Richard Celler of Morgan & Morgan has a rather unique approach to depositions. Celler was removed from a case by U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga after scheduling depositions at a Dunkin’ Donut shop, appearing in shorts and teeshirts, drawing pictures of male genitalia to mock opposing counsel, and playing video games like Angry Birds during depositions. This case in Miami shows another recent case of a lawyer in Texas who was charged with sanctionable conduct for a bizarre series of emails to opposing counsel concerning the scheduling of depositions. I thought I had been in some heated depositions in my career, but I now feel like a mere piker practicioner.
The order below details the claims against Celler. Cellar had sued a limousine service and corporate officers in the case and routinely made nasty comments to opposing counsel in emails and disparaged opposing counsel in front of his clients. The conduct described simply is beyond belief:
“Mr. Celler . . . drawing photos of — pictures of male genitalia and showing them to Ms. Schulman, describing Mr. Coupal. I told Mr. Coupal after that was occurring and he made mention about it.” (Apr. 2, 2012 Hearing Tr. 17:2–5). Sorci testified that he observed Schulman “laugh[ing] quite a few times” at Celler’s drawings, and that on break Schulman made a comment that “this is typical Richard [Celler], this is what he does at these sort of things.” (Id. 85:5–10). Tinkler further stated that “during Mr. Schatt’s deposition Mr. Celler was playing the game Angry Birds. He admitted it aloud and was bragging that he had just beaten somebody in Minnesota at the game during the deposition.” (Id. 17:6–9). Moreover, Celler would wear a t-shirt and shorts to proceedings to gain “a psychological advantage.” (Id. 17:11–15). Celler chose Dunkin’ Donuts as the site of depositions against Coupal’s wishes.
Ironically, I was just discussing the practice of abuse by lawyers with an associate with whom I practice. I am always taken aback by overly insulting and angry lawyers who seem to use claims of “litigation style” to vent serious personality problems and anger issues. Notably, Schulman (who was also removed from the case with Celler) “made a comment that ‘this is typical Richard [Celler], this is what he does at these sort of things.'” Many such lawyers tell young associates that they berate and harass opposing counsel to get an advantage but that is rarely true. It is an excuse to be a bully and yield to the lawyer’s inherent obnoxious character. The fact that firms tolerate such conduct, often from partners, is a disgrace.
The disqualification of both attorneys in this case was sealed by what the court describes as ex parte contacts.
The court concludes that the entire firm cannot be trusted to act ethically:
It is evident that Celler’s actions with respect to Defendants, and throughout this case, have so damaged the adversarial process that any trial may well be tainted. Furthermore, given the small size of the Morgan & Morgan labor practice, the Court is not convinced that a Chinese wall — and removing solely Celler and Schulman from this case — would have any effectiveness. If there are seven attorneys practicing labor and employment law in Celler’s office as Schulman testified, three of them have already appeared in this case. Up to this point, Celler and Schulman have hardly demonstrated the scrupulousness that would be required to enforce a Chinese wall, and in the words of the Papanicolaou court, the “Court doubts whether any Chinese walls, which are meant to be preemptive, can ever function effectively when erected in response to a motion, and not prior to the arising of the conflict.” Id. at 1087.
The Court finds that the appropriate remedy in this matter is to disqualify the Morgan & Morgan law firm from representation of Plaintiff in this action. In so finding, the Court is influenced by the egregiousness of the Florida Bar Rule violations, and the grave impact Celler’s disparaging acts have had on the attorney-client relationship between Coupal and Defendants.
Richard Celler received his J.D. from University of Miami in 1999. His bio states that “[a]fter having gained the experience and mentality of a wage and hour defense attorney, Mr. Celler began litigating these claims on behalf of employees.” I am not sure what “mentality” means in this context but it appears the wrong mentality for federal practice. The bio also claims that he “has been featured on Fox News, UPN, USA Today, Tampa Tribune, Saint Petersburg Times, The Daily Business Review, and the South Florida Business Review.” He can now add a slew bar journals and ethics reviews.
Here is the order: gov.uscourts.flsd.391539.172.0
Source: South Floridaas first seen on ABA Journal.
