IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA Before a Referee THE FLORIDA BAR by tyndale

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									                  IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA
                            (Before a Referee)

THE FLORIDA BAR,
                                                  Case no.: SC06-1948
      Complainant,                           [TFB No. 2006-31,651 (07B)]

v.

GREGG ADAM STEINBERG,

          Respondent.
________________________________/

                         REPORT OF THE REFEREE

I.    SUMMARY OF THE PROCEEDINGS

      The Supreme Court of Florida appointed the undersigned to serve as Referee

to conduct disciplinary proceedings in this matter. See Rule 3-7.6, Rules of

Discipline. The procedural history of this Referee proceeding follows.

      (a) On October 5, 2006, The Florida Bar filed its complaint against

Respondent Gregg Adam Steinberg.

      (b) Respondent answered the Complaint on November 22, 2006, admitting

paragraphs 1 through 5 of the Complaint, and denying paragraphs 6 and 7.1


1
   By his answer, Respondent admitted that he prepared and signed a subpoena in a
non-existent case in order to obtain the personal cellular telephone records of a
Benjamin A. Cothren, an individual with whom he believed his wife to be having
an extramarital affair. See paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Complaint. By his answer,
Respondent denied that he falsified the subpoena solely to gain information about
Mr. Cothren's relationship with Respondent's wife; that he was not involved in any
litigation in any legal proceeding involving Mr. Cothren; that he had no legal right
      (c) The Florida Bar noticed a Case Management Conference for November

29, 2006.

      (d) Following the case management conference, the Court, on December 4,

2006, issued its Report on Case Management Conference of November 29, 2006.

      (e) Respondent deposed Mr. Benjamin A. Cothren on December 14, 2006,

and served Respondent's Notice of Filing Deposition of Benjamin A. Cothren on

February 20, 2007.

      (f) By Objection to Issuance of Subpoena and/or Motion for Protective

Order, served January 24, 2007, the Florida Bar objected to Respondent's

deposition of his former wife, Rebecca Koon, formerly known as Rebecca

Steinberg.




to issue the subpoena; and that his actions violated specified provisions of the
Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. See paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Complaint.

                                     Page 2 of 26
      (g) The Florida Bar propounded written interrogatories to Respondent on

December 21, 2006, and Respondent, on January 8, 2007, filed a Notice of Filing

Response to Complainant's Written Interrogatories to Respondent. On February 8,

2007, Respondent filed a Supplement to Respondent Gregg Adam Steinberg's

Response to Complainant's Written Interrogatories to Respondent, adding the name

of a new witness (Dr. Sherry Risch) to those names previously furnished by him to

The Florida Bar.

      (h) The first phase of the evidentiary hearing in this case was held on

February 20, 2007. The Court received sworn testimony from The Florida Bar’s

witness Benjamin Cothren and from Respondent's witnesses The Honorable John

Alexander (appearing pursuant to subpoena, as required by the Code of Judicial

Conduct) and the Honorable Charles Tinlin (also appearing pursuant to subpoena),

both of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, where Respondent practices law; Steven

Alexander, Esquire, former State Attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit; Judith

Shine, Esquire, an attorney who practices primarily family law in the Seventh

Judicial Circuit; and Respondent Gregg Adam Steinberg, Esquire. Counsel for the

parties also agreed that the Court could consider a brief letter dated February 14,

2007, from Sherry V. Risch, Ph.D., a psychologist whom Respondent saw on four

occasions. At the hearing, Respondent submitted to the Referee and opposing

counsel a Memorandum of Law in Support of Respondent.
         (i) At the February 20th hearing, the Court received into evidence the

following exhibits:

                          For Complainant The Florida Bar:

Complainant’s         Mr. Cothren's complaint against Respondent, with attachments
Exhibit 1
Complainant’s         April 7, 2006, letter from Respondent to Bar Counsel Frances
Exhibit 2             Brown-Lewis, with an attached Affidavit executed by
                      Respondent and provided by him to the St. Johns County
                      Sheriff's Office
Complainant’s         April 11, 2006, letter from Mr. Cothren, responding to
Exhibit 3             Respondent's letter contained in Exhibit 2, above

                       For Respondent Gregg Adam Steinberg:

Respondent’s          February 14, 2007, letter from Sherry V. Risch, Ph.D., to
Exhibit 1             Referee regarding Respondent
Respondent’s          Agenda for Practice and Professionalism Enhancement
Exhibit 2             Program voluntarily completed by Respondent

         (j) After the hearing, on February 26, 2007, The Florida Bar filed its First

Affidavit of Costs.

