A Florida Bar grievance committee has found no probable cause to pursue a complaint alleging Miami law partners Guy Lewis and Michael Tein lied about the source of their legal fees in a wrongful death case.
The Bar also confirmed it has opened an investigation into three of the firm's most vocal litigation opponents: Miami attorneys Bernardo Roman III, Jose "Pepe" Herrera and Ramon Rodriguez.
Rodriguez and Herrera represented plaintiffs in the wrongful death case against two members of the Miccosukee tribe represented by Lewis Tein. The members lost a $3.2 million jury award. Lewis and Tein used checks from Roman, the tribe's general counsel, to show their fees came directly from the tribe.
Following contentious hearings, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick ruled Lewis and Tein did not commit a fraud on the court when they testified their legal fees came from loans advanced to their clients by the tribe.
Lewis, a former interim U.S. attorney Miami, and Tein, a former federal prosecutor, represented the tribe until a change in leadership in 2009. The Miccosukees then filed federal and state lawsuits against the law firm, claiming the attorneys helped former chairman Billy Cypress embezzle $26 million from the tribe.
Lewis Tein's motion for summary judgment is pending before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami. She stayed all discovery and reversed a magistrate judge's order requiring Lewis Tein to produce more documents for Roman.
Lewis and Tein had no comment on The Bar committee's decision.
But in a pleading filed last week by Lewis Tein last week in state court, the firm states lawyers "for the opposing sides cooperated to make false accusations against Guy Lewis and Michael Tein of perjury and fraud on the court."
The Bar would say only that investigations into Roman, Herrera and Rodriguez are tied to matters concerning their legal disputes with Lewis Tein.
Herrera in an email denied being a target of a Bar complaint and said even if there was one, it would be confidential. The Florida Bar, though, confirms open investigations if the nature of the complaint is known.
Calls and emails to Roman and Rodriguez were not returned.
Miami attorney Markenzy Lapointe, a former federal prosecutor, said the allegations against the lawyers seem to have unfairly tarnished their well-earned good names. He said opposing lawyers need to think twice before making allegations about their courtroom adversaries.
"The fact is most of us spent a lifetime building a reputation on integrity and professionalism and, amazingly, it sometimes doesn't take much for that body of work to vanish overnight on mere accusations," said Lapointe, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, who has investigated, advised and represented lawyers in disciplinary proceedings.