On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court barred an employee compensation lawyer in the Orlando area for coaching a witness via text message during a deposit.
Derek Vashon James had represented an employer in a worker compensation case. On July 31, 2018, Renee Gray, an adjuster who worked for the employer, was fired by telephone. Mr. James and the plaintiff's attorney also attended by telephone at various locations.
While the filing was ongoing and Ms. Gray was questioned, sent Mr. James text messages to Ms. Gray regarding her testimony. The texts included coaching and specific instructions on how to answer questions.
When the complainant's lawyer heard writing noise, she asked Ms. Gray and Mr. James if they engaged in texting. Mr. James refused to text the adjuster and said he only received one text message from his daughter. The plaintiff's lawyer then asked him to put down his phone, and he indicated that he would do so.
After a break in the deposit, Mr. James inadvertently texted the plaintiff's attorney who was intended for the adjuster. In a message, he wrote, "Just say it anyway." In another, he said, "give no absolute answer."
The appellant's lawyer then stopped the deposit. Mr. James told her that he had sent the texts to the adjuster during the break, not during the interrogations. After a judge for damages claimed the motion, Mr. James two pages of text message to the adjuster.
He claimed that he had sent the texts during a break in the interrogation and that the plaintiff's lawyer had heard him send an SMS: daughter. The judge found that the text messages to the adjuster were sent during the deposit.
In January 2020, the Florida Bar filed a complaint against Mr. James and claimed that he had committed misconduct by texting the adjuster and lying to the other lawyer about it.
The campaign's complaint was referred to a spokesman, who recommended that Mr. James would be found guilty of unlawfully obstructing another party's access to evidence.
The Rapporteur recommended that Mr. James was to be suspended from law practice. for 30 days, but the Florida Supreme Court increased the duration to 91