         (k) After advising counsel for the parties that she would be recommending

to the Supreme Court of Florida that it find that Respondent violated specified

disciplinary rules, the Referee scheduled a second hearing to consider aggravating

and mitigating factors concerning the discipline she would recommend to the

Court.


                                       Page 4 of 26
      (l) The Referee, with the concurrence of the parties, requested, and this

Court granted, an extension of time until April 30, 2007, within which to submit

the Report of the Referee to the Court.

      (m) The second (aggravation/mitigation) evidentiary hearing occurred on

March 29, 2007. The Court received sworn testimony from the Honorable John

Alexander, the Honorable Wendy Berger, the Honorable Charles Tinlin, and the

Respondent.

      (n) On April 4, 2007, the Florida Bar filed its Second Affidavit of Costs.

Counsel for Respondent communicated to both the Court and counsel for The

Florida Bar that Respondent did not object to any of the costs sought by The

Florida Bar.

      All pleadings, discovery, exhibits received in evidence, and other documents

described above, together with this Report, constitute the record in this case and

are forwarded to the Supreme Court of Florida.

II.   FINDINGS OF FACT

      The Referee finds, by clear and convincing evidence, 2 that:

      A. Jurisdictional Statement

2
  The Court makes additional findings of fact in connection with Section V
(“Personal History, Past Disciplinary Action, and Aggravating and Mitigating
Factors”) of this Report of the Referee. Those findings of fact, like the ones in this
section, are based on clear and convincing evidence.
                                     Page 5 of 26
       Respondent is, and at all times mentioned during this investigation was, a

member of The Florida Bar, subject to the jurisdiction and disciplinary rules cited

in this report.

       B. Narrative Summary of Case

       Respondent Gregg Adam Steinberg, a former assistant state attorney and a

member of The Florida Bar for fourteen (14) years, manufactured a fraudulent

subpoena in a non-existent criminal case and mailed it to Sprint, a cellular

telephone company. He did this in order to obtain the personal cellular telephone

records of Benjamin A. Cothren, whom he believed to be involved in an intimate

relationship with his [Respondent's] estranged wife. At the time Respondent

prepared and mailed the false subpoena, he was not a party to a dissolution of

marriage action or any other action, and he was not counsel of record in any case

which would entitle him to use the subpoena power of the Court to obtain Mr.

Cothren's private cell phone records. The caption of the fictitious subpoena was

State v. Vincent James Stoudamire, case no. MM04-1564, Division 56, in the

County Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, in and for St. Johns County, Florida.

See exhibit 4 for The Florida Bar. The case number was that of an actual but

unrelated criminal (driving under the influence) case. The criminal division was




                                     Page 6 of 26
that of an actual criminal division, that of The Honorable Robert Mathis.3 The

name of the "defendant" was entirely fictitious, having been drawn from a

television show which Respondent had viewed.

      Pursuant to the false subpoena, Respondent obtained Mr. Cothren's personal

cellular telephone records for a two-year period from January 1, 2002, through

February 29, 2004. 4 Although there is no evidence that Respondent used the

3
  The issuance of a subpoena with the case number and the division number of a
real case and a real division had the potential to interfere with the administration of
justice in that case.
4
  The Referee rejects the suggestion, made during the hearings, that the fraud
Respondent committed is somehow less egregious because it is possible to obtain a
third party’s cell phone records through companies which advertise their ability,
for a fee, to obtain these protected records.

        The Washington Post is among those newspapers which have published
articles reporting that such companies obtain cell phone records by one of three
illicit methods: computer hacking, pretext (pretending to be the customer), and
bribery of telephone company employees. See, e.g., “Online Data Gets Personal:
Cell Phone Records for Sale,” The Washington Post (July 8, 2005). These articles,
of course, are not part of the record of these proceedings, and the Referee does not
consider them in connection with these proceedings.

