You think you're having a bad day? Try stepping into the shoes of these lawyers, when intrepid reporter Julie Kay calls and wants a comment on this story:
Nice job on that Richard -- that's what you call "shining a turd."
A federal magistrate judge in Orlando, Fla., has recommended that three lawyers receive reprimands for failing to comply with court scheduling orders related to their high-volume overtime suit practices.
The long-awaited ruling from Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Kelly was handed down on Oct. 9.
Kelly was assigned by the entire federal bench of the Middle District of Florida to investigate why nine lawyers from the Pantas Law Firm and Morgan and Morgan, both based in Orlando, have missed hordes of scheduling deadlines.
The Middle District of Florida has been flooded with thousands of wage-and-hour suits in recent years, leading the country in the cases.
Judges there, frustrated by missed deadlines by the two law firms that file the most cases, issued 120 "show cause"; orders essentially strong admonishments -- between March 2007 and March 2008 to nine lawyers.
At hearings held during the summer, the nine lawyers apologized to the court and outlined procedures they've put in place to improve their scheduling, including hiring more staff. One lawyer, Konstantine Pantas of the Pantas Law Firm, said he would no longer maintain a "high-volume" wage-and-hour case, and another switched to criminal law.
Yet another of the nine, Richard Celler of Morgan and Morgan, argued that his practice is needed because poor workers denied overtime have no other avenue. He pointed to a governmental report showing that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken far fewer of the cases in the last year or so.
Further, Celler argued that the judges' insistence that he and co-workers file an estimate of damages very early in the process, before employers turn over their pay records, is impossible.
In his order, Kelly stated that the conduct of Pantas and attorneys Carlos Leach of Morgan & Morgan and Charles Scalise, now of Ross Law in Austin, Texas, "rises to the level of reprimand" because of the number of orders to show cause they received between March 2007 through May 2008.
Leach received 46 in that period; Pantas, 45; and Scalise, 18.
Further, Kelly stated that if the three lawyers receive any future orders, they will be directed to the Florida Bar grievance committee for future discipline.
Both Morgan and Morgan and the Pantas Law Firm should continue to file a quarterly report "until the court is satisfied that the concerns raised within this proceeding have been resolved."
Leach, Pantas and Scalise did not return calls for comment.
Celler, who heads Morgan and Morgan¹s wage-and-hour division, said that "we appreciate the judge's taking the time and consideration as regard to all factors involved. Based on the court's ruling, we have some clear guidelines moving forward as to what is not acceptable and we intend to comply with the court's order to the letter moving forward."