Florida Bar panel calls Matt Gaetz ‘unprofessional, reckless, insensitive’

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In taunting ex-Trump lawyer, Gaetz's conduct "not consistent with high standards of profession."

A Florida Bar review panel told U.S. Representative and lawyer Matt Gaetz he was “unprofessional, reckless, insensitive, and demonstrated poor judgment” in directing a taunting tweet at President Donald Trump‘s former attorney Michael Cohen.

One of two Bar grievance committees for the state’s 1st Judicial Circuit, where Gaetz resides, informed him in a letter released Friday it was dismissing a complaint against him for the since-deleted tweet. Gaetz also later apologized to Cohen.

“The grievance committee wants to make it clear, however, that this finding does not indicate that the committee condones your conduct,” wrote the panel’s chair, attorney Lacey DeCori Corona.

“While your conduct in this instance did not warrant formal discipline, the committee believes it was not consistent with the high standards of our profession.”

In February, Cohen testified before the U.S. House Oversight Committee, saying he lied and otherwise covered up a wide range of misdeeds for his former client, including arranging a payoff for adult film star Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with the married Trump in 2006.

Gaetz, a steadfast ally of the president’s, had tweeted the night before the hearing: “Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot …”

The Panhandle Republican is a licensed Florida attorney, and a complaint lodged with the Bar questioned whether the tweet violated the Rules of Professional Conduct governing the state’s lawyers. The complainant’s identity is still confidential.

“As a member of The Florida Bar, you are governed by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, not only when you are engaged in legal representation of a client, but also in all your personal and business affairs outside the practice of law,” Corona wrote. “You should always be mindful that your actions are subject to The Bar’s Rules … at all times.”

The original tweet “was posted on the eve of Mr. Cohen’s public testimony,” the letter continued. “The grievance committee believes your original tweet was unprofessional, reckless, insensitive, and demonstrated poor judgment.”

Ironically, Gaetz this week thanked the panel in a tweet when he learned he had been cleared, saying he “thank(ed) the Bar committee members for their sound judgment.”

Corona said she and her colleagues on the panel “considered … your prompt withdrawal of the tweet, as well as your public and personal apologies to Mr. Cohen, his attorney, and the Speaker of the House,” referring to Nancy Pelosi. “The committee also considered Mr. Cohen’s reply to your apology and his willingness to assist you as a mitigating factor.”

But the panel also noted he “deleted (the) original tweet late that night after Speaker Pelosi posted a tweet inferring that it could harm the House Oversight Committee’s ability to ‘obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties.’ ”

Cohen has since reported to a federal prison in Otisville, New York, where he is serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to several charges, in part connected to hush money payments he said he made or orchestrated on behalf of the President.

Gaetz previously worked for what was then the Keefe, Anchors & Gordon law firm in Fort Walton Beach, now called AnchorsGordon. Former name partner Lawrence Keefe is now the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, having been nominated by Trump.

The Bar letter also shows that Gaetz had retained the services of Jacksonville attorney Hank Coxe, a former Florida Bar president, to represent him throughout the Bar’s review process. Coxe also was a member of the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission.

The full letter from the grievance committee is below.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


18 comments

  • Larry Gillis

    August 16, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    Doesn’t the Constitution’s “Privileges and Immunities” clause bar the Florida Bar from getting involved in this in any way, shape, manner, or form?

    I mean, ” … [the Congress member] … shall not be questioned in any other place … ” sounds all-encompassing to me.

    (Maybe Gaetz did not want to be accused of “hiding behind the Constitution”?

  • Jimmy Conner

    August 16, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    INNOCENT. NOT GUILTY. DID NOTHING ILLEGAL OR UNETHICAL.
    Go Matt!

    • Deborah Vantol

      August 17, 2019 at 12:38 am

      HE TRIED TO INTIMADATE A WITNESS?? HE’S A ASSHAT 😠. HE NOTHING BUT A BULLY, JUST LIKE tRUMP HE SHOULD HAVE LOST HIS LICENSE. HE’S A VERY NASTY 😷 PERSON.