       The Referee also rejects the suggestion, made during the hearings, that the
fraud Respondent committed is somehow less egregious because, during his
subsequent dissolution of marriage proceeding, he might have been able to
lawfully issue a subpoena to obtain the same records. First, that one may take an
action lawfully under specified circumstances does not permit one to take the same
action unlawfully when those circumstances do not exist. Second, had Respondent
sought to subpoena Mr. Cothren’s records in a dissolution of marriage action, he
would have been required to provide a 10-day notice to counsel for Respondent’s
wife, and opposing counsel would have had an opportunity to object that, under
Florida case law, marital misconduct (the issue to which the records would relate)
                                     Page 7 of 26
records he obtained in his subsequent dissolution of marriage action, he did use

them to confront and challenge his wife regarding her assertion that she was not

having an affair with Mr. Cothren.

       Although he has not been prosecuted criminally, Respondent's acts appear to

violate Section 843.0855(3), Fla. Stat. ("Criminal actions under color of law or

through use of simulated legal process") which, in material part, provides that any

person who simulates legal process, including, but not limited to, a subpoena,

knowing or having reason to know the contents of such document to be fraudulent,

commits a felony of the third degree. The knowing use of the United States mail to

perpetrate a fraud also likely constitutes a violation of federal mail fraud laws.

III. RECOMMENDATION AS TO GUILT

       The undersigned Referee recommends that Respondent Gregg Adam

Steinberg be found guilty of violating the following Rules Regulating the Florida

Bar:

[Rest of page intentionally left blank to accommodate chart on next page.]



would only be relevant if Respondent’s wife had dissipated marital assets in
connection with the relationship. Third, had Respondent sought to subpoena such
records in a dissolution of marriage action, he would have been required to notify
Mr. Cothren prior to issuance of the subpoena, and Mr. Cothren would have had
not only notice but an opportunity to be heard on his objections to the subpoena.
Finally, a court ruling would have been required on any objection by Mr. Cothren
or by counsel for Respondent’s wife.
                                     Page 8 of 26
3-4.3          Committing any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and
               justice, whether the act is committed in the course of the attorney's
               relations as an attorney or otherwise, whether committed within or
               without the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or
               misdemeanor
4-8.4(b)       Committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's
               honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects
4-8.4(c)       Engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or
               misrepresentation
4-8.4(d)       Engaging in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is
               prejudicial to the administration of justice

IV.     RECOMMENDATION AS TO DISCIPLINARY
        MEASURES TO BE APPLIED

        The undersigned Referee recommends that Respondent Gregg Adam

Steinberg be found guilty of misconduct justifying disciplinary measures, and that

he be disciplined by:

             A. Suspension for 91 days from the practice of law.

             B. Payment of the Florida Bar's costs in these proceedings.

             C. Required psychiatric evaluation and successful completion of any

             mental health treatment which may be recommended by the

             evaluation.

V.      PERSONAL HISTORY, PAST DISCIPLINARY RECORD,
        AND AGGRAVATING AND MITIGATING FACTORS




                                     Page 9 of 26
        Prior to recommending discipline pursuant to Rule 3-7.6(k)(1), the

undersigned Referee considered the following:

        A. Personal History of Respondent.

        Respondent is 40 years old. He was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1993.

        B. Aggravating Factors

        The Court has reflected upon "all circumstances involving considerations or

factors that may justify an increase in the degree of discipline to be imposed," see

Rule 9.21 (definition of "aggravation"), The Florida Bar's Standards for Imposing

Lawyer Sanctions ("Standards"), including all aggravating factors described in the

Standards. The Court finds that the following constitute aggravating factors in this

case.

              (i) Selfish motive.

        Respondent's motive in violating the involved Bar rules was a selfish one: to

obtain protected information about Mr. Cothren to enable Respondent to

demonstrate, to himself, his wife, and/or the Court in his impending dissolution of

marriage action, that his wife was engaged in an extramarital affair.

