Is Jeffrey Norkin Florida's Most Obnoxious Lawyer? The State Supreme Court Seems to Think So

floridasupremecourt.jpg
The Florida Supreme Court
It takes a special level of lawyerly obnoxiousness to get a Miami-Dade circuit judge to declare, "Oh my God, I'm done. Goodbye. Not doing this," in the middle of a hearing. That very level of obnoxiousness has gotten South Florida lawyer Jeffrey Norkin suspended by the Florida Supreme Court for a very heavy-handed two years.

In fact, the Supremes found Norkin's in-court antics so severely unprofessional they had no problem using this ruling as a very public and dramatic warning to other Florida attorneys to be more civil. They declared that "his unprofessional conduct is an embarrassment to all members of the Florida Bar" and warned other lawyers to study the decision as a "glaring example of unprofessional behavior."

The Supreme Court's findings paint Norkin, a Plantation-based lawyer, as something akin to a boisterous reality-TV contestant who simply wasn't there to make friends. Norkin wasn't blowing up courts with profanity-laced tirades, however. Instead, he was faulted for his incessant yelling, nasty tone, interrupting judges, and accusing both judges and opposing council of illegal behavior.

Norkin was representing the defendant in a case involving a fallout between former business partners of the Homestead-based Floors to Doors Inc. Gary Brooks, a 30-year member of the Florida Bar with a spotless record, was representing the plaintiff and filed the original complaint with the Florida Bar. Brooks, 71 at the time, was suffering from health problems and has since died.

Brooks and the two judges in the case all agreed that when things were going his way, Norkin would act in a professional manner, but when hearings weren't going in his favor, Norkin would scream and belittle everyone else involved.

In fact, in this particularly case, Norkin believed that the judges involved were somehow in cahoots with the other attorneys. He accused one judge of being at the "beck and call" of the plaintiff and asked another point blank if she liked the other lawyer better than him.

In fact, Norkin tried to have the original judge, Ronald Dresnick, removed from the case by falsely insinuating he was in some sort of illegal conspiratorial relationship with the plaintiff.

Dresnick, however, was often fed up with Norkin's antics. Here's a selection of Dresnick's quotes, cited by the Supreme Court.

  • "Excuse me, sir. I've had enough with you. You only like it when it's going your way and you don't see it any other way."
  • "I am finding these hearings with you extremely difficult. You talk very loud. I am telling you at every hearing. You are very angry; you make me angry. I don't like angry lawyers."
  • "I am a low-volume, low-key guy until I get pissed off. You know what pisses me off? People coming in here and raising their voices at me."
  • "You come in like a bull in a china shop. You do it every time. I don't know if you are trying to piss me off or what, but you do it."

Dresnick had appointed a senior judge to act as a provisional director of the company and a mediator between the two feuding business partners to break ties on any business disagreements during the proceedings, but Norkin complained that the mediator was too partial to the plaintiff. He also refused to have his client pay for his share of the mediator's fees and threatened to lodge a lawsuit against both the sitting judge and the senior judge.

Eventually, Dresnick became so fed up with Norkin that he chose to recuse himself from the case and was succeeded by Judge Valerie Manno Schurr. Manno Schurr also quickly tired of Norkin. Some key quotes from Manno Schurr during hearings:

  • "I'm done. You do this to me every single time you are in front of me, whether it is in motion calendar, in my office, or it's a special set or today. You yell at me and you scream at me, and I'm asking you to please stop. I'm done."
  • "You yell at me every time we have a hearing."
  • "Oh my God, I'm done. Goodbye. Not doing this. Not going to be questioned by you. You do this to me every single time."

Norkin tried to defend himself by claiming that his voice was naturally loud and that he has a tendency to talk louder when he feels he isn't being heard. He also claimed he had "depression, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, and physical impairment due to an atrophied optic nerve which can prevent him from identifying nonverbal cues."

Norkin had previously been suspended for 30 days in 2004 for similar behavior.

A referee who had reviewed the complaint suggested a mild 90-day suspension. The Florida Bar had originally sought a one-year suspension. However, the Florida Supreme Court justices decided that neither suggestion was enough and slapped Norkin with a two-year suspension and a public reprimand. He will also pay nearly $8,000 to the bar in legal costs.

The court also recommended that Norkin submit himself to a mental health evaluation and undergo any suggested counseling. Norkin says he is already working with a behavioral therapist to correct his behavior.

The court also cited recent bar surveys that said lawyers in Florida have recently become less civil to one another, and their ruling left little doubt that the Supremes would like lawyers to watch their manners more often in court.

