The Fort Lauderdale Bridge Club Inc. is one of the top bridge clubs in the country.
Samuel “Sandy” Rosen was a hard-knuckle litigator who represented the Church of Scientology against its detractors, among others.
When he retired from New York to Bal Harbour, he turned his passion to bridge. In an effort to test his new bidding theory for a book he was writing on the popular card game, he joined the club.
But he was shown the door for “alleged behavioral issues” in February 2010, according to court documents.
Rosen, who formerly worked for the international law firm Paul Hastings, sued the club and its volunteer board in state and federal courts. The club filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in February 2013.
Since then there have been more than 600 docket entries in the bankruptcy case as Rosen pursued numerous motions and litigation. A federal civil rights complaint filed by Rosen against club board members and the city of Fort Lauderdale was dismissed with prejudice in October.
The original court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, Kenneth Welt, resigned four days after submitting a plan for reorganization.
“The focus of the case should be reorganizing the debtor not in depleting estate funds in dealing with frivolous allegations of a serial litigant,” Welt wrote in an Aug. 8 letter to the Office of the U.S. Trustee.
Rosen in April sought to convert the Chapter 11 case to Chapter 7, which would have liquidated the historic club with approximately 600 active members. He withdrew that motion in June and filed another seeking to dismiss the bankruptcy case completely.
Rosen said in his civil rights lawsuit that he drove daily the 1½ hours to the club from Bal Harbour because it had “the very best bridge players in South Florida.”
Through his Broward Circuit court lawsuits, Rosen succeeded in getting his membership reinstated. A judge found the club’s board did not have a quorum when it voted him out. However the new bankruptcy trustee, attorney Joel Tabas, recently declined to renew Rosen’s membership for 2014.
Rosen fired off a Dec. 10 letter to Tabas, a partner at Tabas, Freedman & Soloff in Miami, that is filed in the court record.
“At the cost of being blunt, permit me to resort to scatological commentary to tell you Joel that you’re about the most untrustworthy, double-dealing sack of s–t I’ve met I can’t remember how long,” Rosen wrote.
Attorney Gary Freedman, a partner from Tabas’ firm representing him as trustee, declined to comment. Other attorneys involved in the bankruptcy case also declined comment.
Rosen’s attorney, Douglas C. Broeker, a partner at Miami’s Sweetapple, Broeker & Varkas, said his client has been unfairly disparaged.
He said the letter to Tabas was borne out of extreme frustration compounded by severe illness. He said Rosen didn’t understand why there was no effort by Tabas to go back to the circuit judge who had ruled in his favor to reinstate his membership.
“The letter is unfortunate and I’m disappointed that it was filed in the bankruptcy court instead of remaining private between the sender and recipient,” Broeker said.
He said his client is not a serial litigant, as Welt called him, but a man who simply wants the judgments he won in state court enforced and not frozen by a bankruptcy action.
“If the Bridge Club had simply followed the orders and spirit of the Broward County Circuit Court rulings instead of running into bankruptcy, it would not be in this predicament today,” Broeker said.
When Rosen was with Paul Hastings and representing Scientology, he was quoted in a 1998 article by the St. Petersburg Times on the church’s aggressive litigation policy. Rosen reportedly said, “Litigiousness, I always think, is a cry by losers.”
According to a pleading in the bankruptcy case, Rosen in a 2010 deposition in a state court action against the Bridge Club, testified that he was “an Old Testament guy” and “I believe in right and wrong, black and white, two eyes for an eye and three teeth for a tooth.”
According to the docket for Broward County, Rosen has filed at least four lawsuits against the Bridge Club and its members. Besides the civil rights lawsuit, he has filed three appeals from the bankruptcy court.
Rosen said in pleadings that the bankruptcy was designed to avoid court orders stemming from his state litigation. He asserts the club owes him money, including punitive damages.
Welt, in his final pleading after resigning, said the club had no choice.
The ‘Rosen exception’
“As a result of the substantial amount of litigation brought by Mr. Rosen, the insurance carrier created a Rosen exception to the renewed policy and claims brought,” Welt wrote in a motion for compensation.
Broeker alleges Welt resigned because of a conflict with Rosen’s first attorney, Chad Pugatch, a partner at Rice Pugatch Robinson & Schiller in Fort Lauderdale. He said Pugatch represented Welt as trustee in another unrelated bankruptcy.
Broeker said Welt blaming Rosen for his resignation was “totally inappropriate and a self-serving.”
Welt referred all questions to Tabas.
Attorney Thomas Abrams, who represents the club, filed the Chapter 11 petition and sought a trustee to be appointed in April. He doesn’t deny in court filings that Rosen’s litigation predicated the bankruptcy filing.
“The bridge club filed for Chapter 11 reorganization to create a breathing spell from the onslaught of litigation filed by Mr. Rosen,” he wrote in the petition.
Abrams, a partner at Gamberg & Abrams in Fort Lauderdale, also said in his motion that the club is an institution that needs protection.
“To state that the bridge club is a historical staple of the City of Fort Lauderdale and a long time part of the fabric of the community is not an understatement,” Abrams wrote in the motion. “The Bridge Club also donates to important and needy charities on a regular basis.”
There has also been disagreement with Abrams in the bankruptcy case over the building that the Bridge Club leases for $10.60 per year. The club is located in Fort Lauderdale’s Holiday Park near the War Memorial. Rosen, in a June 28 motion, called the lease’s provisions “onerous.”
Broeker said the lease does not account for the $500,000 building the club has built upon the city’s land.
There has also been a cavalcade of judges in the case.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Raymond Ray recused himself from the case initially at Rosen’s request. His replacement, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Olson stepped aside in the case because of a conflict with Broeker.
Olson worried for the future of the Bridge Club. He noted cash-on-hand for the trustee was $230,000, an amount that could easily be exhausted.
“It is apparent to the court that this debtor cannot possibly be reorganized and survive in the extraordinarily heated environment in which it now finds itself,” Olson wrote in an Oct. 4 order.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurel Isicoff is now presiding over the club’s bankruptcy case.