              (ii) Substantial experience in the practice of law.

        The Respondent was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1993. He was




                                     Page 10 of 26
employed for four years in the State Attorney's Office, and for ten years in private

practice. As an experienced attorney who had prosecuted fraud cases, Respondent

understood the gravity of his offense in falsifying a subpoena in a non-existent case

to obtain private records which he was not legally entitled to obtain. Respondent at

the hearing admitted that he knew at the time he issued the subpoena that his

actions were wrong. 5

      Not every violation of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar

constitutes a crime. Respondent's conduct in this case, however, violates a

criminal statute which makes the issuance of a fraudulent subpoena a third-degree

felony offense, punishable by a maximum of five years in the Florida State Prison.

The conduct is particularly shocking, and damaging to both the legal profession

and public regard for it, because Respondent was previously employed as an

assistant state attorney who was charged with the responsibility for prosecuting

criminal offenses.

5
  His actions were not the impulse of a moment: to improperly obtain Mr.
Cothren's cell phone records, Respondent engaged in a series of calculated actions.
He performed Internet research to locate the address of Sprint corporate
headquarters. He drafted and typed a fictitious subpoena in a fictitious criminal
case, inserting for the name of the defendant a name he had heard on a television
program. He added a random case number which in fact was an actual case
number belonging to an unrelated defendant in an unrelated driving under the
influence case. See page 2 of Mr. Cothren's letter in The Florida Bar's exhibit 1.
He added a division number assigned to the Honorable Robert Mathis. Finally, he
addressed an envelope, added a stamp, and mailed the false subpoena to Sprint.
                                    Page 11 of 26
      As an experienced attorney formerly employed as an assistant state attorney,

Respondent understood that a subpoena is an order of the Court. See, e.g., Villate

v. State, 663 So.2d 672, 672 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995)(in contempt matters, "[t]he

essential inquiry is whether the defendant intentionally failed to comply with the

subpoena or other court order;" italics in original deleted; new italics added).

Indeed, the very language of Respondent's false subpoena invokes the power and

authority of the Court. In capital letters, beneath the name of the Court, it advises

the receiving non-party: "YOU ARE COMMANDED" and "YOU ARE

SUBPOENAED" [to deliver documents]. See The Florida Bar's exhibit 4.

      A subpoena is backed by the authority of the Court to enforce the commands

of the subpoena. Courts enforce lawful subpoenae through, among other vehicles,

their contempt powers. See Rule 1.410(f), Fla. R. Civ. P. ("Subpoena")("Failure by

any person without adequate excuse to obey a subpoena served upon that person

may be deemed a contempt of the court from which the subpoena issued.")

Creating a false subpoena commanding compliance usurps the judicial prerogative,

and violates the sanctity of court proceedings, as surely as does the use of a judicial

stamp to falsify court orders. See The Florida Bar v. Salnik, 599 So.2d 101 (Fla.

1992)(attorney disbarred for using judge's conforming stamp on fraudulent final

judgments in eviction cases).


                                     Page 12 of 26
        The use of a fraudulent subpoena in this case victimized Mr. Cothren, who

suffered the invasion of his personal records by one intensely hostile to him;

Respondent’s wife, whom Respondent challenged with the unlawfully-obtained

records; and the legal profession itself, which is damaged whenever officers of the

court misuse official process for their own ends.

        C. Mitigating factors

        The Court has reflected upon all "circumstances involving considerations or

factors that may justify a reduction in the degree of discipline to be imposed," see

Rule 9.31 (definition of "mitigation"), The Florida Bar's Standards for Imposing

Lawyer Sanctions ("Standards"), including all aggravating factors described in the

Standards. The Court finds that the following constitute mitigating factors in this

case.

              (a) No prior disciplinary record

        Respondent has no prior disciplinary record.

              (b) Personal/emotional problems and mental disability or
                  impairment




                                    Page 13 of 26
      It is indisputable that, at the time of the offense, Respondent was distraught6

because of marital conflict and because of his inability to see his wife's daughter,

with whom he had enjoyed a close relationship. Although the Court considers this

as a mitigating factor, it affords only limited mitigation. The numerous attorneys

who each year lawfully end their marriages undoubtedly experience emotional

distress, some of it quite significant, yet refrain from committing fraud, especially

fraud that invokes the authority of the court.

