A one-year suspension was imposed Thursday on a Deerfield Beach attorney who did nothing on his client’s case, squandered the fees, then obstructed the trial court when he was sued for malpractice.
Max Ricardo Whitney, a solo practitioner and Florida Bar member for 17 years, was suspended for his treatment of Dr. Michael G. Hill and Leila Mesquita de Oliveira.
Hill wanted to marry de Oliveira, a Brazilian, but she was barred from entering the United States for 20 years because of two illegal entries into the country.
Whitney was hired to try to resolve her immigration status and received $19,365. He made two trips to Brazil, ostensibly to work on her case. For more than a year, no progress was made. When Hill sought information, Whitney avoided him.
Finally, Whitney told Hill that he had not initiated anything to get legal residency for de Oliveira and advised him to marry de Oliveira in Brazil. Whitney also said he would need up to $60,000 to proceed any further
Hill fired Whitney and demanded a full refund and the return of de Oliveira’s personal identity documents. Whitney refused.
Hill sued for malpractice in 2005. As the case progressed, Whitney was uncooperative about producing records and sitting for a deposition. In 2006, the circuit court entered a default judgment and granted a motion for sanctions, finding Whitney willfully failed to comply with court orders, refused to participate in pretrial discovery “and provided falsified documents.”
The final judgment, including legal fees, was $24,246. This was upheld on appeal.
After a Florida Bar investigation, the referee suggested a 90-day suspension. The Supreme Court disagreed and went with The Bar’s recommendation.