May Lawyers Be Disciplined for Private Misconduct In Florida ?
In Florida Bar v. Baker, 810 So. 2d 876, 881 (Fla. 2002) the court acknowledged that although lawyers may certainly be disciplined for conduct unrelated to the practice of law, "misconduct not connected with the practice of law is to be evaluated differently and may warrant less severe sanctions than misconduct committed in the course of the practice of law."
Baker, who had no prior disciplinary history, forged his ex-wife's name to legal documents relating to sale of real property that he owned jointly with her. Id. at 878.
These documents were used in the closing, and Baker negotiated a check obtained by his forgery. Id.
The referee cited Florida Bar v. Kickliter, 559 So. 2d 1123, 1124 (Fla. 1990) in support of his recommendation of disbarment. Id. at 881.
In distinguishing the case from Kickliter, this Court focused on the facts that while Baker had forged several documents, he had not committed a fraud on the court and his misconduct was not related to his law practice. Id.
Baker received a rehabilitative suspension of ninety-one days. Id. at 882 ("While we emphasize that Baker's violations are serious, in that his conduct was dishonest and unlawful, we find the ultimate sanction of disbarment is not warranted.").