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A Palm Beach Circuit judge has hit the chief financial officer of Boies Schiller & Flexner with unusually stiff contempt of court penalties in long-running civil litigation that involves David Boies, the nationally prominent New York litigator. Judge Amy Smith ruled that the owner of Nical of Palm Beach, Amy Habie, who is also officially the CFO of the Armonk, N.Y.-based law firm, violated a previous court order to not contact any protected clients of Scott Lewis Gardening & Trimming Inc. The judge found that Habie had 17 phone contacts with a Lewis client during the time the client was on a court-ordered protected list. Smith found Habie and Nical liable for $500,000 in fines to be paid to Scott Lewis, his wife, Carol Lewis, and to Scott Lewis Gardening & Trimming. The judge also issued a 90-day suspended jail sentence. The fine and jail sentence were suspended and could be purged from the record contingent on Habie committing “no future violations of court’s orders.” Smith exonerated Habie on a separate charge of violating discovery orders. But she said Habie “sloppily and with some measure of indifference, complied with the court’s [production] order.” She ordered Habie to pay a $100 fine for each day documents were late, totaling $29,400. Those fines were not suspended. Smith also ordered Habie to pay Lewis’ recent legal fees and costs, which Lewis estimates to be about $200,000. Lewis has been representing himself, his wife and his company on a pro se basis. For years, Habie was represented by Boies and his firm on a pro bono basis, with the firm’s time on the case estimated to be worth $4.5 million. Habie is now represented by Fort Lauderdale appellate attorney Bruce Rogow. Habie and Lewis have been involved in litigation over their competing Palm Beach County lawn care businesses for more than a decade. In 1996, Habie purchased the assets of Lewis’ previous business, also named Scott Lewis Gardening & Trimming, for $800,000. She reincorporated the company as Nical with Lewis serving as a consultant. Lewis continued to operate his own gardening business under the original name and the companies had a non-compete agreement for business in Palm Beach. After a falling out, Lewis refused to renew his contract as a consultant and returned to working in Palm Beach. Habie sued for breach of contract in October 1996. Boies Schiller & Flexner has 195 lawyers in 12 offices, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach. Founding partner David Boies is known for his role as special prosecutor in the federal government’s antitrust case against Microsoft; he served as lead counsel for Al Gore during the 2000 Florida presidential election recount. Last year, Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jonathan Gerber disqualified Boies Schiller & Flexner from continuing to represent Nical and Habie because of financial ties between Boies, his firm, and Habie and her company limited the firm’s independent professional judgment. Boies has faced disciplinary charges before The Florida Bar for his role in the case. The case initially reached a settlement in 1998, with both sides agreeing to “refrain from directly or indirectly contacting, communicating with, targeting, disturbing, interfering with or soliciting one another’s customers.” But in the years since, Nical and Habie have been held in contempt for violating that order seven times.

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