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After representing himself for years in a contract case that pitted him against famed litigator David Boies and his law firm, West Palm Beach, Fla., gardener Scott Lewis has delivered what could be a knockout punch to his opponent. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jonathan Gerber on Friday disqualified Armonk, N.Y.-based Boies Schiller & Flexner from continuing to represent Lewis’ foes in the case — Amy Habie of Miami and Patrick Bilton, or the gardening company they operate, Nical of Palm Beach. Habie is the chief financial officer of Boies’ law firm. Gerber found that under Florida Bar rules, Boies and his firm were conflicted in representing Habie and her company and had to step aside. Financial ties between the client and Boies, Gerber ruled, have materially limited the Boies firm’s independent professional judgment. Gerber also found Nical in contempt of court for violating court orders, and that H. Stephen Rash, an attorney at Boies Schiller & Flexner in Miami, was the company’s “agent” in violating the orders. He ordered Bilton to serve 30 days in jail for contempt and to pay a $500 fine. Gerber found that Rash and Nical breached orders by issuing subpoenas for witnesses without the permission of the court and by failing to notify Lewis about the scheduling of depositions. “Goliath is out for the count,” a delighted Lewis said Monday. Rash and Boies did not return calls for comment by deadline. But Bruce Rogow, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lawyer who’s working with Boies’ firm on the case, said the firm, Nical, Habie and Bilton will appeal Gerber’s ruling. Rogow said the order jailing Bilton is excessive and that Boies’ representation of his clients has been appropriate. Rogow said Gerber’s order jailing Bilton stems from a conversation last fall between Bilton and an employee of the town of Palm Beach, which has a gardening contract with Scott Lewis. In that conversation, Bilton discussed Lewis, which was a violation of a court order. The Boies firm then subpoenaed that Palm Beach municipal employee without notifying the court or Lewis. BATTLE OVER NONCOMPETE Gerber’s ruling is the latest development in a bizarre case that started in March 1996, when Habie bought the assets of Lewis’ successful gardening business for $300,000 in cash and a $500,000 note. Lewis and his wife, Carol, had operated Scott Lewis Gardening and Trimming for many years and held a number of lucrative contracts with estates in the town of Palm Beach. Habie incorporated the firm as Nical of Palm Beach, although she was allowed by the purchase agreement to operate the firm under the name Scott Lewis Gardening and Trimming while Lewis served as a consultant to Nical. Lewis also continued to operate his own gardening business under that name, although with a noncompete agreement in the Town of Palm Beach. Several months later, Habie and Lewis had a falling out, and Lewis refused to renew his contract as her consultant. Habie stopped payment on the note. Lewis resumed business in Palm Beach, and Habie sued for breach of contract in October 1996. Lewis hired as his lawyer Jack Scarola, a partner at Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley in West Palm Beach. The two businesses fought bitterly for the exclusive Palm Beach contracts. Habie filed a contract suit alleging that the Lewises violated the noncompete clause in the purchase agreement. In August 1998, the Lewises reached a settlement with Habie and Nical. Under the deal, each landscaping firm was free to compete for new clients, but their existing clients could not be solicited by the other, and Habie agreed not to use Scott Lewis’ name in doing business. Shortly thereafter, Lewis alleged that Habie continued to use his name in business and continued to contact Lewis clients and interfered with the couple’s business in other ways. The allegations led to a number of court orders against Habie, appeals of those orders by her attorneys, and numerous motions and countermotions. BOIES DIDN’T CHARGE In 2000, unable to keep up with the burgeoning legal bills, Lewis and his wife began representing themselves while Scarola continued to represent Lewis’ corporate entity. Carol Lewis did much of the research while Scott Lewis made court appearances. Habie, on the other hand, continued to be represented by David Boies and his firm. Boies Schiller, with about 200 lawyers, has four offices in Florida and five others around the country. Boies did not take legal fees for representing Habie and her company. Instead, he took 25 percent of Habie’s business in a trust set up in the name of Boies’ children. In a deposition, Habie said that she had accepted $100,000 for the 25 percent stake. In all, the Boies firm’s representation of Habie and Nical has totaled over $5 million in gifted services, according to an accountant Lewis deposed as an expert witness. Habie’s professional relationship with Boies began in 1992, when her divorce lawyer, a law school acquaintance of Boies, asked Boies to help in a custody battle Habie was waging with her ex-husband, Guatamelan textile executive Jose Habie. In 2000, Habie became the chief financial officer of Boies’ law firm. According to court documents, her current salary from the law firm is $160,000 a year plus bonus and benefits. According to court papers, Boies’ law firm and a total of 75 lawyers from 10 other law firms have provided more than 15,000 pro bono hours in the case representing Nical and Habie. He’s never publicly explained why he and his firm represented Habie and her company without charging fees. Boies’ most recent book, “Courting Justice,” included an account of Boies’ representation of her during the custody case. A source close to the case said that Boies thinks highly of Habie based on that experience. In his order barring Boies from further representing Habie, Gerber cited a Florida Bar rule that says “a lawyer shall not represent a client if the lawyer’s exercise of independent professional judgment in the representation of that client may be materially limited by … the lawyer’s own interest.” Lewis estimates the time spent by him and his wife on the case exceeds 7,000 hours, time taken from running his gardening business. A different judge previously denied Lewis petition for $500,000 in legal fees for representing himself. Lewis has asked Judge Gerber to reconsider that ruling.

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