August 25, 2011
By: Brenna Lemieux
A verbal altercation in bankruptcy court shook up ordinary proceedings, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The dispute involved a lawyer and bankruptcy judge, and was apparently not the first time the two men have clashed in the courtroom.
The original case, it seems, involved attorney Kevin C. Gleason's client, a real estate agent who had overseen the bankruptcy sale of Fort Lauderdale company New River Dry Dock. According to reports, the real estate agent had taken her usual commission on the $12 million sale; the bankruptcy judge, though, insisted that the commission was not legal because the sale was part of a bankruptcy.
But Gleason disagreed, allegedly filing a statement that called the judge's findings "half baked" and questioned his ability to make appropriate rulings. The argument escalated when the bankruptcy judge, John K. Olson, wrote in response that Gleason's argument was "frivolous, absurd," and outside the scope of the law.
The judge then published his opinion on legal database Westlaw, thus effectively making his criticism of Gleason public to the legal community. Gleason, in an effort to smooth things over, reportedly sent an apologetic note and bottle of wine to Judge Olson.
Of course, attorneys are not supposed to attempt to influence judges outside the courtroom. The move led to Olson's decision to summon Gleason before a panel of the seven bankruptcy judges that hear cases for three southern Florida counties. On August 18, Gleason appeared before the panel; the Sun-Sentinel notes that this was the first time any lawyer has been summoned in such a way.
While the judges could have punished Gleason by temporarily restricting his ability to practice law or imposing a fine, they opted instead to require community service: to atone for his misdeeds, Gleason will apparently take on seven bankruptcy cases for indigent citizens. Gleason's profuse apologies to the judges reportedly helped prevent them from levying steeper punishment.