final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
of Original Jurisdiction - Prohibition. Lower Tribunal No.
Bonner Jacobs Ortiz, P.A., and Christopher J. King and Jose
A. Ortiz; Leon Cosgrove, LLP, and Scott B. Cosgrove, for
Law, and Matias R. Dorta and Gonzalo R. Dorta, for respondent
EMAS, C.J., and FERNANDEZ and LOGUE, JJ.
Harout Samra, seeks issuance of a writ prohibiting the trial
judge from presiding further in the underlying case,
following the trial court's order denying Samra's
motion for disqualification. We grant the petition and remand
for reassignment of the case to another judge.
from the actual causes of action being prosecuted and
defended in the case below, this cause has already been the
subject of substantial litigation involving Samra's
former counsel, Jose Ferrer ("Ferrer") and Bilzin
Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, LLP ("the Bilzin
firm"). Here are the brief
allegations necessary to place the present issue in
its proper context:
2014, Samra sued, among others, his former partner, Vicken
Bedoyan, and the case proceeded to a liability-only jury
trial with Judge William Thomas presiding. Samra prevailed in
that phase upon a finding that Bedoyan breached a partnership
agreement. As the parties prepared for the second phase-a
trial on damages-the Bilzin firm filed a motion to strike
Bedoyan's pleadings based upon allegations of misconduct
by Bedoyan and/or his attorneys. Bedoyan thereafter filed a
motion to disqualify the Bilzin firm from the case based upon
allegations of misconduct by the Bilzin firm's lawyers.
Judge Thomas held a hearing, denied the motion, and soon
after disqualified himself sua sponte. The case was
reassigned to Judge Butchko.
then sought reconsideration of Judge Thomas' order
denying the motion to disqualify the Bilzin firm, and Bedoyan
filed an additional motion seeking sanctions against Ferrer
and the Bilzin firm for alleged misconduct. Soon thereafter,
the Bilzin firm voluntarily withdrew from its representation
of Samra, and Samra engaged Homer Bonner Jacobs Ortiz, P.A.,
to represent him in the impending damages phase trial.
the Bilzin firm's withdrawal, the motion seeking
sanctions against Ferrer and the Bilzin firm remained
pending, and Judge Butchko proceeded to a two-day evidentiary
hearing on the motion. Importantly, Samra did not attend this
two-day evidentiary hearing on the motion for sanctions; in
fact, Samra's new counsel (Homer Bonner) was instructed
by Judge Butchko that it could not attend the
the evidentiary hearing, Judge Butchko issued a
fifty-one-page order imposing sanctions upon Ferrer and the
Bilzin firm, finding, inter alia: "privileged
attorney client telephone communications were illegally
intercepted without the consent of all participants and, at a
minimum, highly suspicious under circumstances that should
have alerted Mr. Ferrer not to use them." Judge Butchko
described the recordings as containing "suspect
information acquired through suspect circumstances in bad
faith" and found "that there were portions of the
recordings that were altered or incomplete." Judge
Butchko concluded that the Bilzin firm had acted "in bad
faith and without factual ...