11 thoughts on “Two Attorneys Disqualified After Scheduling Depositions at Dunkin’ Donuts and One Played “Angry Birds” and Drew Pictures of Male Genitalia To Mock Opposing Counsel”
Richard Celler is a man amongst boys. He is an extraordinary lawyer, and he knows it. His acumen is such that it intimidates and befuddles opponents. Let there be no doubt that Richard plays to win and leaves nothing on the field.
He was my lawyer and attained for me justice, and a record verdict. He’s not a stuffy suit filled with tired cliches and a 50 year old playbook. He’s like a 260lb linebacker who will light you up if you’re carrying the ball.
Blessed is he who hires Richard Celler. Woe to you who must litigate against him.
Sorry, folks. He’s that good. Get over it.
Just an update – Inquisitor ( I mean Aventura’s lawyer) lawyer got sanctioned (again) for discovery violations.
Looks like “martin” is a troll for Morgan & Morgan (which does have offices in Georgia, natch). I’m familiar with the case, and, in fact, the Defendant moved to disqualify Celler before any arbitration award was entered; now that Celler was disqualified for conduct in Schatt, that award probably won’t survive. The bit about Coupal threatening a lawyer was also false, and a red herring to distract the court from the main issue at hand, i.e. what Celler had done. Pretty pathetic that Morgan & Morgan (sorry, I meant “martin”) is actually trying to justify a lawyer going behind an opposing counsel’s back to tell the client to fire his lawyer or else.
The title of the article is misleading if the author actually read the Order. Sloppy journalism. The true gist of the disqualification was for a debatable ex parte communication with a former manager and one of the actual individual defendants. The PACER file also shows that Defendants’ counsel was disqualified as well and that the Defendants filed their Motion to Disqualify only after the Plaintiffs filed theirs. Somehow that did not get mentioned in the story. There is also documentation in the record that the Defendants’ attorney Coupal stood up during a deposition before Cellar and his firm took over and appears to have physically threatened another lawyer on the record. The article also does not mention that Coupal only raised the concerns he had with Celler after he lost the initial arbitration in the Schatt case and got his client subjected to liquidated damages, a willfull violation, and attorneys’ fees and costs. I live here in Georgia and we have Dunkin Donuts with big private conference rooms that you rent by the hour. Does anybody know if that was where the deposition took place or was it out in the open by the counter? I love a good lawyer gone wrong story, but how about some complete reporting? Get the facts straight guys!
I was once doing a deposition when the two lawyers got into a heated argument, ending when one of them invited the other outside to the parking lot to settle it. They finally settled down and went on with the deposition. I refused to work with either of them after that.
Do not disparage humans. Do not disparage crazy people, while according them the capacity to get jobs anywhere.
Ia it crazy people we are dealing with here?
Let us ask if the selection and training of lawyers is not more germane to examining the facts shown. I feel so.
This after all, concerns lawyers’ conduct and that you should be intimately familiar with, and thus capable of addressing the issues connected with the behaviour.
Simply amazing. There is a huge difference in tweaking someone in argument and routinely making nasty comments to opposing counsel in emails and disparaging opposing counsel in front of his clients. That is way beyond tactical advantage and in to making it personal. I’ve seen opposing counselors piss each other off in argument and then go have a beer after court. It was never personal. But this kind of nonsense? Just . . . wow. Proof that crazy people can be functional enough to not only work but work in most any profession.
This guy gives the human race a bad name. What an idiot!
It isn’t just the lawyers, some high profile judges do just as bad:
(Washington’s Blog). The blogger suggested that this case should get national attention, since this judge sat on the case of Governor Siegelman.
Good examples of why lawyers have a bad rep. They make it all about beating the other guy/gal and not about working toward truth and justice. We need more lawyers willing to work as fair and honest mediators.
“It is an excuse to be a bully and yield to the lawyer’s inherent obnoxious character. The fact that firms tolerate such conduct, often from partners, is a disgrace.”
That may be one reason decency is so valuable, it is becoming more and more rare in some “disciplines.”
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