Meteors. They move fast. They capture your attention. They flame out quickly though, don't they?
Yesterday, in a day that will live in Broward County legal infamy, Scott Rothstein was sued by his own partner, Stuart Rosenfeldt, and his own law firm, scores of reputable and decent lawyers. Bummer for us. Bummer for them.
The initial allegations, in a surprisingly sketchy and bareboned complaint, are that Rothstein has misappropriated investor funds, in the millions. There is sure more to come. Represented by Kendall Coffey, a former US Attorney, this is the most dramatic right cross to the Broward County legal community since our former Sheriff was indicted. Oh yes, and he now works there at that firm.
The complaint is here: http://static.cbslocal.com/station/wfor/files/rothstein.pdf
It gets worse. The Feds and the FBI are apparently now investigating Rothstein, who hired Mark Nurik, the chief criminal lawyer at RRA to represent himself. When the named and senior partner of a major law firm has to lawyer up, that does not bode well for the firm. Already, other prominent associates have fled the door, seeking to disassociate themselves from their tarnished affilliation.
It gets worse still. The Chief Judge of our district, Victor Tobin, yesterday morning at 6:45 a.m. circulated to all jurists an inadvertently illiterate memo warning everyone that the firm may be filing for bankruptcy immediately, and was seeking the appointment of a receiver. Victor's early morning misspellings was probably due to problems with his wide fingers on a small blackberry. The more important message was for judges to go easy on lawyers from RRA who may not show to court, since they may have to share their desks temporarily with FBI agents.
An abrupt bankruptcy however, and the appointment of a receiver, means that decent secretaries and honorable lawyers are not going to get paid this Friday. This means that there is going to be a frenzied effort by clients to want to know what the hell is going on with their cases, their files, their funds. The Tower of Power is collapsing and it stinks because it makes all lawyers look crooked and bad. As if we needed any help.
The last time I did a blog about Scott Rothstein it dealt with his foolish brouhaha and challenging scuffle with journalist Bob Norman. Rothstein was part bully and part bulldog, declaring petulantly he would sue anyone that dissed him untruthfully in the press. I pointed out that while he had that right if he could prove up libel, it did not look good for him or his firm that a statured partner was presenting himself to the community as a Bronx pugilist. Today, I suspect he has bigger problems.
At the time, I also wrote that Bob Norman is one of Broward County's most preeminent journalists, a bulldog of his own, and his daily blogs expose newsbreaking stories on a more timely basis than any of the daily newspapers. Today, he has one of his biggest stories, and that is before a shred of evidence or a single fact has yet actually been proven up in a court of law about the alleged misconduct of Scott Rothstein. Of course, 'yet' is the operative word. So there will be more to write. Just wait.
While the mainstream media will now jump into the picture, I suspect no one will develop more truthful information about the inner workings of the discombobulating firm in the days and weeks ahead than Bob Norman. He is probably being swamped with emails from a wealth of disappointed and startled lawyers with unique insight into what is unfortunately transpiring. But while some are saying 'I told you so,' and others are chortling with glee, none of this is good or healthy for any of us in the legal community. It makes all lawyers look rotten, and authenticates the wrongful influences and 'culture of corruption' that has permeated this county for so long.
Significantly, it is a culture exposed as much by journalists from the outside than lawyers on the inside. Really, where is Senator Sam Ervin when you need him? What did those lawyers know and when did they know it? Already, Buddy Nevins is listing on his blog the politicians who are rushing to return campaign donations from RRA to a receiver for the firm that has yet to be appointed. Always the rush to integrity after the fact.
What happens to the playbills at 'Broadway Across America' with the firm's name on it as the Fall theater season unfolds? What happens to those ads for charities at the Bank Atlantic Center during intermission at Florida Panther games? What happens to those pledges? the charities? Some, no, many! people are really going to get hurt here.
In legal circles, we talk about the appearance of impropriety. Today, we are again swimming in a sea of it. To those decent and honorable lawyers at the firm whose names are inappropriately being maligned in the oceans of 'guilt by association,' may you tread from those polluted waters and rise above them. The story everyone is writing about today is a pain intimately most yours.
Stuart Rosenfeldt may have summed up everyone's worst fears about RRA when he told the Sun-Sentinel yesterday that: ""I think we're going to go down in history in the same breath as [Bernie] Madoff." A very sincere and incisive admission from a good man enduring a bad thing.
In this county, regretfully, we have all survived worse, from self-indulgent million dollar parties at the now disbanded Port Commission to drunk Congressman dancing with strippers at nude bars, purportedly investigating the international drug trade. Yes, J. Herbert Burke, we remember you and Doug Danziger, too, the Vice Mayor who hated pornography but loved his prostitutes.
Scott Rothstein is just another story in the Naked City. The list goes on, from the International Gold Bullion Exchange to Mutual Benefits. There are 80,000 more of them. All we have done today is add another name.
AS THIS STORY IS UNFOLDING NATIONALLY AND IS BEING BLOGGED, WRITTEN UP, AND SPOKEN ABOUT BY ANYONE AND EVERYONE, THE BEST WAY TO UPDATE THE STORY IS JUST PUTTING IN SOME MAJOR LINKS TO THE BREAKING STORIES:
ABAJournal.com: “Miami Lawyer Says He Pointed Feds to Rothstein in Claimed $500M Scheme”
ABAJournal.com: "Rothstein Firm Seeks Allegedly Missing $100M to $185M; Is He in Morocco?"
ABAJournal.com: "Rothstein Rosenfeldt Seeks to Dissolve, Says MP Suspected of Wrongdoing Won’t Go"