Florida Supreme Court disbars former Jacksonville Public Defender, suspends 4 attorneys

Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee
Miami, New Port Richey and Safety Harbor attorneys received suspensions.

In its most recent round of disciplinary actions, the Florida Supreme Court disbarred one attorney from Jacksonville and suspended four others.

The Jacksonville lawyer, Matt Shirk, is a former Public Defender. He lost his right to practice law in the Sunshine State after continuing to work while suspended.

The court suspended Shirk in August, giving him 30 days to “close out his practice and protect the interests of existing clients.”

Shirk, who worked in criminal defense and immigration law at the time, was told to accept no new clients and stop working immediately after the 30-day grace period. Instead, he continued to provide legal services to several of his existing immigration clients and filed documents with an immigration court in their pending cases.

A 2013 investigation by the Florida Times-Union revealed Shirk inappropriately hired women while leading the Public Defender’s Office from 2008-2016 in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which covers Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. The investigation found he met one of the women on social media and two others at a nightclub, propositioned them, built a private officer shower with taxpayer money, drank alcohol in the office and deleted public records to cover his tracks. He later illegally fired them.

A grand jury recommended his removal from office, but Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Scott, then Governor, declined to remove him. In mid-2016, after conducting its own investigation of Shirk’s activities, the Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause he violated the law. Then-Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office recommended he be punished.

The Florida Bar concurred. It said he violated a Florida law prohibiting public officers from soliciting or accepting anything of value for influence or a service. The court also said Shirk violated ethics statutes barring public officers from disclosing or using confidential information for personal benefit when he gave an interview to a documentary crew about a client, Christian Fernandez of Jacksonville, who pleaded guilty at age 14 to killing his 2-year-old half-brother.

The Ethics Commission ordered Shirk to pay $6,000 in 2019. By then, he had been out of office for three years. He lost a second re-election bid in August 2016 to fellow Republican Charlie Cofer.

Shirk pleaded guilty to a Florida Bar judgment in early 2020 and agreed to stop practicing law. Then he kept doing so. The disbarment came last month.

The court suspended:

Michael Paul Brundage, a Safety Harbor-based lawyer, for failing to keep his clients informed during representation, failure to act with reasonable diligence and competence, and failure to abide by objectives and scopes of representation. The Florida Bar said Brundage also failed to respond to multiple orders, resulting in the dismissal of three cases. Brundage’s suspension is for three years.

Tara Gillette, a New Port Richey lawyer in private practice who pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, grand theft motor vehicle — all third-degree felony offenses — and misdemeanor petit theft, trespass in an unoccupied structure and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Florida Bar said Gillette failed to notify it of her arrests, charges and convictions. Her suspension is for two years.

Albert Moon, a Miami lawyer whose former client filed a complaint with the Florida Bar over his handling of an insurance settlement check. The client, Robert Frankl, successfully sued Geico and in August 2019 asked Moon not to deposit a settlement check from the insurer until he checked the closing statement for accuracy. Moon deposited the $300,000 check anyway. Nearly two years later, Frankl had not received settlement money. The Florida Bar then subpoenaed Moon’s financial records, but received no response for 15 months, leading the organization to determine that “the non-compliance was willful.” Moon will remain suspended until he supplies the Bar with all the requested records.

Mark Sobocienski, a Miami lawyer who similarly failed to respond to a Bar auditor request for financial records linked to a client settlement. He is also suspended until he complies.

The Supreme Court also reprimanded Plantation lawyer Evan Wolfe for his pre-litigation representation of a Utah resident in a property insurance claim.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Dont Say FLA

    April 7, 2024 at 12:53 pm

    Privatized prison CEO complained this public defender was hurting his stock by doing a good job, eh?

    Or was this public defender not in the G0P club and therefore his side hustling actions are deemed to be unacceptable by those in the club?

    • Rick Whitaker

      April 7, 2024 at 2:11 pm

      DSF, as you may know any form of a privatized prison is immoral.

  • Phil Morton

    April 7, 2024 at 3:07 pm

    Matt Shirk is a perfect example of Republicans who think the law does not apply to them.

    • Earl Pitts "THE NEW MAYOR OF REALVILLE" American

      April 7, 2024 at 7:31 pm

      Actually all these “Evil Esquires” were Dook 4 Brains Leftists.
      Earl Pitts “Esquire” American

      • Rick Whitaker

        April 7, 2024 at 8:24 pm

        earl shitts, wrong again, all good people are not dook lefties, just ABOUT all good people are dook lefties. now people like you, well what can i say, you’re no leftie as lloyd bentsen would say.

Comments are closed.


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