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Tallahassee lawyer suspended in adoption case
Last updated Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 3:14 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A lawyer who knowingly submitted false information in an adoption case was suspended for three years Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court, although two dissenting justices said she should have been disbarred.
The majority justices in the 5-2 ruling acknowledged Joyce Sibson Dove's ethics violations ordinarily would deserve disbarment, but they cited mitigating factors.
Those included the Tallahassee lawyer's lack of a prior disciplinary record, community service such as helping Ukrainian hospitals and orphanages bring sick children to the United States for treatment, and her remorse and rehabilitation since the 2002 violations.
In dissent, Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis wrote that it was among the most flagrant cases of lawyer misconduct the high court has ever reviewed because it affected vulnerable children and families.
"I suggest that the imposition of only a suspension under these egregious circumstances undermines professionalism, creates fertile ground for public distrust, and constructs unjustifiably lenient precedent that we will regret in the future," Lewis write.
Justice Barbara Pariente, while also dissenting, noted the three-year suspension is the most serious penalty Dove could get short of being disbarred.
Dove did not immediately return a telephone message left at her office.
She had gone ahead with a termination of parental rights and adoption to an out-of-state couple although she knew the child's maternal grandparents by law had priority. She hid those facts from the court and the adoptive parents, and she lied in court documents.
The case later was settled with the birth mother and grandparents getting visitation rights.