On Thursday, July 6, 2023, the Supreme Court of Florida suspended attorney J. Matthew Thorstad, based on the uncontested report of the referee finding Thorstad engaged in misconduct by knowingly issuing improper subpoenas and concealing their existence from the affected parties and their counsel.
The case is entitled “The Florida Bar v. J. Matthew Thorstad,” case no, SC2022-1575.
The charges cited Thorstad’s violation of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, Rules 4-1.1 (Competence), 4-3.4(c) (A lawyer must not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal), 4-4.4(a) (In representing a client, a lawyer may not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person or knowingly use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person), 4-8.4(a) (A lawyer shall not violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct), 4-8.4(c) (A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation), and 4-8.4(d) (A lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice).
The Rule Regulating the Florida Bar can be found here.
In a Complaint filed November 11, 2022, The Florida Bar accused Thorstad of engaging in misconduct in his representation of the defendant in a libel case styled George B. Lilly v. Nicholas Bessenroth, a/k/a Nicholas Bruno Bessenroth.
The Complaint provides details of the contempt proceedings, including the issuance of subpoenas by Thorstad to Tennessee mental health providers without following proper procedures or obtaining necessary permissions. The court found that Thorstad failed to comply with the rules of civil procedure, did not provide advance notice to the plaintiff, and purposely did not serve opposing counsel or the affected parties with copies of the subpoenas. The court considered Thorstad’s actions as a willful and intentional violation of court orders and a disregard for the rights and privileges of a non-party’s mental health records.
Based on these acts, The Florida Bar concluded that Thorstad’s actions are willful and intentional violations of court orders and the rules of professional conduct.
Following an investigation of the matter, Referee Judge Phoebee Rebecca Francois issued its Report outlining its findings that Thorstad knowingly issued improper subpoenas to a third-party health provider in Tennessee with the objective of obtaining records directly from them. The investigation found that Thorstad’s conduct resulted in him being held in indirect criminal contempt and civil contempt in July 2018.
Based on the evidence presented, a Conditional Guilty Plea for Consent Judgment for Discipline, as outlined in the report, was approved and signed by both Thorstad and bar counsel. The consent judgment includes a 91-day suspension from practicing law and an obligation to bear the costs associated with the disciplinary proceedings.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Florida accepted the uncontested report of the referee.
The Disposition reads:
“The uncontested report of the referee is approved and respondent is suspended from the practice of law for ninety-one days, effective thirty days from the date of this order so that respondent can close out his practice and protect the interests of existing clients.”
Thorstad is also directed to comply with all other terms and conditions outlined in the report and consent judgment. Furthermore, the Court ordered Thorstad to pay The Florida Bar $1,265.75 in costs, and execution can be issued to collect this amount.
Mr. J. Matthew Thorstad attended St. Thomas University School of Law, graduating in 2011. He maintained his sole practice in Jupiter, prior to the suspension and he has been admitted to the practice of law in Florida. Thorstad’s info can be found on Avvo.com.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.