By Dan Lewis For EyesOnNews.com, Mar. 31, 2015 – In a story first reported by Broward Beat, conspiracy, perjury and cover-up by the Florida Bar and the Judicial Qualifications Commission now target Broward County Circuit Court Judge Laura Watson.
Between 2002 and 2004, several people were wronged by an insurance company. After a lot of litigation, the insurance company reluctantly paid their claims. Because a few had sued for bad faith – an action that could mean the insurance companies would owe lots of money in excess of the original claim amount. The few who sued for bad faith got more money in the settlement.
Long before she was elected to the bench, Laura Watson – along with other attorneys – represented individual clients for the underlying insurance claims. Attorney Larry Stewart was hired by the few people who together sued for bad faith. The individual attorneys and Stewart had an agreement which would split their fees on the bad faith claim, an agreement that would not affect their client’s recovery.
When the insurance company settled in 2004, it settled each person’s underlying insurance claim individually – and the bad faith claim which was brought jointly by only a few clients. All clients received the maximum legally allowable settlement for their underlying claim plus interest. Attorney’s fees did not come out of the clients’ money and was settled separately and individually.
The joint bad faith settlement was approved by the affected clients as to both the amount and the distribution of settlement proceeds to each party and the attorneys working on it.
Stewart, apparently without entitlement agreements to any compensation from the underlying insurance claims wanted to share in the attorney’s fees for those actions even though he was only retained to work on the bad faith claim. In 2008, Stewart sued the attorneys to get more money. Even though Stewart was fired by the bad faith clients and the other attorneys among other reasons for obstructing the case, a judge believed that Stewart should get something for his time because he “participated” in “helping” the matters settle. The judge making the ruling was not only a friend of Stewart but received political support from him in the past. Whether this relationship impacted the Judge’s findings of ethical breaches absent the required evidentiary hearing is unknown.
When Stewart failed to collect his judgment against the attorneys personally, he allegedly conspired with the Florida Bar and the Judicial Qualifications Commission to act like his personal collection agency to force “restitution” from the attorneys in violation of BAR and JQC established professional rules and ethical standards. To keep evidence of this improper conduct secret and away from the attorneys, attorneys of the Florida Bar and the JQC appear to have committed perjury. When evidence of this perjury was revealed, Watson filed a motion with the Florida Supreme Court to find the BAR and the JQC guilty of criminal contempt for their actions.
Judge Watson’s 70 page motion and 600 page appendix vividly show how the Florida Bar and the JQC, through insider manipulation, allegedly have become corrupt organizations within the legal profession in Florida. Watson has asked the Florida Supreme Court to step in, penalize the improper conduct, and enforce established rules and standards – and in so doing, help the Florida Bar and the JQC return to their proper roles.
Dan Lewis of Strategic Technologies Research, Inc., in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a former elected Miramar commissioner, Chair of the Broward County Charter Review Commission as well as many City, School Board and County public advisory boards over the last three decades. The opinions expressed here are his own and not that of EyesOnNews.