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Trump’s SoFla lawyer Ticktin faces fourth Bar ethics probe after costly rebuke by federal judge

ticktin trump
ticktin and trump
Peter Ticktin and Donald Trump as classmates in a 1964 yearbook photo from the New York Military Academy.

By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org

A Deerfield Beach lawyer who just got slammed in federal court for crafting Donald Trump’s Deep State conspiracy lawsuit can expect a grilling from the Florida Bar — or worse.

It would be Peter Ticktin’s fourth round with lawyer regulators, his first based on a Trump case. More than a decade ago the Florida Supreme Court had him briefly shut down his practice twice, ruling in 2009 that he’d shown “poor professional judgment” resulting in “misconduct … unbecoming of 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, “What Makes Trump Tick,” about serving as Trump’s platoon sergeant when the two teens were classmates at New York Military Academy in the early 1960s.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks of West Palm Beach ordered Ticktin and others on Trump’s legal team to collectively pay $50,000 to the court as a sanction and another $16,274 to defendant Charles Dolan, a Democratic PR executive, for his attorneys’ fees and costs. 

Middlebrooks determined the Trump lawyers violated federal court Rule 11 by filing a fact-free, “performative” political lawsuit. He granted Dolan’s motion for sanctions.

JUDGE TARGETS TRUMP’S LAWYERS

On Sept. 8 Middlebrooks dismissed Trump’s entire complaint, a meandering list of grievances, with a trenchant 65-page opinion. The judge followed up last week by inviting scrutiny of Trump’s lawyers’ conduct.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks

“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 without factual basis or any cognizable legal theory,” Middlebrooks wrote.

“Lawyers are enabling this behavior and I am pessimistic that Rule 11 [sanctions] alone can effectively stem this abuse. Aspects may be beyond the purview of the judiciary, requiring attention of the Bar and disciplinary authorities,” he wrote. “Additional sanctions may be appropriate.”

Middlebrooks may inspire New Jersey Bar regulators to take a close look at Bedminster, N.J.-based Alina Habba, another Trump lawyer in the Florida case who is jointly responsible, along with Ticktin, for paying the sanction, fees and costs.

JUDICIAL REBUKE IS ‘DEVASTATING’

According to Ken White, a Los Angeles criminal defense and First Amendment lawyer, Ticktin should brace for what’s ahead.

“This is not the sort of order you want hanging around your neck careerwise. It’s a devastating rebuke,” said White, a former federal prosecutor and host of “Make No Law: The First Amendment Podcast.”

“It’s an extremely strong call-out to the state Bar,” he said. “Usually, to get them interested you have to steal money from a disabled client’s trust account. The one other thing that will get them involved is a call-out from a federal judge.”

“This lawyer’s problems are just beginning,” White said.

TICKTIN’S CANADIAN CAREER

Officially, Florida Bar ethics investigations are confidential unless and until they result in charges. The state Supreme Court is the final arbiter of punishment for Florida lawyers, ranging from admonishment to suspension and disbarment.

ticktin
Peter Ticktin in a more recent photo

Ticktin did not respond to emailed questions from Florida Bulldog. CNN reported that he called Middlebrooks’ sanction “a kick in the teeth” and he plans an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta.

Florida Bulldog could not verify parts of Ticktin’s resume on LegalBrains.com, the website of his Deerfield Beach firm The Ticktin Law Group.

The resume says Ticktin started his practice in 1972 as a barrister in the criminal courts of Ontario, Canada. Through his appellate work “he changed the law regarding breaking and entering before the Supreme Court of Canada.”

STARTING OVER IN FLORIDA

An internet search did not turn up the “important legal precedent” that made this change, cited as “Her Majesty the Queen vs. Jewell.”

On two different LegalBrains.com website pages the ruling is sourced to two different courts, the Supreme Court of Canada and Ontario Superior Court—the latter a place for trials, not appeals that produce landmark rulings.

“His record in Ontario was impeccable,” the website says. Yet in 1985 Ticktin relocated to Florida, where he had to spend two years in law school and pass a Bar exam before he could open his practice.

