LAWYERS BEHAVING BADLY:
RICHARD CELLER, ORLANDO, FLORIDA
According to ABA Journal, citing an order (PDF) from U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga, Celler made “choice statements” in an email to opposing counsel in the prior case and disparaged the opposing lawyer in front of his clients. Celler was also accused of “deplorable behavior” in the prior case, including: scheduling depositions at Dunkin’ Donuts, attended depositions in T-shirts and shorts and then drew penis pictures and played the game Angry Birds during deposition testimony.
- CASE NO. 11-24432-CIV-ALTONAGA/Simonton
- Defendants filed a Motion to Disqualify Plaintiff’s Counsel, Richard Celler, Esq. Stacey Schulman, Esq., and the Law Firm of Morgan & Morgan, P.A., his employer at the time.
- Defendants argued that Schulman and the entire firm of Morgan & Morgan must be disqualified on the additional basis of a violation of Florida Bar Rule 4-7.4. Defendants’ arguments for the disqualification of Schulman and Morgan & Morgan largely mirror those for Celler’s disqualification, with few exceptions. Defendants contend that Schulman is Celler’s “underling, and takes all of her orders from him.”
- After a lengthy discussion about other ethical rules, the Court addresses Florida Bar Rule 4-8.4. The Court found multiple instances in which Plaintiff’s counsel violated this Rule, stating, “For example, the email exchange regarding the Tinkler communication contained such choice statements from Celler to Coupal as “you are not a trial lawyer;” “We are not interested, nor are our clients, in settlement discussions with you as long as you are the lawyer on the other side. You are causing your client a great disservice;” and “Nobody on this side of the internet cares.”
- In addition to the above, the Court talks about how, “Defendants describe deplorable behavior on Celler’s part that occurred in connection with the Schatt Action. Tinkler testified that during depositions he witnessed “Mr. Celler . . . drawing photos of — pictures of male genitalia and showing them to Ms. Schulman, describing Mr. Coupal. I told Mr. Coupal after that was occurring and he made mention about it.” (Apr. 2, 2012 Hearing Tr. 17:2–5). Sorci testified that he observed Schulman “laugh[ing] quite a few times” at Celler’s drawings, and that on break Schulman made a comment that “this is typical Richard [Celler], this is what he does at these sort of things.” (Id. 85:5–10).
- The Court also indicated, “Tinkler further stated that “during Mr. Schatt’s deposition Mr. Celler was playing the game Angry Birds. He admitted it aloud and was bragging that he had just beaten somebody in Minnesota at the game during the deposition.” (Id. 17:6–9). Moreover, Celler would wear a tshirt and shorts to proceedings to gain “a psychological advantage.” (Id. 17:11–15). Celler chose Dunkin’ Donuts as the site of depositions against Coupal’s wishes. According to Tinkler, the Dunkin’ Donuts had: open glass, an open wall. You could hear the people. There was [sic] two video games right by where this gentleman is sitting. You could hear people the free Wifi video games. It’s right near Nova’s campus. There were people coming and going constantly through that area, high traffic area. They were yelling and screaming in the reception area where people were ordering their lunch and there was one bathroom that was flooded out and the door was locked constantly. (Id. 55:12–19).”
- The Court continued, “Tinkler witnessed Celler, at the Dunkin’ Donuts, “taunting” Coupal about Celler’s “27 and 0 record,” and about how Coupal will lose this case and “hides behind . . . his general counsel title.” (Id. 17:18–21). Tinkler stated, I had to leave the room and I went into the reception area and then Mr. Coupal came and asked me what was the matter and I said, I could not listen to the way Mr. Celler was speaking to you. It bothered me significantly. (Id. 17:23–18:1). This behavior, which Celler makes no attempt to deny, is relevant insofar as Celler’s course of conduct in disparaging Coupal, to Coupal’s clients, has severely impacted these proceedings. Plaintiff glibly tries to downplay Celler’s attire, the use of a Dunkin’ Donuts to host depositions, and “jokes he may have made,” offering excuses that Morgan & Morgan’s conference room was undergoing construction. (Pl.’s Post-Hearing Br. 16 & n.17). Plaintiff urges the Court to “consider the context of Mr. Celler’s emails,” as the antagonism between the attorneys here “was not totally one-sided.” (Id. 16). These juvenile arguments hardly excuse Plaintiff’s counsel’s behavior, and the Court accords them no weight.”
- The Motion to Disqualify Celler was GRANTED. Celler, and Morgan & Morgan, were disqualified from representing Plaintiff as counsel in this matter and relieved of all further responsibilities related to Plaintiff in these proceedings.