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As Elliot S. Shaw says adieu to the practice of law, he is unleashing one last salvo against a group of do-gooders he says underscores his belief: “No good deed goes unpunished.” Shaw, no distant relative to the caldron of controversy, may have his mouth to blame should that saying come true for him. At 55, Shaw says, he’s “tired of giving a damn about the community.” So, in November he sued his former client, the nonprofit Floridians for Health Care Inc., and five of its officers for $6 million. The West Palm Beach lawyer claims the defendants defamed him and conspired to replace him with Gerald Richman of Richman Greer Weil Brumbaugh Mirabito & Christensen of West Palm Beach and Miami, according to the suit. Floridians for Health Care became a standard bearer fighting closure plans at financially strapped St. Mary’s and Good Samaritan medical centers in West Palm Beach. The nonprofit, however, blames Shaw for yapping to the local press about not getting paid. The organization on Oct. 24 fired Shaw for divulging what it called privileged attorney-client discussions. Floridians for Health Care then retained Richman with $50,000 contributed by the city of Palm Beach. Richman had represented the organization before Shaw, but bowed out after exhausting a $10,000 retainer. Into the void walked Shaw. The nonprofit was looking for a lawyer and Shaw was seeking rebirth after serving a 90-day suspension ordered in March by the Florida Supreme Court. Shaw had been chastised and fined $51,400 for a number of sins, including what the Florida Bar called “false or reckless statements concerning the qualifications or integrity of judges.” The action came after Shaw wrote that U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp was “a Nazi at heart” in efforts to force Ryskamp’s recusal from a case. Shaw says he remains unrepentant. With his law practice in shambles and his wife of 24 years suing him for divorce, Shaw initially volunteered his services to Floridians for Health Care as it fought plans to close and consolidate the two medical centers. After donating 150 hours, Shaw said it was time he got paid. He and Floridians for Health Care signed a fee contract in August in which Shaw would get $300 an hour, expenses, and 27 percent of gross funds recovered from the hospitals’ owner, Catholic Health East Inc. of Pennsylvania. As the organization’s lawyer, Shaw on Sept. 12 sued Catholic Health East, four other corporations and 60 individuals — two of them dead — in Palm Beach Circuit Court. The goal: Sack current medical center trustees; install an interim board; and freeze assets. In a separate suit filed in U.S. District Court, Floridians for Health Care challenged the tax-exempt status of Catholic Health East. As the Internal Revenue Service investigates those claims, the suit remains under seal, Shaw says. While the organization paid Shaw about $9,000 under the fee agreement, Shaw says Floridians for Health Care and its board of trustees “broke every agreement” and refused to raise funds to pay him. “They told me to wait, wait, wait; I was sinking like a son of a bitch.” When the city of Palm Beach approved $50,000 to fund legal action to keep the medical centers open, Shaw went public after learning no part of the money would go to him. “A lawyer has a right to protect himself,” he says. But that’s not how Floridians for Health Care saw it. The nonprofit fired Shaw on Oct. 24, writing him that he had violated attorney-client confidences. Five days later, it hired Richman. Richman says he has not been hired to defend Shaw’s suit, and calls it “utterly absurd. He’s upset because he didn’t get the $50,000. Shaw talked about fee arrangements, made disparaging remarks about his client. From what they tell me, Shaw went ballistic.” Richman plans on completely redrafting and refiling an amended complaint for the organization. Meanwhile, Shaw is quitting the practice of law. “My brilliant talents are not going to anybody but me,” he says.

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