Ticktin did not respond to Florida Bulldog’s questions about his decision to move and about substantiating his record as a Canadian lawyer.

DUBIOUS ‘CUTTING EDGE’ VICTORY

In Florida, Ticktin set out to establish himself “on the cutting edge of the law.” For example, his firm’s website extols his fight in the 1980s to prevent doctors from disclosing patients’ HIV status to their employers.

But the 1996 decision that LegalBrains.com highlights, Doe vs. Potash, didn’t advance Ticktin’s cause a millimeter.

In fact, it backtracked. The Third District Court of Appeal refused Ticktin’s request that the judges apply to a 1987 case a more recent law that prohibits doctors from disclosing medical records. He lost that one.

Yet Ticktin inexplicably takes credit for reforming the law. “We found that by fighting the fight, the objectives [sic] of changing the world around us was accomplished,” the website says.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DISCIPLINE

Details of two notable episodes from Ticktin’s career are missing from the LegalBrains.com website. They are the one about his longest, 91-day suspension and a Florida Bar probe of a fishy fee arrangement.

Ticktin also agreed to a 15-day suspension in 2010 as part of a secret deal with the Florida Bar. A docket entry shows that the Supreme Court file, unavailable online, was destroyed on Sept. 12.

Previously, Ticktin got into trouble with the Bar for continuing to represent businessman Paul Johnson after taking his place as CEO of the Pony Express delivery company in 2002.

Both men knew Johnson was about to be arrested and charged with defrauding investors out of $20 million, according to the Florida Supreme Court’s 2009 opinion in the public facing Ticktin disciplinary case.

(Coincidentally, Middlebrooks was the judge who handled Johnson’s trial, ending with a 20-year sentence in 2004.)

SWITCH TO FORECLOSURE DEFENSE

While his client was in custody Ticktin “actively worked against Johnson’s ownership interests,” the Florida Bar complaint against him says. Ticktin denied wrongdoing but the Supreme Court decided he’d flouted conflict of interest rules and ordered him to pause his practice for 91 days.

Later Ticktin blamed the hyperactive hurricane season of 2004 for depressing Pony Express’s client base and bankrupting him. In 2010 the Sun Sentinel reported that Deutsche Bank was trying to foreclose on his 3,920-square-foot home in Boca Raton.

By then Ticktin knew something about mortgage foreclosure defense because, he said, he was helping 3,000 clients hang onto their property. Ticktin took credit for exposing the widely condemned lenders’ scam of using robo-signed documents in foreclosure actions.

The Florida Bar investigated Ticktin again after a story appeared in The New York Times about his “unconventional” fee deals in some of these cases: He let clients take out second mortgages to pay him. The Sun Sentinel revealed the Bar investigation in November 2010; apparently it didn’t lead to charges.

A ‘RELATIVELY HIGH’ SANCTION

The Ticktin Law Group still lists mortgage foreclosure defense among the firm’s practice areas.

In recent years the 10-lawyer firm’s namesake and senior partner has focused on his MAGA activism and legal work for Trump.

After Middlebrooks’ sanction, though, Ticktin may want to consider moving on to another specialty.

“The sanction is relatively high. It’s fair and it won’t cover all the expenses of fighting the lawsuit, but it’s unusual to be that high,” said former prosecutor White.

“It’s sort of a reflection of the fact that Trump and his lawyers are perceived to be continuing to abuse the system in a way that federal judges just don’t like,” he said. “The usual strategy is just not gonna work.”

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Latest comments

  • Another dumb tds opinion piece . Please do tell us what is qanon ? Your fictitious lefty boogeyman is getting old .