      In the present case, there was no testimony that any mental health

professional diagnosed Respondent as suffering from any DSM-IV (Diagnostic and

Statistical Manual, 4th edition) mental health diagnosis. Moreover, to the extent

that he was experiencing emotional distress, Respondent made little effort to

obtain or continue the therapy which might have reduced his stress, improved his

coping skills, and made it less likely that he would engage in culpable conduct.

      Family law attorney Judith Shine represented Respondent in

his dissolution of marriage action. She testified that when Respondent


6
  Respondent, at the second hearing, testified that, during the time in question, he
handled his court cases professionally but was “a mental and emotional wreck.”
Although he was not, he testified, “insane or crazy at the time,” he testified that he
lost 32 pounds in six weeks. That Respondent would currently benefit from
counseling is evidenced by his testimony that he “would think that, three years
later, it would be easier, but it’s not.” Respondent fought back tears more than
once during the proceedings.
                                     Page 14 of 26
retained her in the spring of 2004, he was "a wreck," hadn't slept for days, had oily

hair, and appeared irrational. He was, she said, among the most distraught clients

she had ever seen. She didn't think he was practicing law when she saw him

because he was “crazed-looking” and was "totally consumed" with his inability to

see his wife's daughter, Amanda, to whom he was very attached.

      Because he was "hardly lucid" and was not seeing a mental health

professional when she first saw him, Ms. Shine required that Respondent see a

psychologist before she would represent him. She recommended clinical

psychologist Sherry V. Risch, Ph.D.

      Respondent saw Dr. Risch on only four occasions over a two-month period:

February 15, 2004; February 25, 2005; March 1, 2004; and March 22, 2004. Dr.

Risch did not testify but authored a one-paragraph letter which was received,

without objection, into evidence. In that letter, she indicated that, during the brief

period when she saw him, Respondent was involved in a divorce which he

experienced as extremely stressful. Dr. Risch indicated in her letter that her notes

reflected that Respondent was feeling a loss of emotional and situational control

and that, because of his high level of stress, he was not thinking clearly and had

impaired judgment.




                                     Page 15 of 26
      Notwithstanding that his dissolution of marriage case was what his attorney

characterized as "highly contentious," indeed, one of the most contentious she had

seen in her many years of family practice, 7 Respondent never attended any

counseling sessions after the petition for dissolution of marriage was filed.


7
  This intense conflict occurred over a protracted period of time. On November
15, 2004, many months after he issued the fraudulent subpoena, Respondent
undertook the unusual step of filing with a St. Johns County deputy what he
apparently believed to be a pre-emptive affidavit concerning his marital strife. See
Respondent’s Affidavit which is part of exhibit 2 for The Florida Bar. In the
affidavit, Respondent detailed how he appeared unexpectedly at his wife’s home
on November 13, 2004; demanded to see her daughter; and then refused her
request to leave, even when she indicated that she was going to summon police.
The affidavit then detailed the wife’s alleged threats to end his career. In the
affidavit, Respondent handwrote (emphasis in original): “At no time have I ever
threatened her, assaulted her, [or] put hands on her in any manner.” Respondent’s
intense and protracted rage at his wife and Mr. Cothren helped fuel his unethical
conduct in issuing an unauthorized subpoena. The Referee’s recommendation that
the Respondent be required by the Court to participate in a psychiatric evaluation
and successfully complete any recommended mental health treatment stems in
large part from her impression that Respondent’s rage today continues, to a
significant extent, unabated.

