complicity in the scheme, been dismissed from TPD and has testified to the conspiracy.
These guys exhibit what is truly wrong with our profession (if you can call it that anymore). Is it ego? Is it money? Is it getting so caught up in our client's vitriol that we lose sight of who and what we are? When did attacking the other lawyer become part of a relevant trial strategy? Is winning one case worth a lifetime of cases, not to mention the years of work put in to get you here? This may be extreme, but is it not so uncommon, that it is common-place? Have we seen it, or been the victim of personal attacks, and only responded in kind? Do we justify our behavior as somehow taking the high ground? When did we lose sight of the adage: At the end of a case our best friend is the lawyer on the other side and our worst enemy can be our client?
We will let you know how it all ends. (Like it is in any "reasonable" doubt.)
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