The open financial wound facing Lewis Tein in litigation with the Miccosukee Indians has reached more than $1 million, according to a pleading in the federal case brought against the Miami law firm by the tribe. The law firm is appealing an order to produce tax returns in the same case.
The cost to the firm led by former interim U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis and former federal prosecutor Michael Tein flows from federal fraud and state malpractice actions filed by the tribe.
"The burden of defending this case has been astronomical and has harmed Lewis Tein tremendously," wrote attorney Paul Calli, a Carlton Fields partner who is defending Lewis Tein in the Miccosukee matters.
"Lewis Tein’s outside counsel have incurred over $1 million in legal fees defending this case and the tribe’s parallel state-court case," Calli wrote in a request to stay discovery.
Lewis Tein attorneys have expended more than 1,000 hours on the cases, which have produced more than 30 depositions, Calli noted. Lewis and Tein have been individually deposed three times each.
The Miccosukees claim Lewis, Tein and another of its former lawyers, Dexter Lehtinen, helped former tribal chairman Billy Cypress embezzle $26 million from the tribe. Lehtinen also is a former U.S. attorney who is now a partner at Tew Cardenas in Miami.
The litigation came after Cypress was ousted by current chairman Colley Billie, who fired Lewis Tein, Lehtinen and others hired by the previous leadership.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke said in a May 17 order dismissing Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC from the federal lawsuit that the Miccosukees have failed to offer any legal support for their fraud claim against Cypress.
Cooke last week issued a temporary stay from production of documents while the firm appeals a discovery order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley requiring Lewis Tein to produce copies of checks and other records of payment from the tribe; the firm’s unredacted tax returns and general ledgers; as well as financial, income and bank statements.
Lewis Tein said the tribe has disseminated private information from previous discovery requests, such as the home addresses of Tein and Lewis.
"The tribe has a pattern of disclosing sensitive information to the public and to the media despite this court and the state court’s admonitions regarding such disclosures," Calli wrote in a pleading filed Monday.
A recent pleading by the tribe in the state case attached aerial photographs of the homes of Lewis and Calli in violation of court orders, Calli wrote.
The tribe in a May 20 pleading also appealed McAliley’s order, saying it would permit redactions that are necessary to move forward on the lawsuit. The magistrate allowed the deletion of "any matters from those documents that do not pertain to Lewis Tein’s representation of the Miccosukee Tribe and its members."
The tribe’s attorney, Bernardo Roman III, said in a court filing that’s contrary to other rulings by McAliley and pointed to a March 7 decision ordering the tribe to produce unredacted audited financial statements and other documents. Roman did not return a phone call for comment by deadline.
Calli said in the motion for a discovery stay that the tribe has made 49 individual requests for production. In the parallel state action, Lewis Tein has produced more than 62,000 pages of documents for the tribe, he said.
"The discovery requests to Lewis Tein are overbroad, seek information that cannot support a viable claim and are unduly burdensome," Calli wrote.
Lewis Tein filed a motion for summary judgment April 4, calling the lawsuit frivolous and in bad faith.
"The tribe’s vexatious lawsuit has placed a colossal burden on the firm and its partners and good cause exists to stay discovery until there is a resolution to Lewis Tein’s motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment," Calli wrote.
Lewis Tein represented two members of the tribe in a wrongful death case that produced an unpaid $3.2 million award in 2009.
In that litigation, the firm was ordered to pay $50,000 in sanctions for discovery violations. The tribe was ordered last month to pay $4,265 in sanctions for its own discovery violations in the malpractice case.
On another front, the Internal Revenue Service has filed $170 million in federal tax liens against the tribe.