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Raulerson v. Font

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

August 1, 2018

Brandy E. Raulerson, Appellant,
Jose P. Font, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from a non-final order from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 17-18397 Luise Krieger Martin, Judge.

          Barnard Law Offices, and Andrew C. Barnard and Garrett William Haakon Clifford, for appellant.

          Font & Nelson, and Jose P. Font and Frantz C. Nelson (Fort Lauderdale), for appellee.

          Before SUAREZ, SALTER and FERNANDEZ, JJ.

          SALTER, J.

         Florida-licensed attorney Brandy E. Raulerson ("Ms. Raulerson") appeals an order dismissing her petition for an injunction against stalking as against the appellee, Florida-licensed attorney Jose P. Font ("Mr. Font"). We affirm the order, concluding, as the trial court did, that the sworn allegations in the petition (a) primarily involve conduct outside the definitions and boundaries of the applicable statutes, [1] and (b) present certain issues best addressed under the disciplinary framework established by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

         I. Background

         Ms. Raulerson is an associate attorney employed by a law firm (Barnard Law Offices, L.P., "BLO"), which regularly represents insured homeowners and other parties with insurance claims, including bad faith claims. The senior and "name" partner at BLO is Andrew C. Barnard ("Mr. Barnard"). Mr. Barnard was designated as Ms. Raulerson's attorney for purposes of the stalking case, and he also represents her in this appeal. The petition includes allegations regarding conduct witnessed by Mr. Barnard and statements heard by him, in each case relating to lawsuits and conduct in a courtroom or courthouse.

         The respondent, Mr. Font, is identified in the petition as the managing partner of a law firm, "Font & Nelson, LLC," in Fort Lauderdale. Mr. Font's law firm regularly represents insurers, and Mr. Font has expressed a particular interest in identifying fraudulent insurance claims for prosecution under the applicable criminal statutes. The petition alleges that Mr. Font, among other wrongful acts: "threatened, harassed, stalked, cyberstalked, or abused" Ms. Raulerson; "threatened to harm [Ms. Raulerson] and individuals closely associated with [Ms. Raulerson];" "repeatedly harassed and threatened [Ms. Raulerson] and her co workers and her employer by forcing her to appear at court hearings having nothing to do with her, and then threatening her with criminal actions, going so far as to publish a false affidavit against her which he suborned from a prior client;" and repeatedly published the affidavit "in all cases involving [BLO] as well as other cases where [BLO] has no involvement whatsoever."

         As the eleven-page petition continues, the underlying details (dates, times, locations, specific threats - verbal, nonverbal, or implied) are sparse, but include these allegations:

• Mr. Font is alleged to have made "verbal threats to [Ms. Raulerson] that he will cause her to lose her bar license and livelihood and reputation."
• Mr. Font is alleged to have harassed Ms. Raulerson because of her "rejection of his crude sexual advances." This was alleged to have begun in January 2016, the first encounter between the two attorneys, at an examination under oath of an insured conducted by Mr. Font and attended by Ms. Raulerson and another attorney from BLO. Mr. Font allegedly asked the other BLO attorney, within the hearing of Ms. Raulerson, if he was having sexual relations with Ms. Raulerson. The petition alleges that this was done "with the obvious intent or objective that Mr. Font himself wanted to [have sexual relations with her]."[2]
• Following this incident, Ms. Raulerson was upset and complained to BLO and Mr. Barnard. Mr. Barnard "contacted Mr. Font and expressed his concern to Mr. Font about such abuse from an attorney against a young associate. Mr. Font told Mr. Barnard to 'f**k off'"
• At some later time, Mr. Font allegedly told Ms. Raulerson "he was having her watched by means of remote drones."
• These circumstances caused Ms. Raulerson "extreme mental anguish resulting in physical illness (hives, vomiting, lost sleep, loss of enjoyment of life, disparagement of reputation)." Mr. Font's threats have caused Ms. Raulerson's level of discomfort to rise "from high anxiety to revulsion against Mr. Font to the point where she has applied for and obtained a concealed weapons license."

         Over ninety percent of the allegations in the petition, however, are related to unprofessional conduct in litigation by Mr. Font-issuing subpoenae to require Ms. Raulerson to appear at insurance case trials, even when she was not involved; filing an allegedly-defamatory affidavit[3] in over a dozen insurance cases; becoming "unhinged" after BLO "obtained a money judgment against him individually for $8, 332.50 for discovery abuses" in May 2017; making threats while "hiding behind 'judicial privilege;'" wasting Ms. Raulerson's time in an effort to have her fired, "obviously for 'revenge' and to make the case as expensive as possible for [the plaintiff in a given case]."

         The injunction for protection sought in the petition asked that Mr. Font be prohibited from "going to or within 500 feet of any place [Ms. Raulerson] lives, or to any specified place regularly frequented by [her] and any named family members or individuals closely associated with [her.]" Those individual co-workers closely associated with Ms. Raulerson were alleged to include Mr. Barnard, any member of his family, or any associates or employees of BLO.

         The petition also sought injunction provisions prohibiting Mr. Font from going to or within 500 feet of the BLO law office, going to or within 100 feet of Ms. Raulerson's motor vehicle "whether or not that vehicle is occupied," and contacting Ms. Raulerson by telephone, mail, email, in writing, through another person, "or in any other manner."

         In keeping with the statutory procedure in section 784.0485, a temporary injunction for protection against stalking violence was issued on the day the petition was filed, and the matter was scheduled for an evidentiary hearing and consideration of a final judgment of injunction some fifteen days later. Mr. Font filed a 422-page motion to dismiss the petition and dissolve the injunction, raising the applicability of the litigation privilege, the paucity of details in the allegations, the petition's reliance on "psychoanalytical analysis" and "theatrical representation of facts," and an argument that emailed and electronically-filed pleadings and communications ...

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