The Florida Bar v. Cosnow, SC96262.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation797 So.2d 1255
Docket NumberNo. SC96262.,SC96262.
PartiesTHE FLORIDA BAR, Complainant, v. Jeffrey Evan COSNOW, Respondent.
Decision Date11 October 2001

797 So.2d 1255

THE FLORIDA BAR, Complainant,
Jeffrey Evan COSNOW, Respondent

No. SC96262.

Supreme Court of Florida.

October 11, 2001.

John F. Harkness, Jr., Executive Director, and John Anthony Boggs, Division Director, Tallahassee, FL, and Brett Alan Geer, Assistant Staff Counsel, Tampa, FL, for Complainant.

Jeffrey E. Cosnow, pro se, Palm Harbor, FL, for Respondent.

797 So.2d 1256

We have for review a referee's report regarding alleged ethical breaches by Jeffrey Evan Cosnow. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 15, Fla. Const. Although we affirm the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of guilt, we disapprove of the referee's recommended discipline. Due to Cosnow's prior suspension and multiple misconduct we suspend Cosnow from the practice of law for sixty days and thereafter place him on probation for one year.

The Bar filed a complaint against Cosnow alleging that in his representation of Sharon Robinson he violated Rules Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.1 (a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client), and 4-1.7(a) (prohibition against representing adverse interests). The Bar then sent a request for admissions. Cosnow's answer to the request admitted all material facts. Thereafter, Cosnow filed his motion for summary judgment and attendant affidavit arguing that the facts did not amount to the rule violations alleged by the Bar. The Bar filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that the facts demonstrated that Cosnow was guilty of violating the aforementioned rules. The referee conducted a summary judgment hearing on November 8, 1999, found no genuine issues of material fact, and granted the Bar's cross-motion for summary judgment. The referee's report reflects her findings of fact, conclusions of guilt, and recommendation as to discipline:

III. Findings of Fact:

Pursuant to a court order dated March 7, 1989, Ms. Sharon Robinson was granted temporary legal custody of her grandson, Dustin R. Carroll, who had been born out of wedlock on or about April 22, 1987. (Hereinafter, Dustin Carroll will be referred to as "the child"). Ms. Robinson's daughter, Stephanie Reed ("Ms. Reed"), was the child's birth mother, and Ronald Swango ("Swango") was the child's putative father. On or about September 12, 1997, Swango was killed in a vehicular accident involving Ms. Rita Frappier ("Ms. Frappier"); as such, Swango's estate accrued a potential cause of action for wrongful death against Ms. Frappier.
On September 16, 1997, Ms. Robinson entered into three separate retainer agreements with Respondent: one covered Respondent's representation in paternity and guardianship proceedings relating to the child; another related to the administration of Swango's estate; and the third covered Respondent's representation relating to a claim for damages for Swango's wrongful death. On December 5, 1997, Respondent filed a paternity action in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in and for Pinellas County (Case No. 97-11684-FD-23), which petition named Ms. Frappier and Ms. Reed as individual defendants. However, the only party that could have been a proper defendant to the paternity action was the estate of Ronald W. Swango and/or the personal representative of Swango's estate. On March 10, 1998, the court dismissed Ms. Frappier from the paternity action as an improper party.
Respondent also filed a guardianship action in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in and for Pinellas County (Case No. 98-1578-GD), within which Respondent prayed that Ms. Robinson be appointed to act as the child's guardian. By virtue of the court order of March, 1987[sic], Ms. Robinson already was the child's legal guardian. On March 26, 1998, Respondent wrote a letter to Ms. Robinson advising that he was withdrawing as attorney of record in the guardianship proceeding, but that he would remain as counsel in the paternity action, in the probate action involving Swango's estate,
797 So.2d 1257
and in the wrongful death action. The next day, Ms. Robinson delivered to Respondent a letter by which she demanded that he cease and desist from performing any further legal representation in any matter pertaining to herself or the child.
On April 3, 1998, Respondent filed a "Motion to Substitute Next Friend" in the paternity action, in which pleading Respondent asserted that he had been retained to represent the legal interests of the child by Ms. Reed, the child's mother. Respondent knew or should have known that the legal interests of Ms. Robinson and Ms. Reed were directly and materially adverse in any action that involved the care, control, custody, or representation of the minor child. By virtue of the March, 1987[sic] court order, Ms. Reed was not qualified to supersede Ms. Robinson as representative or guardian of the child, a fact that Respondent knew or should have known. Ms. Robinson then retained Susan C.

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12 cases
  • The Florida Bar v. Rapoport, SC01-73.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • February 20, 2003
    ...761 So.2d 1049, 1051 (Fla.2000). Furthermore, the standard of review on summary judgment orders is de novo. See Florida Bar v. Cosnow, 797 So.2d 1255, 1258 (Fla.2001). Lastly, we are aware that rule 1.510(c) has been interpreted to require hearings on motions for summary judgments. See Kozi......
  • The Florida Bar v. Pape, SC04-40.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • November 17, 2005
    ...that if the issue presented in a decision is a pure question of law, the decision is subject to de novo review); Fla. Bar v. Cosnow, 797 So.2d 1255, 1258 (Fla.2001) (concluding that whether the attorney's admitted actions constitute unethical conduct is a question of law). The facts are not......
  • City of Cooper City v. Joliff, 4D16-2504.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • September 27, 2017 the special assessments at issue in this case. We review the court's order granting summary judgment de novo . Fla. Bar v. Cosnow , 797 So.2d 1255, 1258 (Fla. 2001). However, we are required to give greater deference to the legislative body that imposed the assessment. Sarasota Church of......
  • Wilshire Ins. Co. v. Poinciana Grocer, Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • November 7, 2014
    ...of review on summary judgment orders is de novo.” Fla. Bar v. Rapoport, 845 So.2d 874, 877 (Fla.2003) (citing Fla. Bar v. Cosnow, 797 So.2d 1255, 1258 (Fla.2001) ). “Summary judgment is 151 So.3d 57proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if the moving party is entitled to a......
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