Judge Dismisses Miccosukee's Malpractice and Fraud Suit Against Attorneys

, Daily Business Review


Michael Tein and Guy Lewis
Michael Tein and Guy Lewis

For the second time in 1½ months, a South Florida judge has dealt the Miccosukee Indian tribe a blow in a war against its former lawyers at Miami law firm Lewis Tein.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Thornton, in a 14-page order, granted a motion for summary judgment in a fraud and malpractice lawsuit filed against law partners Guy Lewis and Michael Tein. Lewis is a former interim U.S. attorney, and Tein is a former federal prosecutor.

Thornton echoed U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke's findings last month that the lawsuit had no place in state court and was an internal dispute ripe for tribal resolution.

But Thornton went further, slamming the tribe in finding the fraud, racketeering and malpractice counts were without merit even if he had jurisdiction. "The record is utterly devoid of any evidence of criminal intent or intentional misconduct," he wrote in the order handed down Sunday.

Motions for sanctions against the tribe and its lead attorney, Bernardo Roman III of Miami, are before Cooke and Thornton.

Lewis Tein contended in pleadings Roman has filed frivolous lawsuits to drain the firm's financial resources as part of a vendetta by tribal chairman Colley Billie against former chairman Billy Cypress and the lawyers he hired while in charge. Roman, according to a deposition of another tribal leader, William Osceola, is paid at least $250,000 a month from the tribe.

The small tribe, which operates a casino resort west of Miami and has four reservations in and around the Everglades, accused Lewis Tein of helping Cypress siphon off $26 million. The tribe also said Lewis Tein billed for work never done and kicked back some of the money to Cypress.

"Judge Thornton's detailed and careful analysis completely exonerates Guy and Mike of the scurrilous and false allegations levied by the tribe," said attorney Paul Calli, a Miami partner at Carlton Fields who represents Lewis Tein. "Guy and Mike are grateful that the truth has finally prevailed."

Roman could not be reached for comment by deadline.

Thornton found no fraud, no misconduct, no fraudulent billing and no malpractice.

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