By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org
A Deerfield Beach attorney who has just been blasted in federal court for drafting Donald Trump’s Deep State conspiracy lawsuit can expect a cricket from the Florida bar — or worse.
It would be Peter Ticktin’s fourth round with legal regulators, his first based on a Trump case. More than a decade ago, the Florida Supreme Court twice temporarily shut down his practice, ruling in 2009 that he had displayed “poor professional judgment” resulting in “misconduct … unseemly for a member of the Florida Bar.”
Ticktin is a QAnon conspiracy booster and Trump loyalist whose devotion to the former President dates back to high school. He wrote a book called What Makes Trump Tick about his service as Trump’s platoon sergeant when the two teenagers were classmates at the New York Military Academy in the early 1960s.
On Thursday, US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks of West Palm Beach ordered Ticktin and other members of Trump’s legal team to collectively pay the court $50,000 in sanctions and another $16,274 to defendant Charles Dolan, a Democratic public relations executive party to pay for his attorneys’ fees and costs.
Middlebrooks found that the Trump attorneys broke Rule 11 of federal court by filing a non-factual, “performative” political complaint. He granted Dolan’s request for sanctions.
JUDGE GOES TO TARGET TRUMP’S ATTORNEYS
On Sept. 8, Middlebrooks dismissed Trump’s entire complaint, a convoluted list of grievances, in a scathing 65-page statement. The judge followed suit last week, calling for a review of the conduct of Trump’s attorneys.
“The rule of law is undermined by the toxic combination of political fundraising with legal fees paid by political action committees, reckless and factually untrue statements by lawyers at rallies and in the media, and efforts to advance a political narrative through lawsuits with no factual basis or any discernible one Legal theory,” wrote Middlebrooks.
“Lawyers allow for this behavior and I am pessimistic that Rule 11 [sanctions] alone can effectively curb this abuse. Aspects may be outside the purview of the judiciary and may require the attention of legal and disciplinary bodies,” he wrote. “Additional sanctions may be appropriate.”
Middlebrooks could inspire New Jersey’s legal regulators to take a close look at Alina Habba of Bedminster, New Jersey, another Trump attorney in the Florida case who is jointly responsible with Ticktin for paying the sanction, fees and costs.
COURT CHARGE IS ‘DEVASTATING’
According to Ken White, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and First Amendment attorney, Ticktin should prepare for what lies ahead.
“It’s not the kind of order you want to have around your neck professionally. It’s a devastating reprimand,” said White, a former federal prosecutor and host of Make No Law: The First Amendment Podcast.
“It’s an extremely strong call to prosecutors,” he said. “To get their interest, you usually have to steal money from a disabled client’s escrow account. The only other thing she’s going to involve is a call from a federal judge.”
“This attorney’s problems are just beginning,” White said.
TICKTINS CANADIAN CAREERS
Officially, the Florida Bar’s ethics investigations are confidential unless they result in charges. The state Supreme Court is the final arbitration court for penalties for Florida attorneys, ranging from a reprimand to suspension and disqualification from practicing law.
Ticktin did not respond to emailed questions from Florida bulldog. CNN reported that he called Middlebrooks’ sanction “a kick in the face” and plans an appeal at the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta.
Florida bulldog Unable to verify portions of Ticktin’s resume on LegalBrains.com, the website of his Deerfield Beach law firm, The Ticktin Law Group.
According to his resume, Ticktin began his practice in 1972 as an attorney in the Criminal Courts of Ontario, Canada. Through his appellate work, he “changed the law relating to burglary and trespassing in the Supreme Court of Canada.”
START NEW IN FLORIDA
An internet search didn’t turn up the “important precedent” that made this change, cited as “Her Majesty the Queen vs. Jewell.”
On two different LegalBrains.com websites, the ruling is sourced from two different courts, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Superior Court – the latter is a place for trials, not appeals, which produce landmark judgments.
“His record in Ontario was impeccable,” the website reads. But in 1985, Ticktin moved to Florida, where he had to go to law school for two years and pass a bar exam before he could open his practice.
Ticktin didn’t answer Florida Bulldogs Questions about his decision to relocate and why he is practicing law as a Canadian attorney.
DOUBT CUTTING EDGE VICTORY
In Florida, Ticktin set out to establish itself “on the cutting edge of the law.” For example, his company’s website praises his fight in the 1980s to prevent doctors from disclosing their patients’ HIV status to their employers.
But the 1996 decision that LegalBrains.com singles out, Doe vs. Potash, didn’t advance Ticktin’s cause an inch.
In fact it went back. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied Ticktin’s request that judges apply a newer law in a 1987 case that bans physicians from disclosing medical records. He lost that.
But Ticktin inexplicably takes credit for reforming the law. “We found that by fighting the battle, the goals [sic] changing the world around us has been accomplished,” the website reads.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DISCIPLINE
Details of two notable episodes from Ticktin’s career are missing from the LegalBrains.com website. You’re the one about his longest suspension of 91 days and a Florida bar investigation of a rotten fee agreement.
Ticktin also agreed to a 15-day suspension in 2010 as part of a secret deal with the Florida Bar. A filing entry shows that the Supreme Court file, which is not available online, was destroyed on September 12.
Previously, Ticktin ran into trouble with the bar for continuing to represent businessman Paul Johnson after taking his place as CEO of delivery company Pony Express in 2002.
Both men knew that Johnson would be arrested and charged with defrauding investors out of $20 million, according to the Florida Supreme Court’s 2009 opinion in the Ticktin disciplinary case, which faced the public.
(Coincidentally, Middlebrooks was the judge handling Johnson’s trial, which ended in 2004 with a 20-year sentence.)
SWITCH TO SECURITY DEFENSE
While his client was in custody, “Ticktin actively worked against Johnson’s property interests,” according to the Florida Bar’s lawsuit against him. Ticktin denied wrongdoing, but the Supreme Court ruled he had broken conflict of interest rules and ordered him to pause his practice for 91 days.
Ticktin later blamed the hyperactive 2004 hurricane season for depressing Pony Express’s customer base and bankrupting it. In 2010 the sunguard reported that Deutsche Bank was trying to foreclose on his 3,920-square-foot home in Boca Raton.
By this point, Ticktin knew about defending against mortgage foreclosures because, he said, he helped 3,000 customers keep their property. Ticktin boasted of exposing the widely condemned fraud by lenders to use auto-signed documents in foreclosure actions.
The Florida Bar re-investigated Ticktin after a story appeared in it The New York Times about his “unconventional” fee arrangements in some of these cases: He had clients take out second mortgages to pay him. That sunguard revealed the Bar investigation in November 2010; Apparently, this did not lead to any charges.
A “RELATIVELY HIGH” SANCTION
Ticktin Law Group continues to list defense against mortgage foreclosures among the firm’s practice areas.
In recent years, the namesake and senior partner of the 10-attorney firm has focused on his MAGA activism and legal work for Trump.
However, following Middlebrooks’ approval, Ticktin may want to consider moving on to a different specialty.
“The sanction is relatively high. It’s fair and it won’t cover all of the costs of fighting the lawsuit, but it’s unusual for it to be this high,” former prosecutor White said.
“It’s kind of a reflection of the fact that Trump and his attorneys continue to abuse the system in ways that federal judges just don’t like,” he said. “The usual strategy just won’t work.”