Last week, I reported on a decade's long story concerning a Florida woman who was raped in 2009. Following that rape, she settled with the defendant for an undisclosed amount of money. However, while the attorneys who settled the case were paid handsomely, they failed to pay previous attorney fees and liens that were outlined in the woman's retention agreement, which has led to her having hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from her, the "right" to sue her by an attorney who was owed nothing sold to another attorney for profit and "authorized" by a judge who was busted in a prostitution ring, and finally threats of arrest.
This is the Deanna Williams story.
If you have not read the previous long version, step by step of Williams' story, you can click here to read it. It will provide you with a summation of all that has gone on, but not every detail.
Following a review of several redacted documents, I have determined that Ms. Williams had obtained the services of an attorney who refers to herself as "the most famous female attorney in the country." According to the retainer agreement that Williams signed with this female attorney, along with her Florida partner, any settlement that Williams got would be divided between her and the attorneys providing the services, as with any lawsuit. However, Williams, having had previous counsel involved, believed there would be other legal fees and liens against her and wanted to ensure that her new legal team would pay all previous legal fees and liens from prior attorneys from the amount they obtained in the settlement.
That agreement was not only made, but underlined clearly in the retainment agreement.
Following the settlement, those fees were to be paid, but apparently, they never were, as attorney Michael Dolce, who had placed Ms. Williams in several compromised and vulnerable positions during his representation of her that nearly destroyed her case, something for which Mr. Dolce should be questioned by the Florida Bar, "sold" his right to sue Ms. Williams to another attorney who intended to make a handsome profit from the lawsuit. That attorney is Scott Mager. Mager has declined to return calls made to him to comment on the suit.
However, in 2016, a judge ruled that there was no evidence submitted that substantiated the claim that Williams owed any money to Dolce, since he has worked on a contingency basis and has bowed out as her attorney.
In the link cited above, attorney Johnathan Heller was the partner of the "most famous female attorney in the country." He was also the attorney for Ms. Williams in the case and ultimately saw it settled. However, his signature is also on the retainer agreement and he was responsible for ensuring that prior attorney fees and liens were paid. They weren't.
Appellees did not file a charging lien in the personal injury lawsuit.3 Instead, they instituted a new action against appellants. Pursuing a quantum meruit theory of recovery, they claim entitlement to some portion of the settlement proceeds for their efforts on Ms. Williams' behalf. To forestall the further disbursement of settlement funds held by the Heller law firm, appellees filed a motion to preserve assets. They submitted no verified pleadings or affidavits in support of the motion. The trial court referred the motion to a magistrate who heard argument on the motion. No party presented evidence. Appellees feared that, absent a freeze of the funds, they might be unable to secure any meaningful relief if they succeeded on their quantum meruit claim. Appellees argued that appellants had a duty to disgorge any fees and to return any disbursed funds because they had been on notice of a charging lien. Appellants noted that appellees never filed a charging lien. Appellants also maintained that appellees were asking for the entry of a temporary injunction without an evidentiary hearing or bond.
The magistrate recommended that the trial court grant the motion to preserve assets, finding that:
Any assets presently in the custody of Law Offices of Jonathan A. Heller, P.A., derived from, or related to, their representation of Deanna Williams should be frozen, withheld and not distributed or spent. An order protecting the assets is designed not to allow wasting of assets nor permit harm to any party. The final determination of whether or not the frozen funds should be released should be made after the trial of the cause.
The trial court adopted the magistrate's report and recommendation and entered the order now before us.
The judge did acknowledge the fact that the plaintiffs in the case could file for a temporary injunction for relief and assets could be preserved according to several court case precedents.
"There can be no question but that appellees sought injunctive relief," the judge ruled. "Indeed, they specifically asked the trial court to enter an injunction or other order protecting the settlement funds."
However, Judge LaRose reversed and remanded the injunction because the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence of their claims.
To demonstrate entitlement to a temporary injunction, appellees had to demonstrate “(1) a likelihood of irreparable harm and the unavailability of an adequate remedy at law; (2) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (3) a threatened injury to the petitioner that outweighs any possible harm to the respondent; and (4) that the granting of the injunction will not disserve the public interest.” Polk Cty. v. Mitchell, 931 So.2d 922, 926 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006); see also Liberty Fin. Mortg. Corp. v. Clampitt, 667 So.2d 880 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996) (reversing injunction where the order did not address the likelihood of success on the merits).
