The Florida Bar is moving to disqualify its former president Ramon Abadin from representing the startup Tikd in a case against the bar.
The bar argues that during his 2015-16 term, Abadin “was provided attorney-client and attorney work-product communications and advice about and involving the specific antitrust issues and allegations asserted in this action.”
Tikd is suing the bar and Florida law firm The Ticket Clinic for $11 million, alleging that the defendants are conspiring to drive the Coral Gables-based startup out of business. Tikd allows drivers to upload minor traffic tickets to an app, and then the company contracts nearby attorneys to fight the ticket in court.
A representative from the bar declined to comment on Tuesday.
Tikd did not exist during Abadin’s term as bar president. But the bar argues that the Miami lawyer — soon to depart the shuttering firm Sedgwick — was privy as president-elect designate in 2014 to internal memos about legal issues relevant in Tikd’s case.
In a motion to dismiss filed on Friday, the bar also argues it is immune from being sued in federal court because the bar is an arm of the Florida Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission found the board did not have state action immunity because its decisions were final and not subject to review. The Florida Bar had joined in an amicus brief arguing state action immunity should apply.
Abadin’s presidency was also marked by a roiling debate over reciprocity, which would have allowed out-of-state lawyers to practice in Florida without passing the state’s bar exam. The measure was voted down, but it gained Abadin some adversaries, including Palm Beach Gardens attorney Lloyd Schwed of Schwed Kahle & Kress.
Schwed said he believes the reciprocity debate is linked Abadin’s representation of Tikd.
“His goal for reciprocity was to allow technology companies and out-of-state lawyers to skirt the unlicensed practice of law requirements by essentially letting every lawyer in the country gain admission to the Florida Bar,” Schwed said. “His current lawsuit against the Florida Bar is a backdoor effort to defeat the bar’s longstanding rules prohibiting the unlicensed practice of law in Florida.”
Abadin, whose presidency was also focused on encouraging lawyers to be aware of developments in technology, dismissed Schwed’s comment.
“That’s absurd,” he said, laughing. “Technology is changing the way everything happens in our world.”
Abadin declined to comment on the bar’s motion, but Tikd founder and CEO Chris Riley called the disqualification motion “an extraordinary move.”
“It’s ironic that the very institution charged with ensuring people have access to legal services chose to ask a judge to take all of mine away,” Riley said in a statement. “All we’ve wanted from the beginning is to sit down and talk and that’s still true today. The bar is instead doing everything it can to draw attention to anything other than the merits of our business model and how it helps consumers and lawyers. I think it’s pretty telling.”