Partner Sherri Kirkland of Expert Screenings Background Screening Service in Ocala, FL.

Doug Kirkland has been ordered to stop representing clients starting Friday, which marks the end of the 30-day period from when the Florida Supreme Court approved the Florida Bar's emergency petition for his suspension.

Florida (I-Newswire) May 5, 2013 - A criminal defense attorney whose Florida Bar license was indefinitely suspended last month for mismanaging funds in his attorney trust account could face anywhere from up to a three-year suspension to disbarment once a judge issues a ruling.

Doug Kirkland has been ordered to stop representing clients starting Friday, which marks the end of the 30-day period from when the Florida Supreme Court approved the Florida Bar's emergency petition for his suspension.

Through an audit, the Bar found that Kirkland was misappropriating funds from his trust account - which is set up with a banking institution to hold clients' money - to pay for such purchases as a new vehicle, advertising expenses and an employee's college books and tuition.

The Bar was first alerted in December 2009, when SunTrust Bank notified the organization that Kirkland had written a check for $1,034 when the balance in his trust account was $673, according to a copy of the complaint.

The attorney also had taken out five prohibited loans from the account totaling roughly $4,600, the audit found. The largest recorded shortage, on Sept. 30, 2009, amounted to $93,553.

Cause of such mismanagement, the complaint stated, was due to the attorney's reliance on an office bookkeeper, whose departure in late 2008 was not replaced by any accounting software program, and the lack of supervision over spouse Sherri Kirkland, who was signing the trust account checks.

This lack of oversight amounts to violation of Bar rules, according to the complaint. "It's the most serious matter that can take place because the disciplinary system is there to protect the public," said Jan K. Wichrowski, Chief Branch Discipline Counsel of the Bar's Orlando Branch. "A case like this could end up with long-term suspension or disbarment."

Kirkland, who was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1993 and worked as a prosecutor for six years before beginning his own practice, replenished the funds in his trust account by mid-March using personal funds. He has no prior disciplinary record on file with the Bar.

In an interview Monday, the attorney said he stopped accepting any new felony or family law cases in mid-February, around the time he learned of a possible Bar complaint, and has since been actively dispersing his 150-case load to fellow lawyers.

"I've made arrangements so that no client that gave me money will be left hanging," he said. The office he shares on Northeast 8th Avenue with attorney William Ramputi now displays signs for attorney Christopher Doty.

As far as the mismanagement of funds, Kirkland, 42, acknowledged that although he believed the funds he was withdrawing were earned fees, there were "trust account issues" and that "the way it was handled was poor."

"Sherri and I should have been reconciling the account, and we weren't. We ignored the business side of practicing law, not purposefully. Just one month can slip into two months to six months to a year without reconciling [the account]," he said, adding the value of the account reached close to $60,000.

"The only thing I can do is be the best person I can be and march forward," said Kirkland, who expects soon to be real estate-licensed. "I've made mistakes - not purposefully, I didn't mean to hurt anybody. I'm going to hope my clients do well, and work to getting [my law license] reinstated."

The Florida Bar filed a formal complaint against Kirkland on May 4 and a judge is expected to issue a final disciplinary action sometime within the next 90 days, said Wichrowski.

Source Article: Ocala Attorney's License Suspended, By Suevon Lee, Staff writer, Ocala Star Banner (Original Article Link:
Contact Suevon Lee 352-867-4065 or or visit Expert Screening's website

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May 5, 2013

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