How many times can one guy be delighted in a single soundbite:
Rivkind, Sotolongo and Wingate drew up the fee-splitting arrangement in February 2008, about a month after Wingate dropped his case portfolio, according to Stettin’s order.Peter Sotolongo, not so much:
“I conclude that it is a secret, self-serving and illegal arrangement intended as a means of evading this court’s order concerning Wingate’s claim to fees and costs from files which he abandoned,” Stettin wrote in an order issued late Monday.
The judge said there was no evidence to suggest that Rivkind had defied the court by entering into a fee arrangement that Stettin had barred.
“We’re delighted that Judge Stettin made the express finding that the Rivkind law firm did not engage in any conduct in violation of a court order, and we’re delighted that the judge did not find Mr. Rivkind in contempt,” said Rivkind’s attorney, Herman Russomanno of Russomanno & Borello in Miami.
But the judge slammed Sotolongo. Stettin wrote that the lawyer’s “misconduct was compounded by his false, misleading testimony” during a Jan. 15 deposition.Oy.
During the deposition, Sotolongo estimated he received about $20,000 under the fee-splitting arrangement. But Stettin concluded the actual amount was about $114,000 after he examined fee agreement contracts in 27 cases. The judge on Tuesday ordered the attorneys to send their fees to the court clerk’s office.
“The disparity is too large to suggest it was simply a memory lapse,” the judge wrote. “Sotolongo’s lack of candor is not attributable to simple negligence or a bad memory.”
The judge held Sotolongo, who was Wingate’s associate, and Wingate in contempt. Stettin noted he was referring the matter to The Florida Bar for investigation.
Judge Stettin should be enjoying his retirement, instead he's got a crazy case like this to preside over? And I have a sneaking suspicion this whole mess is not quite over.