“I believed in our constitution and our heritage of honor, liberty, and justice so strongly that I joined the armed forces when I was seventeen and served for six years. I went to law school because I hoped that I could help people who needed an attorney, and in law school I was taught that when a trial judge makes the wrong decision, the appellate courts should rectify it. Apparently, I am incredibly naive.”
Justice for All or Justice for Sale?
Mark Adams was the attorney retained by Jeffey Smith, a sales employee of Corporate Sports Marketing Group (CSM) of Florida, who quit his job rather than sign a "non-competition" agreement as a condition of future employment. At the time, Smith was allegedly owed $20,000 in commissions which CSM refused to pay.
Adams filed suit of behalf of Smith in state court in Pinellas County, Florida, against CSM for breach of contract. After many procedural moves and statements by CSM management about how well connected their Battaglia firm attorneys were, the case ended with Smith and Adams sanctioned for $20,000 each by Judge Crockett Farnell.
Devastated, Smith in the end settled by paying $15,000, but Adams appealed his sanction, using a writ of prohibition.
A Second District Court of Appeals panel quickly issued a stay of proceedings in Judge Farnell's court and ordered Farnell to show cause for his actions. But the clerk failed to communicate the show cause order to Farnell. A separate Second District panel then denied the writ of prohibition without a written opinion, but it did not lift the stay issued by the original panel. Judge Farnell then issued an order for Adams' arrest.
Adams filed a motion with the Second District to enforce the never-released stay on Judge Farnell's action. That motion disappeared from the clerk's system. When Adams pushed to have it found again, it was construed to be a second request for a writ of prohibition, and it was entered into the system with a date later than the original filing date, but before its disappearance was reported to the clerk. The Second District Court then ordered the stay removed.
Realizing that the arrest order occurred during the duration of the stay and therefore was void, the Battaglia firm asked for a rehearing. Without giving Adams a chance to respond, the Second District declared that the stay had been lifted when they originally denied the writ of prohibition. Adams' counsel persuaded Judge Farnell to videotape Adams' trial on March 26, 2004.
At the trial, which was attended by about 20 witnesses, Judge Farnell agreed that a conflict of interest existed in the fact that the Battaglia firm was both serving as a witness and prosecution in the trial. Judge Farnell then asked the Florida State Attorney to prosecute the contempt citation, and the trial was deferred. Florida has an abysmal law that allows appeals courts to avoid review of their decisions if they refuse to explain their ruling. Florida calls this practice "per curiam affirmance."
On December 20, 2004, after months of emotional strain, lost income, and attorney's fees for the Adams family and on the day before the contempt trial for Mark Adams Judge Farnell recused himself from hearing the contempt charges. As of this writing in early January, 2005, Adams is waiting to hear when the trial will be rescheduled [see below].
Hear Mark Adams' story in his own words as he is interviewed by Fintan Dunne on October 14, 2005 for Break for News (39 min). Source: http://www.breakfornews.com/Audio.htm/..., (accessed 08/30/07).
The Florida Bar v. Mark A. Adams
Earlier, Adams had moved to disqualify Judge Crockett Farnell on evidence that clients of attorney Timothy W. Weber of the St. Petersburg law firm of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & Wein, P.A., had repeatedly boasted that Weber was "connected" and could influence the judge. Adams was also aware that Farnell was capable of glossing over the law to rule in favor of Weber's clients. Neither was pleased with Adams' conduct.
In a retaliatory move, belatedly taken more than nine months after Judge Farnell had accepted Adams' withdrawal as attorney for Jeffrey Smith, Weber sought to bring sanctions against Adams, and Farnell obliged him by entering a judgment and an order granting those sanctions.
The sanctions, entered without apparent jurisdiction or due process, were also in conflict with the law and the facts, and Adams moved to have them vacated. His motion included a protective order seeking to stay discovery in aid of execution of the sanctions judgment. Weber countered with a document asking the judge to charge Adams with indirect criminal contempt, and once again Farnell obliged by issuing an order charging Adams with indirect criminal contempt on October 1, 2003.
Although Judge Farnell had previously denied Adams' motions to disqualify him, he did disqualify himself from Adams' criminal contempt proceeding when he learned that a TV news reporter wanted to cover the contempt trial. With a new judge presiding, the criminal contempt charges brought against Adams were dismissed on November 28, 2005 by Judge Robert Beach. But the financial burden of his defense had taken a toll, and Adams was forced to file for bankruptcy that same year.
Ultimately, however, in the Florida Bar's action against Adams, Judge Gregory Holder ruled that Adams was guilty of all charges the Bar had brought against him including the contempt charges that the Bar's only witness testified had been dismissed. The Florida Bar cruelly labeled Adams "a danger to the public," claimed he was incompetent, permanently disbarred him effective August 13, 2007 and imposed a fine of nearly $9,000.
The Florida Bar's pursuit of Adams may have been motivated, in part, by his aggressive opposition to Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, who was elected Florida's Governor on November 7, 2006. As an attorney for Max Linn, the Reform Party candidate, Adams had filed lawsuits that won Linn the opportunity to participate in major debates for the gubernatorial race. Adams is also an outspoken critic of Florida's questionable election practices and continues to actively campaign to reform the state's electoral process .
What began as an attempt by Adams to obtain justice for a client by seeking to recuse a judge who appeared to be in league with the opposing attorney, ended with Adams being disbarred and unable to earn a livelihood by practicing the profession to which he had dedicated his career. This lesson is not lost to attorneys who would dare challenge those from entrenched law firms who have good working relationships with fraternal cohorts who have been elevated to the bench and whose political views they share.
In a 2008 video, Adams shows how the Florida Supreme Court uniquely and improperly supported the Florida Bar's politically-motivated action to disbar him by issuing court orders signed only by the Clerk of Court, whereas Florida law requires the concurrence of a fixed number of named judges as necessary to decide a case .
Mark Adams, "How to Take Action on Holt and Fix our Elections," OpEdNews, September 19, 2007, http://www.opednews.com/..., accessed 10/08/07.
Mark Adams, "'Justice' in Florida's Supreme Court," [Video] October 9, 2008, http://blip.tv/file/1339250, accessed 02/27/09.
Text taken, in part, from an abbreviated account of the case of Jeffrey Smith and Mark A. Adams. For further information, see http://rule-of-law.info/adams-smith.htm (accessed 02/09/05) and http://www.msnusers.com/FloridaBarvAdams/_whatsnew.msnw (accessed 08/30/07). The Empire Journal also features an account of the Mark Adams case. See: http://www.theempirejournal.com (accessed 08/22/05).