On Monday, April 24, 2023, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommended the suspension of attorney J. Antonio Florence. The case is entitled “In the Matter of J. Antonio Florence,” and was brought by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel with case no. 21-DB-004.

The charges cited Lousiana Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.5(f)(5), 8.4(a), 8.4(c), 8.4(d), 3.4(a), 4.3, 8.4(d), and 8.1(a).

The respondent was alleged to have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct as follows: failure to refund an unearned fee; attempted violation of the rules and knowingly assisting or inducing another to do so; dishonesty; fraud; deceit; misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; unlawful obstruction of another party’s access to evidence; improper dealing with unrepresented persons, and making false statements to disciplinary authorities.

The filing states:

“The client later filed a disciplinary complaint against Respondent seeking among other things a refund of fees. During the ensuing investigation, Mr. Gilliam advised ODC that the Respondent approached him and asked him (Gilliam) to sign an affidavit falsely certifying that the Respondent had never agreed to represent Kennon. Gilliam refused to sign the affidavit. Although he acknowledged to ODC that he had accepted the fees, the Respondent nonetheless refused to return any portion of the fees or refer the matter to LSBA Fee Arbitration, claiming that he had earned all fees he had been paid. He insisted that he never agreed to represent the client, but had simply referred the case to Gilliam.”

The filing continues:

“As Ms. Green and Ms. Harris began talking to the victim, the Respondent situated himself in the hallway a few feet away from where the women were standing which permitted him to overhear their conversation. After a brief interval, he attempted to intercede to prevent the interview. He approached the women and began shouting objections to the interview continuing. He then physically menaced the assistant district attorney, stepping into the space between the women, and advised the victim that she did not have to talk to the assistant district attorney or the victim assistance counselor. Witnesses indicate that the respondent became so physically aggressive and verbally abusive that he had to be removed from the scene by law enforcement officers situated nearby.”

The filing further states:

“When the Respondent failed to appear at several scheduled pre-trial court hearings during 2017, the client terminated his services and later filed a disciplinary complaint against the Respondent demanding that he withdraw and seeking the return of the fee. The respondent withdrew from the case prior to trial on August 9, 2017, after receiving the disciplinary complaint, and the client was appointed counsel by the court. During his July 26, 2018, sworn statement to ODC, Respondent testified that he initially quoted a $10,000 fixed fee to the client’s sister, and tendered two separate invoices dated January 12, 2017, purportedly sent to the client’s sister and reflecting a fixed fee. Although he was shown the initial November 1, 2016 invoice for $5000 (which he acknowledged to be genuine), he was unable to credibly explain the variance in the two sets of documents.”

In light of the abovementioned rules of professional conduct and factual findings, the Board adopted the committee’s findings and conclusion. The Board recommends that the respondent be suspended for two years, with all but one year deferred, subject to the conditions. Additionally, the Board recommends that the respondent be assessed with the costs and expenses of the proceedings.

Mr. Florence practices in Shreveport, Louisiana. He is licensed in Louisiana. His info can be found on lawyersfindlaw.com.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.