Two local law firms are trying to figure out who sent dozens of accusatory letters to bar associations across the country about one, using the other's return address.
Someone sent anonymous letters about Brownstone Law, a Winter Park-based appellate firm, to 42 state bar associations in June, containing false allegations of ethical violations, according to Roddy Lanigan, who is representing the firm and its managing partner, Robert Sirianni.
Heightening the intrigue, whoever mailed the letters used the downtown Orlando mailing address of defense attorney and legal commentator Mark NeJame's law firm, NeJame Law.
NeJame says no one at his firm sent the letters, which had the return and destination addresses printed on mailing labels.
"It seems like someone was trying to make it seem like me and/or my law firm was the complainant, which would arguably give more credibility to the complaint," NeJame said.
NeJame's staff has been working with Brownstone to identify the person who mailed the letters, and Lanigan last week filed a civil suit asking a federal judge to order the U.S. Postal Service to turn over surveillance video and purchase records from the post office where the letters were mailed.
For now, the culprit's identity is a mystery, Lanigan said.
Though he declined to detail the allegations contained in the letters, Lanigan said their wording suggests the author has a legal background, more likely a competitor or disgruntled ex-employee than a former client.
"I can tell you this, the nature of the grievance in the bar letter itself was quite complicated, and I don't think you have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that it leads you to suspect that an attorney wrote them," he said.
The Brownstone firm never believed NeJame Law was behind the letters, and NeJame's office has been very helpful in investigating their source, Lanigan said. The letters have inconvenienced both offices, which have fielded calls from various bar associations following up on the complaints.
"It's been a minor inconvenience to us, but of course I don't like somebody hijacking my name and using it to hurt someone else," NeJame said.
A spokeswoman for The Florida Bar confirmed the agency has no pending complaints against Brownstone Law or Sirianni.
Lanigan said he's "100 percent" confident a judge will grant his request for the post office records, which should solve the mystery: The person who mailed the letters used a credit card to pay for the transaction, the Postal Service told Lanigan.
When the mailer is identified, Brownstone "will be pursing legal action against that person," Lanigan said.
The Postal Service is holding its records until the judge's decision, and Lanigan said he doesn't expect the federal agency will oppose his request for a court order. Both NeJame and Lanigan said the mass-mailed grievance is unusual — and the use of NeJame's address, downright bizarre.
"Not only is it unusual, it's also, in my opinion, incredibly underhanded and immature," Lanigan said.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5171407-420-5171