       Mr. Cothren’s complaint, see exhibit 1 for The Florida Bar, also alleges that
Respondent, by pretending over the telephone to be Mr. Cothren, obtained Mr.
Cothren’s Bailey, Banks & Biddle invoice detailing Mr. Cothren’s purchase of
expensive jewelry for Respondent’s wife; told Mr. Cothren that he (Respondent)
owned a firearm and would use it on him; made repeated, anonymous, and abusive
phone calls to him from a blocked phone number; stalked him; and told him that,
as a former assistant state attorney, he knew everyone, including the judges, and
had nothing to worry about from his conduct. These serious allegations were not
the basis on which The Florida Bar sought disciplinary action against Respondent,
so the Court did not receive testimony concerning them, and make no findings
regarding them.
                                    Page 16 of 26
      In a puzzling contradiction of his testimony in this proceeding that he was

not seeing a mental health professional at the time he first saw Ms. Shine,

Respondent, on February 6, 2004 - shortly before he first saw Ms. Shine - wrote a

letter, see The Florida Bar's composite exhibit 1, to his then-estranged wife, in

which he told her that he had been receiving "intensive counseling" from an

unnamed therapist in St. Augustine, would probably need counseling for "a year or

two, maybe more," and would be "attending sessions twice weekly in order to deal

with [his] issues …." At the time he wrote that, Respondent had not yet had his

first (February 15, 2004) appointment with Dr. Risch, to whom Ms. Shine referred

him because he was then not seeing a mental health therapist. Additionally, once

he began seeing Dr. Risch, he saw her, on average, only once every other week,

rather than the twice per week he had recited in his letter to his wife.

      Respondent’s letter to his then-wife regarding his “intensive counseling”

thus conflicts with his testimony to the undersigned Referee, and his assertion to

his own attorney, that he had not received any counseling before he saw Dr. Risch.

The Referee does not know which was the true state of affairs. The existence of

this conflict in statements, however, is relevant to an evaluation of Mr. Cothren's

contention that Respondent's manufacture of a subpoena was not an isolated

incident arising out of intense emotional distress, but rather was consistent with a


                                     Page 17 of 26
history of manipulative conduct. See exhibit 1 for Petitioner The Florida Bar

(letter from Mr. Cothren to The Florida Bar, received by The Florida Bar on March

20, 2006).

             (c) Character or reputation

      Before this incident, Respondent enjoyed a reputation as an effective and

ethical advocate. Attorney Steve Alexander, now in private practice, has known

Respondent since 1993, and attended Respondent's wedding to his wife. Mr.

Alexander testified that, while he was State Attorney for the Seventh Judicial

Circuit, he hired Respondent as an assistant state attorney. He indicated that

Respondent never had any professionalism problems. Mr. Alexander testified that,

from 2003 to 2005, Respondent was having a "tough time" with his marital woes

but "[i]n court, you would never have thought there was a problem."

     Circuit Judge John Alexander (cousin to witness Steve Alexander), himself a

former prosecutor, testified that he, too, has known Respondent since the early to

mid-1990's. Judge Alexander testified that Respondent has practiced before him,

and that he has never known of, or heard of, any instance in which Respondent

breached his professional ethics.

      County Judge Charles Tinlin, also a former prosecutor, officiated at

Respondent's wedding. Although Judge Tinlin is not a social friend of the


                                    Page 18 of 26
Respondent, the Respondent confessed to Judge Tinlin that both he and his wife

had had or were having extramarital affairs. Notwithstanding Respondent’s

apparent distress over this situation, Respondent continued to be well-prepared for

the cases he handled before Judge Tinlin. During the time in question, Judge

Tinlin saw no break in Respondent's professional demeanor or presentation. Judge

Tinlin viewed Respondent's creation of a false subpoena as "an anomaly," and,

apart from that incident, has never had cause to doubt Respondent's ethics.

             (d) Interim Rehabilitation

      In July of 2006, after the Bar Complaint in this matter was filed, Respondent

voluntarily attended The Florida Bar's Practice and Professional Enhancement

Program, a one-day seminar.

             (e) Remorse

      The Court does not consider remorse a mitigating factor, as it finds limited

credible evidence of sincere remorse. Although witnesses related that Respondent

told them he was remorseful, and although Respondent testified that he was

remorseful, all such statements were made only after institution of Bar disciplinary

proceedings. Further, Respondent has not apologized to Mr. Cothren for

fraudulently obtaining Mr. Cothren's protected records and has not apologized to




                                    Page 19 of 26
Sprint for exposing it to potential liability to Mr. Cothren for releasing those

records.

