Article Courtesy of The
Tampa Bay Times
By Susan Taylor Martin
Published February 4, 2019
ST. PETERSBURG -- For months, embattled foreclosure
defense attorney Mark Stopa fought for the right to keep practicing law.
Stopa now says he
never wants to practice again ó but can't retire because the
Florida Bar won't let him.
In an unusual petition filed this month with the Florida
Supreme Court, Stopa is seeking "permanent retirement'' with
no leave to apply for readmission to the Bar. The move is
aimed in part at heading off a Jan. 22-24 hearing on several
new Bar complaints against him that include allegations of
"Since July 27, 2018, Petitioner has made clear, in every
way he knows how, that he no longer desires to be a member
of the Florida Bar,'' Stopa wrote. "Unfortunately, even at
this late date, the Florida Bar has provided no response to
the petition for Permanent Retirement nor has it given any
indication when a response can be expected.''
Allowing him to resign from the Bar, Stopa added, would
"avoid more unnecessary time, expense and judicial labor,
and put these matters to bed.''
Stopa, who represented more than 7,000 homeowners facing
foreclosure, has been indefinitely suspended since last
summer when a court-appointed referee found him guilty of
violating several rules of professional conduct. Among the
findings: He failed to tell clients of bank settlement
offers and exhibited boorish behavior before certain judges.
In August, agents of the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement raided Stopa's St. Petersburg office after
receiving an anonymous dossier detailing cases in which
Stopa allegedly acquired millions of dollars worth of
property from clients through fraud and deception. The
allegations in that dossier are among those to be heard in
the hearing scheduled later this month before a Hillsborough
judge serving as referee.
Foreclosure attorney Mark Stopa attends a hearing
before Pinellas Judge Linda Allan in 2018 at the Pinellas County
Courthouse in downtown Clearwater during the Florida Barís case
against Stopa, who faces several complaints of professional
Stopa's petition reveals that the Bar is considering
several other complaints against him, among them that he tried to block
service of process on a company linked to his wife; that he charged a
prohibited fee; that he cursed at a client; and that he "acquired an
interest adverse to a client without the required disclosure and
In his petition, Stopa, 42, said he has tried for
months to resign from the Bar but was told that there were problems with
the forms he submitted. He also noted that Bar rules say a lawyer needs
the executive director's permission to retire but that permission had
not been forthcoming in his case.
"Where Petitioner joined the Florida Bar voluntarily,'' Stopa wrote,
''he cannot be made to remain a member of the Florida Bar
involuntarily.'' He is asking the state Supreme Court to either let him
retire or declare that the rule on permission has unconstitutionally
deprived him of his freedom of association.
Last year, Stopa sold his law practice, which has since filed for