      • Ceasar

        August 17, 2019 at 11:22 am

        He is an ass. He was clearly witness tampering, trying to keep Cohen from speaking the truth

      • gary

        August 17, 2019 at 5:55 pm

        Funny… you look more like the ASSHAT to me!

    • Hollygoodz

      August 17, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      No what he did was unethical, that was the point of the letter. The Bar said his actions showed poor judgement and that he was insensitive. That’s another way of saying he’s a shitty unethical person but in this particular instance his actions weren’t illegal and were mitigated by a few things that clearly saved him. Also, the Bar can remove anyone regardless if whether or not they actually committed a crime. Maybe you should move to Russia where Trump will no doubt run to right after he loses the 2020 election. And btw, people are dillusional if they really believe the Orange Sexual Deviant in Chief will once again defy the odds in 2020 the way he so luckily defied them in ’16. There’s no way he’s going to lose the popular vote, which once again seems inevitable, plus be able to once again run the table and win WI, MI and PA!

  • Karen

    August 17, 2019 at 6:28 am

    YOU ARE A TRUE PATRIOT MATT!!!
    Keep up the good work!!
    Ignore the liberal fools who only want a free ride and continue to waste our tax dollars on frivolous nonsense!

    • Betsy J Maloney

      August 17, 2019 at 12:40 pm

      Karen, Matt is the furthest away from a true patriot that anyone can get!! He withheld & covered up evidence necessary for the Mueller investigation and was thrilled with his performance!! That’s totally immoral behavior!
      No one wants a free ride!! Waste tax dollars??? Try the money Trump & the GOP have “stolen” for themselves & their wealthy donors & the bogus tax cut that gave them all tremendous amounts of money, while screwing the middle class!!

      • gary

        August 17, 2019 at 5:57 pm

        @Betsy…Get over it already! Be an adult! Your criminal lost in 2016! Mueller found nothing! Trump is not racist! Matt is a patriot! Simply go away!

        • Betsy J Maloney

          August 18, 2019 at 1:31 pm

          Ohhh, that’s funny gary!! You’ve willingly chosen to believe the lies of a malignant narcissist, lies of Fox News and not believed the Mueller Report which clearly states the immoral behavior found in the administration! There’s no one more racist than Trump & no one less a patriot than Gaetz!

          Try reading a mental health expert’s analysis of the mental state of Trump:

          https://www.salon.com/2019/08/16/psychoanalyst-justin-frank-on-why-trump-hates-reality-and-must-be-quarantined/

          I’m not going away! Have a good day!

          • GARY

            August 20, 2019 at 1:49 pm

            GOD BLESS DJT AND ALL THE PATRIOTS THAT SUPPORT HIM! 2020 WILL BETTER THAN 2016!

    • Barbara Kennedy

      August 17, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      He is an absolute disgrace, if he has children, how does he look them in the eye. We disagree that’s expected but his anger & hate will be his undoing in the future. Regardless, Trump will be gone!!

  • Jan

    August 17, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    I have never seen or heard such particen hacks as i did in these comments.. juvinal corrupt particen jokes! Matt has very bad taste in ” heros”!

    • Rob

      August 17, 2019 at 11:58 pm

      Partisan

  • Cheryl Todd

    August 17, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Give me a break. To you democrates ……the whole muller investigation was a soft coupe. The corrupt attorneys especially weisman should all be put in jail. ….where is the bar on these thugs???? The Bar is probably owned by the democrates. MATT GATE’s IS AN HONORABLE MAN. ….DOING A GREAT JOB??? KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK MAT.

  • DumpTrump2020

    August 19, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Excellent assessment of this nincompoop! Low-sliders like this clown should NEVER be allowed to worm their way into any kind of public service positions. His election certainly says nothing good about the voters in Florida CD #1.

  • g

    August 21, 2019 at 5:37 am

    God Bless DJT and Matt! MAGA2020

Comments are closed.


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