      A review of Respondent's initial response to The Florida Bar reveals that,

while he admitted his actions and acknowledged that they were "regrettable and

inappropriate," the bulk of his response was devoted not to an abject apology for

his own fraudulent conduct but rather to a lengthy catalogue of his wife's and Mr.

Cothren's purported misdeeds, as if such misdeeds could justify the actions of an

officer of the court in misusing court process for personal gain. He wrote, for

example: "I was repeatedly lied to, I was dared to do something, accusations were

flying back and forth. I was in the middle of an emotional situation and I

embarked on an inappropriate course of conduct." This statement attempts to shift

blame for Respondent’s acts, and attempts to minimize as merely “inappropriate”

conduct which in fact was intentional, fraudulent, and criminal.

VI.   CASE LAW

      This disciplinary matter is not the first in Florida to involve fraudulent

documents prepared by attorneys experiencing marital problems. In The Florida

Bar v. Baker, 810 So.2d 876 (Fla. 2002), the Supreme Court of Florida suspended

an attorney for 91 days for forging his wife’s name on documents related to the

sale of their home. The attorney involved had never before been involved in a


                                     Page 20 of 26
disciplinary action, and was then in the midst of a bitter divorce. Id at 879. The

Court sternly cautioned that it expected “members of The Florida Bar to conduct

their personal business affairs with honesty and in accordance with the law.” Id. at

882. See also The Florida Bar v. Varner, 780 So.2d 1(Fla. 2001)(imposing 90-day

suspension for attorney’s preparation and submission of fictitious notice of

voluntary dismissal when no action on claim had ever been filed; “misuse of

official documents is conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”) Cf. The

Florida Bar v. Arango, 720 So.2d 248 (Fla. 1998)(30-day suspension imposed

where record did not establish that attorney personally manufactured or directed

the manufacture of false or fabricated evidence, but evidence established that his

staff manufactured fabricated evidence), and The Florida Bar v. Roth, 693 So.2d

969 (Fla. 1997)(no evidence of attorney’s personal involvement in manufacture of

“fraudulent fax;” however, public reprimand imposed for attorney’s negligent

supervision of his office staff who manufactured the fraudulent document).

      In The Florida Bar v. Salnik, 699 So.2d (Fla. 1992), the Supreme Court of

Florida disbarred an attorney for fraudulently stamping two proposed final

judgments in eviction cases, and forwarding one judgment to the defendant tenant.

The involved attorney had never before been disciplined, and no harm befell the

tenant because the fraud was discovered before the tenant was evicted. Witnesses


                                    Page 21 of 26
testified that any misconduct by the Respondent attorney was totally out of

character - an “aberration which occurred at a time of tremendous stress,” when his

parents were divorcing, and he was experiencing heart problems. Id. at 102-03.

The Court, however, found that the use of a judge’s stamp to create a forged

document evidenced a “blatant disregard for the integrity of the judicial office ...

[and] cannot be excused by his inexperience or stress, nor can it be dismissed as a

mere isolated lapse in judgment.” Id. at 103. Cf. The Florida Bar v. Rightmyer,

616 So.2d 953, 955 (Fla. 1993)(attorney experiencing “severe marital difficulties,”

and “an alcohol problem and possibly psychological problems” was disbarred

following his conviction for perjury and the discovery of trust account violations;

“An officer of the court who knowingly and deliberately seeks to corrupt the legal

process can logically be expected to be excluded from that process”), and Attorney

Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Goodman, 381 Md. 480, 850 A.3d 1157

(2004)(assistant public defender who had never before been disciplined was

disbarred for intentional dishonest conduct, which included his filing of a

complaint in the name of another lawyer and his sending to court four subpoenae

which falsely identified the other lawyer as counsel for the plaintiff.)

