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Justices Suspend Miami-Dade Attorney Over Ex-Wife’s Forged Signature on Loan Documents

Florida Supreme Court. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Florida Supreme Court Thursday issued an order retroactively suspending North Miami Beach attorney Madsen Marcellus Jr. for 18 months.

Marcellus’ suspension stems from court proceedings during his divorce from his ex-wife Kellie Peterson Gudger. Marcellus failed to comply with court orders mandating he refinance or resell the marital home during divorce proceedings, according to court filings in his ethics case. He also failed to respond to several discovery requests, nearly leading to him being held in contempt of court during the family law proceedings in 2013.

The Florida Bar also accused Marcellus of participating in “the fraudulent execution” of a loan modification agreement with Nationstar Mortgage LLC to alter the terms of the debt on his marital home. The bar claimed the attorney knew his friend Curt Francis had forged Gudger’s signature on the application, and that he participated in submitting the document to the lender, which later approved the modification.

The family court judge had ordered the litigants to sell the property, if they couldn’t retain it. Marcellus had made several attempts to refinance the mortgage on his own but didn’t qualify because of his income, according to to the high court ruling. He contacted Gudger and asked for her help on the application, but she refused, prompting Francis to step in.

Francis told Marcellus that he would call Gudger and convince her to sign the document. Francis left the room as if to call her, and returned shortly thereafter indicating that Gudger had agreed to allow him to execute the mortgage modification on her behalf,” the Supreme Court wrote in its order. “Francis signed the document, purportedly on Gudger’s behalf, and notarized the signature which he himself affixed to the document. Marcellus knew that Francis signed the document and notarized his own signature.”

But Marcellus’ ex-wife would later testify she knew nothing about the application, and that she only found out she was a signatory when the property went into foreclosure after Marcellus failed to make payments.

Court-appointed referee Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Howard Coates Jr. recommended a yearlong suspension for Marcellus, but the high court added six months.

“Although Marcellus’ conduct is similar to that in [prior complaints by the Florida Bar], it is more severe and accordingly deserving of a more severe sanction,” the ruling reads.

Marcellus challenged several of the referee’s findings, but the state Supreme Court weighed the consequences of his behavior on his former spouse, who remained a defendant in a foreclosure lawsuit.

“His conduct was entirely unbecoming of a lawyer, who is held within a position of trust and respect in our society, and cannot be tolerated,” the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion, citing previous case law. “Although Marcellus committed this misconduct as a party to his own divorce, lawyers ‘do not cast aside the oath they take as an attorney or their professional responsibilities,’ just because they are litigants in personal matters.”

Marcellus’ suspension became effective Monday, June 16. He could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Marcellusattorney, Kevin P. Tynan, declined to comment, pending his further review of Thursday’s court order.

 

Read the Supreme Court ruling:

 

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