  • With all the political corruption going on in both local and national politics, this is the best the Florida bulldog can do beyond some stale 9/11 stories? Seriously guys, if you want to be the Florida “Bulldog” and not the Florida “Donkey” you should focus on stories of actual importance and not focus on a putative complaint to the Florida Bar about whether a lawsuit filing was deemed frivolous. Or, if you were to focus on a new angle related to the Bar complaint, how about focusing on how Judge Middleborooks and Peter Ticktin, sq. were adversaries two decades ago, how Middlebrooks ascended to the lifetime position as District Court Judge by a democrat appointment, and why Judge Middlebrooks refused to recuse or disqualify himself when the proper motion was timely made? Try that for a story!!

  • There is little doubt “the Bulldog” has an agenda and aggressively pursues matters relating to the agenda. Perhaps the approach is a net positive for the State and the Country. Perhaps?

  • Two types go to military school, Those who are looking for a career in the Armed Forces, and screw-ups with parents wealthy enough to afford “Private Prison”. What was Donald’s rank?

  • To Ricky Henderson XIV, (What’s up with the XIV?), Although the Florida Bar has no record of a “Ricky” or “Richard” Henderson in its membership roles, (I checked), based on your comment, I suspect you may be a bit more than “just another non-lawyer citizen.” Am I correct? You remind me of…ME! I hold the record in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court for the most number of Judges DISQUALIFIED by a single pro se litigant…EIGHT! But enough about me. Let’s get back to your comments regarding Peter Ticktin – a greedy, dishonest, unethical, self-serving lawyer who, based on his EXTENSIVE and SHAMEFUL Habitual Offender disciplinary “rap sheet,” should have been PERMANENTLY disbarred from the Florida legal profession long ago! I KNOW Peter Ticktin! In fact, I WORKED for his firm for a while, ironically, during one of his court-ordered “vacations” from the practice of law. Anyone who asked about him was told he was on a “Retreat.” I added that one to my list of sugar-coated, slick-lawyer, bullshit euphemisms for being SUSPENDED from practice! And despite everything he got caught doing and disciplined for, he GOT AWAY with one scheme he perpetrated, a really EGREGIOUS one, because outside of his inner circle, nobody realized what was really going on. He set up a phone room on the floor below his office and bought LISTS of people in foreclosure who had applied for a loan modification, but for whatever the reason, were turned down. WHO he bought those lists from is unknown, but we, the phone room workers, were COLD CALLING those people, (totally illegal for a law firm to do), and convincing them to let us pick up their mortgage docs, (at our expense), via Fed Ex or UPS, for a “free case evaluation.” To allay any suspicions about the legality of what we were doing, the managers would FALSELY tell us that the people we were calling had previously contacted the Ticktin Law Group and only inquired about representation, which created a “pre-existing business relationship” which allowed us to legally call them. It was a TOTAL BULLSHIT LIE and because about HALF the people I spoke to on the phone told me they had NEVER HEARD of the Ticktin Law Group and had never spoken to anybody at the firm, I quickly figured out what was REALLY happening and I knew that it was illegal – so I promptly quit. Nonetheless, HUNDREDS of distressed homeowners agreed to it in the short time I worked there! Once the Ticktins had the mortgage docs, a “salesmen” would contact the homeowner and tell them that discrepancies or irregularities were discovered in the docs, which most of time there WASN’T, and convinced them to sign on with the Ticktin firm to exploit those stated “discrepancies.” When I was there, the Ticktin Law Group had over THREE THOUSAND clients, each one on a $650 monthly retainer!!! That’s $1,950,000.00 EACH MONTH in fees!

    And worst of all, because this was all happening during one of Peter Ticktin’s “Retreats,” his daughter, Jessica, (before she became a Palm Beach County judge), and was at the time still in the Young Lawyers Division with NO practical experience in foreclosure defense, was running the firm with her cohort, Joshua Bleil which consisted of about twenty fresh-out-of-law school Young Lawyers Division “Greenhorns” with even LESS experience than her! These “kids” didn’t know what the hell they were doing and I can only guess at the number of people who might NOT have lost their homes but for the SERIOUSLY sub-standard, incompetent representation afforded them by Ticktin’s “child lawyers” who couldn’t find their ass with both hands and a flashlight!