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.610(c) requires that every injunction entered by a trial court “shall specify the reasons for entry, [and] shall describe in reasonable detail the act or acts restrained without reference to a pleading or another document.” We have observed that “the trial court's order must contain ‘[c]lear, definite, and unequivocally sufficient factual findings [to] support each of the four conclusions necessary to justify entry of a preliminary4 injunction.’ “ Clampitt, 667 So.2d at 881 (quoting City of Jacksonville v. Naegele Outdoor Advert. Co., 634 So.2d 750, 754 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994)); Randolph v. Antioch Farms Feed & Grain Corp., 903 So.2d 384, 385 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005) (“Of primary importance is the trial court's obligation to state sufficient factual findings in support of each element entitling a party to a temporary injunction․ The single error of failing to provide sufficient findings requires us to reverse and remand for further proceedings.”). The trial court's order fails this requirement.
"Neither the order nor the magistrate's report and recommendation recite sufficient factual findings to show us that appellees satisfied each element needed for entry of a temporary injunction," the judge stated. "On this basis, alone, we must reverse and remand for further proceedings. See Randolph, 903 So.2d 384 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005). It appears to us that there were disputed issues of fact between the parties. Yet, to our knowledge, neither the magistrate nor the trial court held an evidentiary hearing. Thus, substantial, competent evidence was not provided to establish entitlement to a temporary injunction."
"We must also note that Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.610(b) requires that a bond be set for the issuance of a temporary injunction," the judge added. "The trial court did not require a bond. This, too, was error. Because the trial court committed legal error in granting the motion to preserve assets, we reverse and remand for further proceedings."
This should have been the end of it, but it wasn't.
Williams is now currently being threatened with arrest, facing a lawsuit that will utterly destroy her and all because her previous attorney fees and liens were not paid by her attorneys in the settlement of the rape case, which are stipulated in her retainer agreement.
I reached out to the "most famous female attorney in the country" to ask her about this issue and why the fees and liens were never paid because if they were, there would never have been this temporary injunction filed nor the sale of a "right to sue" from Dolce to Mager nor assessed fines and other feed in excess of $1 million against Ms. Williams by a judge that was busted in a prostitution sting nor threats of arrest towards Ms. Williams.
This attorney responded to my requests by dodging what I asked and that was about prior legal fees and liens Ms. Williams had acquired. Instead, she wrote:
We represented Ms. Williams approximately 7 years ago. She has had a number of lawyers since then.
Any legal problems that Ms. Williams faces has nothing to do with our representation of her and there is no factual basis for the assertions set forth in your email.
We suggest that you review the public documents in the case of Victim Justice, P.C., et al v. v. Deanna Williams, Case number 13-CA-003181 pending in Lee County, Florida, prior to making any further false statements.
Also, you do not appear to have possession of all the relevant confidential documents. Your statements are based on incomplete information which has led you to a false and misleading conclusion. Ethical rules which prohibit disclosure of attorney client communications preclude us from providing additional documents to you or commenting further.
Actually, it appears that all of Ms. Williams' legal problems stem from the attorneys in the case she is citing not being paid from the settlement as promised in the retainer agreement. If they were paid, then this entire fiasco of a lawsuit against Ms. Williams should be shown for the fraud it is, all her funds returned and attorneys involved barred from practicing law ever again.
It's one thing or the other, but it cannot be both.
In fact, the case against her currently is due to her previous attorney filing in her inactive rape case and failing to represent her properly in this matter of attorneys attempting to get money they claim they are entitled (one of which was not even involved but bought rights to sue for profit), something for which the Florida Bar should open an investigation into this conduct in the matter, as well.
This isn't just my assessment, it is also the opinion of other attorneys who have submitted this in writing.
Imagine this: a rape victim who fails to obtain the very settlement that she is promised due to attorneys failing to properly render her justice, and judges who fail to do the same. Would you stand for this?
You can help her financially, as she has lost her home due to this and on the verge of losing her car. Click here to donate directly to her at GoFundMe.
If you wish to encourage the State of Florida to get involved in this matter, here are the contacts.
You can contact Governor DeSantis on behalf of Ms. Williams below:
Executive Office of Governor Ron DeSantis
400 S Monroe St
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Additionally, you can contact Attorney General Ashley Moody on behalf of Ms. Williams below:
Office of Attorney General
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Finally, it may even help to contact the Florida Bar on Ms. Williams’ behalf to see if they will begin to investigate ethics violations, negligence and corruption that appears to have taken place with regards to Ms. Williams’ representation, legal agreements and rulings by judges in the cases.
The Florida Bar contact information:
The Florida Bar
651 E. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300
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