Saturday, January 16, 2010

Florida Barred

One of the "joys" of politics is having everything you have ever done in your life reappear.

Peterson not allowed to practice law in Fla.


Attorney and Comal County judge candidate Glen Peterson didn’t just leave his legal practice in 1984, the Florida Supreme Court required that he never practice law in that state again, according to court records.

More than a decade before he began trying cases in Texas, the 59-year-old Peterson practiced law in Florida after graduating with his law degree from the University of Akron in 1977.

In 1982, Peterson said he made a “mistake” by talking to jurors during an ongoing trial in Panama City, and by 1984, he had resigned from the bar with the imposed condition that he will never be allowed to “reapply for admission.”

“It was not a good period in my life, and I submitted a resignation because I had no intention of ever returning to Florida,” Peterson said.

He said he had just been divorced. His first marriage only lasted a few months, something that deeply affected him.

“I wasn’t thinking clearly, or serving my clients the way I should have been,” he said.

Although it was 24 years ago, he still remembers the incident that led to his suspension. He was sitting in a crowded deli in Panama City during a recess from a personal injury trial, he said.

He was talking to an expert witness at a big table, and he didn’t recognize two female members of the jury seated near him, he said.

“This was before they had juror badges like they have today,” he said.

Court records, however, state that Peterson acknowledged at a later hearing “that he knew that the women seated at the table were jurors.”

Peterson talked to the jurors, but not to “gain any unfair advantage in litigation,” according to court records.

“I wasn’t talking about the case with them, I was talking about baseball,” he said. “It didn’t affect the case, but there was certainly an appearance of impropriety.”

The judge in the case declared a mistrial, and Peterson was subsequently suspended by the Florida Bar for a year, and asked to re-take the ethics portion of the bar examination.

Instead of attempting to re-apply, he initially filed for resignation from the bar in April 1984.

The bar association responded with a request to the state supreme court to deny his resignation until it included the caveat that he never be licensed to practice law again in Florida.

At the time of his final resignation, state supreme court records show that there were seven separate official complaints pending against Peterson.

Judge Jim Fensom was practicing law in Panama City at the time of Peterson’s initial suspension.

He said situations like the one Peterson found himself in with the Florida Bar are not entered into often or easily.

“It’s a pretty strong burden to have to prove to have someone disbarred, or resign on the condition that they not be allowed to re-apply for admission,” said Fensom, now the Florida 14th Circuit Judge.

Peterson said he was more torn over his failed marriage than the decision, and vowed not to return to Florida, confident his legal career was not in jeopardy.

“I knew it would not preclude me from being licensed in another state,” Peterson said.

He went on to work eight years as a developer of commercial real estate, before being admitted to the Texas bar in 1996.

“The board of bar examiners in Texas had all of this information at their fingertips when I applied,” Peterson said. “The Texas board of bar examiners are very careful about who they allow to practice law in the state of Texas, like in every state. They’re sitting there with these cases from Florida in front of them and they licensed me.”

In his 13 years of practicing law in Texas, Peterson has never received any sanctions from the Texas Bar Association.

“Did I make a mistake? Yes,” he said. “Do I regret it? Yes. Has it affected my ability to be an ethical, successful lawyer in the state of Texas? No.”