    And THAT’S the story of how Peter Ticktin and his daughter did what they did and got away with it!

  • One more thing, Ricky, a Motion to Disqualify, (“MTD”), a trial court judge is neither “proper” nor “improper” – it is either “legally sufficient” or it isn’t! An MTD can be filed anytime during a case based on the “appearance of impropriety,” a reasonable belief that a judge is prejudiced against a party or its counsel, or an act of judicial misconduct, and those things could happen at any time…or not at all! Conversely, I believe it is WRONG for a prejudiced judge to decide whether or not he or she is prejudiced, but that’s how the Rules of Judicial Administration works. And whatever went on 20 years ago between Judge Middlebrooks and Peter Ticktin, is NOT grounds for disqualification now unless it affects the current proceedings.

  • Edweard Crespo is a liar who, for some unknow reason, feels it is necessary to defame my daughter and me. At one time, we did advertise to those on lists of people in foreclosure, and we found that it was not fruitful, as so many firms were doing that kind of advertising. Pursuant to the rules of The Florida Bar, the ads were all pre-approved.

    The investigation as to the second mortgage issue was based on a major misunderstanding. We did not place second mortgages on properties. We did have a contingency fee, in the event that we killed a mortgage, which gave us a new mortgage on the property for a small percentage of the amount we saved our clients. The Florida Bar investigated this novel approach, and later, we were completely cleared by The Florida Bar.

    I did get suspended for 91 days as I made a mistake. My sin was advising the shareholders that Paul Johnson was out of the Pony Express, “As out as out can be,” while I was still his lawyer on a collection matter, protecting him from a small creditor. It sounds innocent, enough, but the Florida Supreme Court felt it was “egregious.” The Court was right, and I learned an important lesson. To the client, criminal or not, he must have felt betrayed. However, there was no dishonesty in anything I have done. In fact, my honestly was used as a mitigating factor. The other issue was paying a referral fee to a lawyer from New York who was working out of Florida. In over 50 years of being a lawyer, I had no other discipline.

    Throughout my career, I have had groundbreaking, cutting-edge cases, and made new law. Yes, the Potash case did not work out well, but the ones against other employers, hospitals, etc., which never got to trial did change the way that the hospitals stopped disclosing HIV status of the patients.

    As to Judge Middlebrooks, I have no doubt that he is of high integrity. Most of us know that there is a dichotomy of Left vs. Right in America. He believes what he believes, but some of his conclusions, such as the idea that the lawyers on the case were pursuing the case for political purposes is simply not true. We were trying to right a wrong about what happened in 2016, and thereafter. The whole Russian collusion deal was a hoax, and the Steele Dossier was used to get FISA warrants and beyond. Most of the defendants were not candidates. We never misused the system. However, even a decent honest man who has a leaning could jump to a wrong conclusion. It is not as though Judge Middlebrooks ever confronted us or gave us a chance to explain our positions. When I asked Judge Middlebrooks to recuse himself, I did not suggest that he was biased, but rather that as a Clinton appointee, his decisions might be seen as biased, and that justice must not only be done, but it must APPEAR to be done. I believe that Judge Middlebrooks does not realize that he has a leaning, and I believe that many believe that justice is not being done. Now, this will be reviewed by a panel of 3 judges of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and we will see how they decide.

  • It’s interesting that Peter Ticktin calls me a liar, (Look what’s calling the kettle “black”). Peter Ticktin, just like every other “ethically challenged” lawyer I’ve encountered, is, of course, an expert in the use of sugar-coated, slick-lawyer, BULLSHIT EUPHEMISMS when trying to explain his Habitual Offender disciplinary “rap sheet.” The VAST majority of lawyers go through their entire legal career without EVER getting their law licenses suspended! (Emphasis). Ticktin has already had TWO suspensions, so far, and is likely looking at a THIRD in the near future! How many Bar Complaints have been filed against you, Peter? Dozens? More? And I just LOVE the way he “twists” the facts regarding the “lists” he bought! He calls it “advertising!” BULLSHIT! He had us, the people who worked in his phone room, COLD CALLING those people and THAT is totally ILLEGAL – and he KNOWS it! But you got away with that one, right Peter? And his other suspension was for splitting fees with a non-Florida lawyer, which AGAIN he knew was illegal! Peter Ticktin is the kind of lawyer who likes to “roll the dice” and several times he’s rolled “snake eyes,”

