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Former Florida attorney Noah Daniel Liberman has been on the right path since he was busted more than six years ago for drug trafficking. But despite his rehabilitation from his addiction, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected a recommendation to suspend his license and instead has disbarred him. In an Aug. 26 ruling, the court noted that Liberman had remained drug-free since his arrest in 2004 for trafficking Ecstasy. It also considered 11 mitigating factors in a referee’s report, including Liberman’s remorse, his full disclosure of his arrest and the lack of any prior discipline. Even so, the court held in a per curiam decision that it could not justify a sanction less severe than disbarment. The Florida Bar Association, which brought the action against him, had urged a three-year suspension. Justice Barbara Pariente argued in a dissent that Liberman had lived an “exemplary life” and that his misconduct arose from a “severe addiction to drugs,” not from the practice of law. Justice Peggy Quince joined the dissent. The court made the disbarment effective on July 3, 2006. Under Florida law, attorneys can apply for readmission five years after their disbarment date. In 2004, Liberman was a “young attorney,” according to the decision, practicing civil litigation when he and his friends began pooling their resources to buy Ecstasy and methamphetamine and distribute them to friends. One of Liberman’s friends was arrested for a drug offense and began working undercover for the Coral Gables, Fla., Police Department; the Miami Beach, Fla., Police Department; and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. As a confidential source, he bought methamphetamine and Ecstasy from Liberman and eventually requested a large amount, which Liberman provided. Police raided Lieberman’s home and found enough drugs to justify charging him with drug trafficking. He pleaded guilty in to one first-degree trafficking count. The referee report concluded that Liberman was inexperienced as a lawyer at the time he was arrested, had an addiction, had a good reputation and had participated in ongoing drug rehabilitation since the arrest. Still, the court said that a three-year suspension was not severe enough. “[W]e conclude that only disbarment can measure up to the gravity of a conviction for illegal drug trafficking and serve as a sufficient deterrent for others who might be tempted to engage in similar illegal activity,” the majority wrote. The decision added that the mitigating factors justified starting the time of Liberman’s disbarment nunc pro tunc — that is, at the point when he was automatically suspended from practice. Pariente was not favorably impressed by that attempt to lessen the sanction’s severity. “I note that when this court suspends an attorney, the suspension is effective nunc pro tunc, to the date of the original suspension,” Pariente wrote. Richard Baron with Richard Baron & Associates represented Liberman. Baron said that he was “surprised” by the decision. “They penalized him for being an addict,” he said. The Florida Bar Association did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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