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2008-70084 Florida Bar v Robert Joseph Ratiner

2008-70084 Florida Bar v Robert Joseph Ratiner

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Rambo-lawyer conduct including spitting tobacco in depositions deemed unprofessional by The Florida Bar
Rambo-lawyer conduct including spitting tobacco in depositions deemed unprofessional by The Florida Bar

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Published by: David Arthur Walters on Jan 22, 2011
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08/17/2011

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Supreme Court of Florida
____________No. SC08-689____________
THE FLORIDA BAR,
 Complainant,vs.
ROBERT JOSEPH RATINER,
 Respondent.[June 24, 2010]PER CURIAM.
We have for review a referee’s report recommending that respondent Robert
Joseph Ratiner, a member of The Florida Bar since 1990, be found guilty of professional misconduct and disciplined. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 15,Fla. Const.
For the reasons explained below, we approve the referee’s findings of fact
and recommendations as to guilt. We also approve the mitigating factors and theaggravating factors found by the referee. With regard to discipline, however, we
disapprove the referee’s alternative recommendations of disbarment or a two
-year
 
- 2 -suspension. Instead, we impose a public reprimand and a suspension of sixty days,
followed by two years’ probation with certain conditions.
 
BACKGROUND
The Florida Bar filed a complaint alleging ethical violations and seeking
discipline against respondent, who is plaintiffs’ counsel in a
civil suit against E.I.DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc. (DuPont) regarding alleged harm to plaintiffsfrom their exposure to Benlate. The Bar sought discipline for alleged misconductduring a deposition of a representative of DuPont that was held in Wilmington,Delaware, during May 14-
18, 2007. The Bar’s complaint charged respondent with
violations of the following Rules Regulating the Florida Bar: 3-4.3 (Misconductand Minor Misconduct); 3-4.4 (Criminal Misconduct); 4-3.5 (Disruption of aTribunal); 4-4.4(a) (In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that haveno substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person orknowingly use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such aperson.); 4-8.4(a) (A lawyer shall not violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do sothrough the acts of another.); 4-8.4(b) (A lawyer shall not commit a criminal actthat reflects adversely on the law
yer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a
lawyer in other respects.); 4-8.4(d) (A lawyer shall not engage in conduct inconnection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of 
 
- 3 - justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage,humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, orother lawyers on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race,ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexualorientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic.).After the filing of the complaint, the matter was referred to a referee. TheBar presented as evidence to the referee, without objection from respondent, thevideo recording and transcript of the entire five-day deposition. The Bar alsopresented as evidence to the referee, again without objection from respondent,
information about respondent’s 2006 diversion to the Bar’s practice and
professionalism enhancement program to resolve a grievance previously filedagainst him. The referee possessed all of this evidence prior to conducting thesummary judgment hearing. The parties then filed respective motions for partialsummary judgment on the issue of guilt. At the hearing on the motions for partialsummary judgment, the Bar clarified that its complaint was solely based on allegedmisconduct that was captured in a three-minute video clip involving aconfrontation between respondent and opposing counsel with regard to
respondent’s personal laptop computer (―laptop incident‖). The Bar affirmatively
advised the referee that it was limiting its complaint to the laptop incident and didnot intend to address any other video recordings or portions of the transcript from

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