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The Florida Supreme Court disbarred one plaintiffs’ lawyer and handed another a two-year suspension for taking a $6.4 million fee from the defense to file no more cases against E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Roland R. St. Louis Jr. and Francisco R. Rodriguez of the defunct Miami firm of Friedman, Rodriguez, Ferraro & St. Louis had represented 20 clients suing DuPont for damages allegedly resulting from exposure to Benlate, a fungicide suspected of causing severe crop damage and withdrawn from the market in March 1991. St. Louis, “the main strategist in the case,” had DuPont in a difficult position. The trial court orally accepted a 110-page motion for sanctions for discovery abuse in the lead case, telling DuPont that it intended to sanction the company by striking its pleadings. The court encouraged it to settle the case, according to the high court’s opinion. Davis Tree Farms Inc. v. E.I. DuPont Nemours & Co., No. 1992-20006-CA-01 (Miami-Dade Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). DuPont eventually agreed to pay the plaintiffs $59 million if they would get the trial judge’s order vacated and sealed without publicity, settle 18 cases contingent upon the settlement of two key cases, and keep the settlement figures confidential, the opinion said. At the same time, St. Louis and Rodriguez also agreed to a secret side deal by which the firm would receive a separate $6,445,000 fee from DuPont to refrain from further Benlate litigation against the company and to serve as counsel and/or consultants for the company in future matters, the high court said. For the professional conduct rules violated in taking this fee, the state Supreme Court disbarred St. Louis and ordered him to disgorge $2,277,663, his share of the fee DuPont paid the firm. The Florida Bar v. St. Louis, No. SC04-49. Rodriguez received a two-year suspension, with a fee yet to be determined. Rodriguez could be ordered to pay as much as $1.4 million to the state bar’s Clients’ Security Fund. The Florida Bar v. Rodriguez, No. SC03-909. St. Louis represented himself in his disciplinary case and could not be reached for comment. Rodriguez is represented by Michael Nachwalter of Kenny Nachwalter in Miami, who said that he is working on a motion for rehearing Rodriguez’s case. Nachwalter said that he thought the sanction to be particularly harsh under the circumstances. The referee who heard Rodriguez’s case recommended that the lawyer be given four years’ probation and 1,000 hours of community service � a far cry from the two-year suspension the high court ordered. As for the monetary sanction, Rodriguez and the other lawyers settled their former clients’ action against them four years ago, such that it makes no sense for Rodriguez to have to pay back money that already was returned, Nachwalter said. Margaret H. Davis Family Trust v. St. Louis, No. 1997-11711-CA-01 (Miami-Dade Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). Paul D. Friedman and Diane Deighton Ferraro, the firm’s other two partners, were not involved in the litigation, but were aware that negotiations for the special fee arrangement with DuPont were afoot. They found out about the signed deal after the fact and each took a cut of the $6.4 million fee. Friedman and Ferraro consented to sanctions four years ago. Ferraro agreed to a public reprimand and paid $425,000 in restitution to clients and $3,169 in costs in February 2003. The Florida Bar v. Ferraro, No. SC02-1549. Friedman consented to a 90-day suspension and paid $910,000 in restitution and $7,320 in costs in July 2003, The Florida Bar v. Friedman, No. SC02-2430. Ferraro is the only lawyer of the four whom the Florida Bar lists on its Web site as active and in good standing. Neither she nor Friedman could be reached for comment.

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