Disbarment of Attorney for Misappropriation - Dipping Into Trust Funds Was No Excuse for Solving Personal Problems

In Florida Bar v. Shuminer, 567 So. 2d 430 (Fla. 1990), the attorney entered an unconditional guilty plea to various misappropriation violations. The referee found mitigating factors of personal and emotional problems from drug and alcohol addiction, timely and good faith effort at restitution, cooperation, inexperience, remorse, mental impairment due to addiction, successful attempts at treatment, and good character and reputation. Nevertheless, we disbarred Shuminer, because Shuminer "failed to establish that his addiction rose to a sufficient level of impairment to outweigh the seriousness of his offenses," and used a significant portion of the funds "not to support or conceal his addictions, but rather to purchase a luxury automobile." Shuminer, 567 So. 2d at 432. Likewise, in Florida Bar v. Shanzer, 572 So. 2d 1382 (Fla. 1991), the court approved the referee's recommendation of disbarment for misappropriation Although the attorney argued that emotional problems, full cooperation, remorse, rehabilitation, and payment of restitution warranted less severe discipline, we held that such problems "are visited upon a great number of lawyers," and are not an excuse "for dipping into his trust funds as a means of solving personal problems." Florida Bar v. Shanzer, 572 So. 2d 1382 (Fla. 1991). The court recognized in Shanzer that "mental problems as well as alcohol and drug problems may impair judgment so as to diminish culpability," but that the referee in Shanzer's case did not abuse his discretion in rejecting this defense for Shanzer.