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Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

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  • | 6:00 p.m. October 8, 2004
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Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

Prison bound

Disbarred Tampa attorney Domenic Massari III will spend 12 months in federal prison for helping a client hide millions of dollars from creditors and the Internal Revenue Service.

The one-time debtors' attorney, disbarred almost two years ago for stealing money from a client in an unrelated case, pleaded guilty to the federal charges more than a year ago in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio.

Massari, 50, admitted he helped Richard D. Schultz, the former president and CEO of National Revenue Corp., hide money from a court judgment. He advised Schultz, 52, to hide about $5 million in an escrow account. Then Massari drafted a fake letter that falsely detailed the transfer of some of Schultz's holdings in National Revenue to his father.

To add credibility to the scam, Massari enlisted the aid of a law school friend, Warren Wilson III of Clearwater. Wilson agreed to represent Schultz's father in a Pinellas County civil action to enforce the phony letter. It's unclear whether Wilson knew the lawsuit was a scam.

In October 2002 federal authorities indicted Massari and Wilson. At age 50 on news of the indictment, Wilson committed suicide.

The federal investigation netted several other people, including lawyers from other states, who helped Schultz with his scams. Eight co-conspirators have been sentenced, including St. Petersburg businessman Frank McPeak, who was sentenced to six months of home confinement.

Nothing but blue sky

David A. Demers, chief judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit, gave an upbeat assessment of the state court system in Pasco and Pinellas counties to all the legal cowpokes who were rounded up for the Wild, Wild West Bench & Bar-B-Que on Oct. 1.

In his "state of the circuit" address at the annual bench and bar conference, Demers says the transition from county to largely state funding of Florida trial courts has been fairly smooth on his part of the range.

Demers made it short, joking that his wife, Susan S. Demers, was next on the conference program to speak.

But David Demers did take more than a few more moments to defend the decision by him and other judicial officials to close up their courthouses for extended periods of time during the hurricane assault on Florida during August and September. Prudence dictated the move and the resulting docket backlogs have been regrettable but were unavoidable, according to Demers.

"So, finally, the Sixth Circuit is doing very well, indeed," Demers concluded his speech at Stetson University's law school campus in Gulfport.

Finally, a winner

Gay L. Inskeep has felt the agony of defeat. Now Inskeep, the court administrator for the 6th Judicial Circuit, is feeling the thrill of victory.

Chief Judge David Demers noted at the recent bench and bar conference, put on by the Clearwater and St. Petersburg bar associations, that Inskeep always seems to be winning something at events he attends.

Inskeep was one of the door-prize winners at the bench and bar conference. But she actually lost out on a better prize at a NAACP dinner in St. Petersburg last spring.

That dinner fell during the Stanley Cup playoff run of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Inskeep's husband, a big hockey fan, insisted they leave the dinner early to catch one of the Bolts games on television at home.

"I'll blame it on him," Inskeep says of her mate.

After the couple left, Inskeep's name was called for a grand prize: Two round-trip tickets to anywhere that Southwest Airlines flies in the United States. But the winner had to be present in order to claim the prize. The tickets went to somebody else.

Inskeep stuck around at the bench and bar conference this month. For that, she won a dozen Titleist golf balls. Inskeep isn't a duffer. In fact, she had to ask Demers if Titleist balls were any good. Demers assured her that they were the best.

So Inskeep is including the box of balls in a gift basket for Circuit Judge Susan F. Schaeffer, an avid golfer who is undergoing cancer treatment.

"I thought someone got the plane tickets who needed them more," says Inskeep, "and that's what happened with this prize, too."

Since the hockey season ended, however, Inskeep says she has acquired a hand-held device that displays TV broadcasts. If her husband wants to make another early exit to see a game, Inskeep says, he can watch in the parking lot.

Get out the vote

Maybe lawyers were too busy dealing with hurricanes to take part in the recent Florida Bar merit retention judicial poll, but hopefully more will participate in November's general election.

Only 4,503 out of the state's 74,931 licensed attorneys responded to the bar survey. That's only 6%.

Coffee Talk wonders what this means for the appellate judges facing a retention vote on Nov. 2. Does this translate into a 96% no-confidence vote? Probably not, since not one of the judges on the survey received less than a 76% approval rating.

Supreme Court justices Kenneth B. Bell and Raoul G. Cantero III each received about an 80% approval rating. Approval ratings for the judges in the 2nd District Court of Appeal: Charles Canady, 79%; Patricia Kelly, 83%; Stevan Northcutt, 89%; Craig Villanti, 82%; and Douglas Wallace, 85%.

They'll miss her

For nearly 50 years, Dorothy Bishop worked as executive assistant to the dean at Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport. Some who know her say she's the "behind-the-scenes glue" that held the law college together.

No longer.

Bishop - the unofficial campus historian - retired last week after 48 years at Stetson, and, of course, she gives others at the college credit for her longevity. It was her first and only job.

"You have to like the place where you work, and everyone here is so friendly and that's what made the time here go too fast," Bishop said in a prepared statement.

Bishop started at the college in 1956 at $35 weekly


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