"Screaming at judges and opposing counsel, and personally attacking opposing counsel by disparaging him and attempting to humiliate him, are not among the types of acceptable conduct but are entirely unacceptable," the court wrote. "One can be professional and aggressive without being obnoxious."

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5 comments
Restaurantreviews
Restaurantreviews

Oh please.  The guy is one of a bajillion who act just like him. I've been in the legal profession for 35 years and it's ridiculous.  And maybe, just maybe, the guy is sick to death of being robbed of what is right (legal) v. wrong (basically criminal).  There is NOTHING legal about the legal system here in Broward County.  These lawyers and judges lie, manipulate and cheat all the time, and all the while they walk around like they are better than others, because they are a part Broward's "elite". Yes, you do get some honest ones, but they are lightly sprinkled throughout venues (lawyers/judges/etc.)  It sure isn't like the good ole' days.  As for the 2 judges referenced in this story, who knows. They seem nice enough, but with 3 female judges getting arrested in the past year in Broward County for DUI's, who knows what's going on down there.  I'll tell you what, though, it is my feeling that probably many of them are "drinking the Kool-Aid".  So if this guy wants to rant and rave, then so be it.  If he does it because all the crap is so dishonest, then I would suggest he not torture himself, because it isn't going to change, and maybe he should consider a change in his "field"; rather than litigating; go to probate; real estate; banking law; etc.  Life's too short.

Rightway
Rightway

Norkin's lack of cooperation with disciplinary authorities is also relevant, the court said. At one point, it noted, Norkin wrote an e-mail to bar counsel saying: “If the Bar files this action against me, it will be met with a countersuit, and against you personally…. I know and am very close friends with some of the most powerful and respected lawyers in this state and all will know of your, and your Chairman's malicious prosecution of me.”

Jeff916
Jeff916

By the time I won for my client a $312,000 jury verdict, it was too late to save my client's company from liquidation in bankruptcy. 


At trial, Judge Manno Schurr dismissed many of my client's damages claims and the wife of the plaintiff, who I cross-sued for conspiracy to abuse process.  The judge's reasoning: a wife cannot legally conspire with her husband; a preposterous ruling not founded in the law and not even argued by the wife's lawyer!  


Brooks destroyed my client's whole life  and after the judgment and a huge appeal which affirmed that judgment, he filed a fraudulent bankruptcy to avoid paying.


Reporters write stories assuming that what judges say is from the mouth of God.  Judges are human.  They make mistakes and, dare I say, they often have motives other than "Seeking the truth."


This decision is one of many around the country in which the legal system, via its henchmen, judges, is quieting those who would tell the truth about the rampant dishonesty in the system.  


How could anyone read this decision and see its glaring incompleteness?  Where in the decision is it that I won the case on an ABUSE OF PROCESS COUNTERCLAIM, and that I got SUMMARY JUDGMENT on that?   Any lawyer will tell you that's extraordinary.


Where is it that I have been a litigator for 20 years, that I have done 37 trials and have had problems, and then only minor ones, with less than a handful of judges, and a review of the record would reveal gross judicial misconduct?  


Wow, did the reporter miss the story.  And wow, by relying on the Supreme Court's false, defamatory, patently outrageous decision without investigation, did he write a false story.


If you want the TRUE story, email me and I'll send you my briefs.


Jeffrey Norkin

jeffnorkinlaw.com




The jude 

Jeff916
Jeff916

I am the subject of this "Article."  


The article contains several false statements.  For example, I was NEVER suspended before this case.


The Supreme Court decision in my case conceals the actual record.  I put on five witnesses, submitted  dozens of documents, and testified for three days about the outrageous fraud on the court committed by the other side.


The judges before whom I was supposedly so "Obnoxious" never even threatened to sanction me for the conduct the Supreme Court four years later decided was "Appalling."  


The judges also did not testify against me.  I was prosecuted on a written transcript.  I had no opportunity to cross-examine the judges.


Had the judges felt my conduct was so "Appalling," surely they would have testified against me.  What happened is either the Bar did not interview the judges or found that what the judges had to say would not help the prosecution.


In the case, the lawyer, Gary Brooks, filed a lawsuit that the first judge, Hon. Daryl Trawick, ruled was an abuse of process.  It was a fraud on the court.  I came in after the case had already destroyed my client financially.  I filed a counterclaim for abuse of process and won summary judgment, dismissing Brooks sham suit and finding his client liable for abuse of process IN FIVE MONTHS.


For two years the case was held up by Brooks' delay tactics.  In those two years, my client's company went into foreclosure and then bankruptcy despite the fact I was NOT BEING PAID.  


I was not contacted for comment on this story.  Had I been, the New Times would have learned the truth and would have learned this is a much bigger story than jit appreciated.

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