“Because the trial court did not provide sufficient notice and the opportunity for an evidentiary hearing before issuing its penalty order, we are reversing.”
A Boca Raton law firm will not have to pay a $17,150 fine after the Third District Court of Appeals overturned a lower court order assessing the penalty. The appeals court concluded that the company had not received a preliminary hearing of evidence.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Veronique Diaz ruled in January 2021 that attorneys for Shir Law Group filed a frivolous motion against individuals for allegedly breaching a confidentiality order. She issued a formal order in March 2021 requiring the firm to pay $17,150 to cover opposing counsel’s attorney fees.
But because she issued the bench order without giving the Shir Law Group attorneys an evidentiary hearing, the Third District overturned the decision in a decision made by a panel of three judges — Judges Monica Gordo, norma lindsey and Thomas Loge.
“Although the trial court has the inherent power to impose attorneys’ fees for conduct in bad faith, the trial court must provide notice and an opportunity to be heard and to present evidence before proceeding. initiate the sanction,” the decision reads. “The trial court’s failure to allow notice and a hearing prior to issuing the penalty order constitutes a violation of the due process rights of the Shir defendants.”
The Shir firm filed a petition against Javier Lopez in May 2019, claiming he should be held in contempt for breaching a confidentiality order by revealing information subject to a settlement agreement that was not to be disclosed.
Lawyers for Flavie and Dario Carnevalethe other parties to the case, filed a motion against Robert Menje for misconduct. Judge Diaz denied both motions but imposed a penalty on the law firm Shir to pay Carnevale’s attorney fees, which were calculated at $17,150, because the information had already been made public.
But Judge Diaz handed down the sentence on her own initiative, the decision notes, and did not allow the Shir firm to present evidence.
“Because the trial court failed to provide sufficient notice and an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing before issuing its penalty order, we reverse it,” the decision reads.