The Miccosukee Indian tribe has filed a third fraud complaint against former chairman Billy Cypress and his cadre of lawyers.
The complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court also names the Lewis Tein law firm in Miami and Tew Cardenas partner Dexter Lehtinen.
An attorney for name partners Guy Lewis and Michael Tein said the newest litigation is frivolous and intended only to drain the law firm’s coffers.
“This feels like a flaunting of the rule of law and an effort by the tribe to use its limitless resources and the legal system to harm Guy and Mike,” said attorney Paul Calli, a partner at Carlton Fields in Miami. “This is bad-faith litigation, the likes of which I have not seen and hope I never see again.”
The tribe previously hit Lewis, Tein and Lehtinen with lawsuits last year.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami on Sept. 30 dismissed the tribe’s federal racketeering lawsuit against the Lewis Tein firm and the individual partners, saying the dispute was better suited for tribal courts.
That left in place a fraud and racketeering lawsuit before Miami-Dade Judge John W. Thornton, who has scheduled a hearing on Lewis Tein’s motion for summary judgment for Monday.
That state court suit alleges Lewis Tein, the partners and Lehtinen participated in a “secret and sophisticated scheme to defraud” the tribe after being hired by Cypress to represent the tribe.
The two state suits share similar counts, such as breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, but the newest complaint doesn’t include an accusation of racketeering.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of the tribe by Miami attorney Bernardo Roman III. He did not return a call or email for comment by deadline. Roman faces an open Florida Bar investigation in a complaint tied to the tribe’s litigation against Lewis Tein.
The newest lawsuit filed Nov. 16 came as Cypress was defeated in his bid to regain the chairmanship from archrival incumbent Colley Billie.
The tribe has made a tactical decision to file repetitive, piecemeal lawsuits and appeals in multiple venues even though it continues to lose on dispositive motions, Calli said.
“Apparently, the tribe is going to continue to file frivolous lawsuits no matter how many times it loses,” he said.
In preparation for Monday’s hearing, Calli filed a motion to exclude the tribe’s expert witness: Becker & Poliakoff attorney Steven Davis.
Davis was sued for malpractice for alleged fraudulent billing in an unrelated case, reached a confidential settlement and relies on a “secret Excel spreadsheet” to make a determination that Lewis Tein bilked the tribe on its bills, according to Calli’s Nov. 27 pleading.
“Davis has no legal experience in many of the practice areas on which he purports to opine. He has no IRS experience. He has no criminal law experience,” the motion said.
A call to Davis, a shareholder in Becker & Poliakoff’s Miami office, was not returned by deadline.