      The Supreme Court of California had occasion to consider attorney

discipline in a case which mirrors the facts of this case to a remarkable extent, but


                                     Page 22 of 26
which also includes additional, more egregious offenses. In In re Daniel P. Larkin,

48 Cal.3d 236, 768 P.2d 604 (1989), the highest court in California suspended an

attorney for three years for a variety of offenses including his use of a fraudulent

subpoena to obtain the telephone records of his estranged wife’s paramour. Like

the Respondent in the instant case, the Respondent in Larkin actually received the

telephone records sought.

      In Larkin, however, in addition to fraudulently obtaining the paramour’s

telephone records, the attorney also conspired to have the paramour assaulted. As

a result, the paramour sustained a minor injury when he was struck on the chin

with a metal flashlight by third parties who told the paramour to never again come

to the town where the attorney’s wife resided.

      The attorney was convicted of two misdemeanors for this conspiracy and

assault but, after his probation was completed, his convictions were set aside. 48

Cal.3d at 241, 768 P.2d at 606. The California Bar argued for the attorney’s

disbarment, while the 41-year-old Respondent attorney offered testimony through

numerous witnesses, including multiple judges, that he was held in high regard for

his legal abilities and integrity. He testified that, at the time of the offenses, he had

been going through a difficult separation from his wife. His psychiatrist testified

that he believed the attorney’s misdeeds were a once-in-a-lifetime situation.


                                      Page 23 of 26
Respondent introduced evidence that he suffered from multiple serious health

problems, some of them stemming from birth defects, as well as from an alcohol

dependence. After considering the seriousness of the offenses as well as the

mitigating factors, the Court imposed a three-year suspension, but stayed the

suspension, placed the attorney on probation for three years, required a one-year

suspension as a condition of that probation, and required him to comply with other

probation conditions to be adopted by the state’s review department.

      The Referee concludes that the cases cited above support the discipline

recommended in this case.

VI.   STATEMENT OF COSTS AND MANNER IN WHICH COSTS

                                SHOULD BE TAXED.

      Respondent, post-hearing, consented to taxation in favor of The Florida Bar

of costs in the amount of $2,333.13. The costs taxed represent:

                Court        Bar     Administrative Copies             Investigator
                Reporter     Counsel Costs                             Costs
                Fees         Travel
Grievance       N/A          $ 61.88    $ 1,250.00 *       $17.50* $ 232.46 *
Committee
Level
Referee         $ 550.00     $ 221.24   See above.         See         See above.
Level                                                      above.




                                   Page 24 of 26
* = grievance committee level v. referee level not specified

      The total costs incurred by The Florida Bar should be charged to

Respondent, and interest at the statutory rate should accrue and be payable

beginning 30 days after the judgment in this case becomes final, unless a waiver is

granted by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar.

VI.   CONCLUSION / SUMMARY

      The undersigned Referee recommends that Respondent Gregg Adam

Steinberg be found guilty of misconduct justifying disciplinary measures, and that

he be disciplined by suspension for 91 days from the practice of law; that he be

required by the Court to participate in a psychiatric evaluation and to successfully

complete any mental health treatment recommended by the evaluation; and that he

pay the costs incurred by The Florida Bar in the grievance committee and Referee

proceedings in this matter.

             Dated April ____, 2007, in Jacksonville, Florida.

                                       Respectfully submitted,



                                       __________________________________
                                       Circuit Judge Karen K. Cole, serving as
                                       Referee
                                       Duval County Courthouse
                                       330 East Bay Street, Suite 227
                                       Jacksonville, Florida 32202
                                       (904) 630-2583
                                    Page 25 of 26
                       CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

       I HEREBY CERTIFY that the original of the foregoing Report of Referee
has been mailed to THE HONORABLE THOMAS D. HALL, Clerk, Supreme
Court of Florida, 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301, and that
copies were mailed by regular U.S. Mail to Kenneth Lawrence Marvin, Esquire,
Staff Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida
32399-2300; Frances R. Brown-Lewis, Bar Counsel, The Florida Bar, 1200
Edgewater Drive, Orlando, Florida 32804; and Robert M. Harris, Esquire, Counsel
for Respondent, 1837 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville, Florida 32207, on April
_______, 2007.



            _______________________________________
            Circuit Judge Karen K. Cole, serving as Referee




                                 Page 26 of 26

								
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