A confidential, anonymous lawsuit filed against the Miccosukee Tribe’s former lawyer was unsealed after a law firm suing the tribe questioned it.
The tribe filed the case under the name “Association ABC” and requested temporary confidentiality, citing the “sensitive matters” in the complaint and a need to review the lawsuit with the tribe’s governing authority.
The two-page complaint contains no allegations that aren’t already public knowledge: It accuses attorney Bernardo Roman of failing to “investigate, develop and present evidence” supporting litigation he pursued on behalf of the tribe. The Florida Bar is recommending Roman’s disbarment for pursuing frivolous litigation against Guy Lewis and Michael Tein, partners of their self-named firm. Lewis is a former U.S. attorney.
“We didn’t want it to be something that everyone pointed to,” said Miramar attorney Robert Saunooke, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the tribe. “We’re not really in the business of going after individuals and putting them in the public spotlight. So we tried to keep this thing quiet, only because I don’t know what the bar’s going to do with Mr. Roman.”
Lewis’ and Tein’s attorney, Curt Miner of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, found the sealed lawsuit on the Miami-Dade Circuit Court docket. Miner argued the lawsuit raised questions about the tribe’s sovereign immunity defense in Lewis’ and Tein’s defamation case against the tribe.
“It is incongruous for the Miccosukee Tribe to claim sovereign immunity over the conduct it jointly undertook with its tribal counsel but then, at the same time and in the same court system, sue that same tribal counsel,” Miner wrote in a filing for the defamation case.
Florida court rules favor openness, requiring any motion for confidentiality to be heard by a judge within 30 days. The tribe’s motion was filed June 9 but the tribe didn’t ask for a hearing, according to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Peter Lopez’s office.
After the Daily Business Review asked about the case, the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office told Saunooke he had until July 20 to obtain an order granting confidentiality. Saunooke tried to arrange a hearing with Lopez, but they could not align their schedules, the attorney said. The clerk’s office unsealed the case.
Saunooke said the tribe is still investigating its legal malpractice claims but filed the case to preserve any rights the tribe may have before the statute of limitations runs. The Saunooke Law Firm filed the case under seal using a pseudonym to avoid “scuttlebutt and talk,” he said.
“It has nothing to do with Curt Miner and Guy and Mike,” he said. “It has nothing to do with them. The reason we filed it under seal is to prevent someone from making the proverbial mountain out of a molehill.”
Roman did not respond to a request for comment.
Miner declined to comment because of Lewis’ and Tein’s pending case against the Miccosukees, which claims the tribe destroyed the pair’s firm and personal reputations by falsely alleging they stole millions of dollars.
Saunooke questioned how Miner could have brought the sealed lawsuit to the appellate court’s attention in the defamation case without even seeing the complaint.
“It boggles my mind, but that’s how the Miccosukees have been treated,” Saunooke said.