    And if the law suit Ticktin filed had ANY merit whatsoever, Judge Mddlebrooks would NOT have reacted the way he did! (Great emphasis added). Peter Ticktin can spew all the “hot air” he wants about “the Left and the Right” and Clinton appointees and HIV disclosures and “advertising” to homeowners who did NOT ever previously contact him and fee splitting and the rest of his slick-lawyer bullshit, but in the end, after all is said and done, his Bar record is EGREGIOUS!

    And WHY is my attitude towards Peter Ticktin and his daughter so negative? The answer is simple. First of all, I was CONNED into working in what I was told was going to be an “incoming call center,” which by Peter Ticktin’s own admission, (“advertising”), it was NOT! When I finally figured out what was REALLY going on, I knew it wasn’t kosher and I QUIT! And the SLOPPY, INCOMPETENT SUB-STANDARD REPRESENTATION i received from Ticktin’s inexperienced Young Lawyers Division “Greenhorns” almost caused me to LOSE my home to Bank of America’s illegal foreclosure action! I WASTED $2,600.00 in monthly retainers! They did NOTHING to help my case.

    Fortunately, I fired them after four months and retained different counsel and went on to WIN the case! I have NOT made a single mortgage payment in FIFTEEN YEARS and I’m STILL in my home, no thanks to Peter Ticktin and his law firm! I have to wonder how many OTHER people pushed back after they found out that they had been manipulated into becoming clients by ILLEGAL means?!?!

    But why should that bother Peter Ticktin? With 3,000 clients back when I was there, each paying a $650 monthly retainer, he was raking in almost TWO MILLION DOLLARS A MONTH!!! Sweet!

  • To EVERYONE reading this, if you were unexpectedly contacted by phone between 2008 and 2010 by someone from The Ticktin Law Group with a “free case evaluation,” offer regarding your foreclosure case and you did NOT know who they were, but were talked into allowing them to pick up your mortgage documents, (at their expense), via Fed Ex or UPS for “review,” you should know that The Ticktin Law Group’s contact with you was TOTALLY ILLEGAL! Lawyers are prohibited from COLD CALLING people to try to “drum up” business. Lawyers can be held to account by the Florida Bar YEARS after their misconduct occurs! There’s NO statute of limitations!

    Case in point: FORMER Circuit Court Judge, Laura Marie Watson who was removed from the bench and disbarred for what she did TEN YEARS EARLIER as a lawyer, BEFORE she became a Judge!

    At some point after you sent in your mortgage docs, did a Ticktin “mortgage analyst” contact you and tell you that they found discrepancies or irregularities with your mortgage? Were you told that those “discrepancies” might provide you with an “affirmative defense” or possibly a means to defeat the foreclosure action? Were you talked into signing up as a client for a $650 monthly retainer? If you did sign on, how would you describe the representation you received? Did the Ticktin lawyers ZEALOUSLY pursue your defense or did your case just drag on and on for months while you continued to pay the $650 monthly retainer? What was the end result of your case? Did you, in fact, lose your home to foreclosure, despite any assurances you were given?

    If this happened to you, if you were the victim of sloppy, incompetent, sub-standard representation by The Ticktin Law Group, contact the Florida Bulldog and tell them your story! They will NOT dismiss you if you’re honest and sincere about your experience with Ticktin! I KNOW how frustrated and angry you probably were after dealing with them. I was a client for four months and I was frustrated and angry too! $2,600.00 of my hard earned money WASTED!

  • Great piece! I’m glad your speaking the truth and sticking to the facts. Sadly, the maga cult doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on. This is a big deal but I guess to them, breaking the law is okay.

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