By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
With the success of his first two novels, To Speak for the Dead and Night Vision, mystery writer Paul Levine's future as an author seems bright. He has abandoned the practice of law, a career that not long ago earned him an annual salary of nearly $180,000, and for the time being, all of his energies are devoted to writing. He's just completed his third novel, which will be released soon, and is at work on book number four. Someday he hopes Hollywood will smile kindly upon his labors and do for him what it has already done for fellow legal scribes Scott Turow and Alan Dershowitz. In the meantime, as he searches for new tales of intrigue and deception to set against a wicked pastel backdrop, Levine might want to consider the following idea for his next literary project:
Like all of Levine's novels, the story is set in present-day Miami. The two main characters are attorneys. Formerly husband and wife, they are the parents of a twenty-year-old daughter and an eighteen-year-old, very messy divorce. Each parent accuses the other of illegal behavior. Each attempts to have the other disbarred. The ex-husband enlists the aid of his best friend, a powerful member of the Florida Bar; the ex-wife counters by secretly taping a meeting with the ex-husband at a posh Miami hotel, a meeting during which he allegedly tries to extort a settlement agreement from her. The plot is peppered with threats and insults, a string of nasty lawsuits, contentious court proceedings, allegations of corruption, irate judges, and special investigations. Instead of allowing the divorce to terminate their relationship, they continue to pit themselves against each other, wielding their knowledge of the law like a club.
Tragic in tone and outcome - their battle never really ends - such a book has all the makings of a best seller. The only question: Is Paul Levine ready to write his autobiography?
In his first novel, Levine wrote that the Dade courthouse is a place where buzzards endlessly circle, "some on wings and some in Porsches." In the real-life realm of those vultures, on the eighth floor, to be exact, Judge Peter Capua has before him a lawsuit filed by Levine's ex-wife, Brenda Feinberg. She is suing Levine's best friend, Stuart Grossman, a highly regarded medical malpractice attorney and one of only 50 lawyers who sit on the governing board that oversees more than 37,000 attorneys in the State of Florida. Feinberg alleges that Grossman abused his power as a member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors by threatening to end her career with possible disbarment, while Levine pressured her to drop her claims for increased child support for their daughter Wendy.
While Capua decides the merit of Feinberg's lawsuit, another, related chapter in the story is unfolding in the state capital, where both Levine and Grossman are under investigation by the Florida Bar for making allegedly frivolous complaints against Feinberg. The special investigator is also examining statements Levine made in 1989 in which he told Feinberg that he and Grossman had control over the pending investigation.
A bar complaint is a serious matter, and defending oneself against one is expensive and time-consuming. If substantiated, a complaint can lead to various penalties, including suspension from the practice of law or complete disbarment. During her first eighteen months as an attorney, Brenda Feinberg was the subject of three bar complaints: one initiated jointly by Levine and Grossman, one by Levine independently, and one by Levine's former attorney, Albert Caruana. After Feinberg hired attorney Steven Abramowitz, Levine leveled a complaint against him, as well.
All of the bar complaints were eventually dismissed.
"That Paul has done this to me and sent me through these hurdles is unconscionable," Feinberg says. "And I think it is unconscionable for someone in Stuart's position. They really tried to take away my ability to care for my children, which is to strip me of my license. I think they really got a thrill out of it. They really would like to see me down and out."
Levine contends that his ex-wife is nothing more than a bitter and obsessed woman who is using the legal system to extract personal revenge. If the controversy stems from a debate about who should pay for their daughter's college education, he says there is no controversy - he's paying $19,000 per year for her to attend Northwestern University. The only reason Feinberg is suing Stuart Grossman, Levine claims, is because she knows it will attract media attention that will embarrass both him and Grossman. "What this lawsuit is, is star fucking," says Levine. "It's trying to get in the limelight, trying to manipulate the news media."
Besides her pending lawsuit against Grossman, in the past two years, Feinberg has also sued Levine and Levine's parents for fraud. She's lodged her own complaints to the bar association about Grossman's and Levine's conduct. She's threatened to file a bar complaint against Levine's attorney, and she's sued one of her own former attorneys, Andy Lienoff, for malpractice.
"I don't know who's harassing who," says Albert Caruana, who bowed out as Levine's attorney two years ago. "All I know is that what should have been a very straightforward litigation [over child support] has resulted in all these ancillary proceedings."