District 4 candidates spar over ethics investigation
A local attorney and former candidate for a seat on the Manatee Board of County Commissioners has been suspended from practicing law for 18 months after he gave free baseball tickets to a judge presiding over his case.
Melton Little, who ran against Commissioner Misty Servia to represent District 4 in the 2018 election, faced punishment as severe as disbarment after the Florida Bar filed its complaint against him in March 2017. Amid allegations of his ethics violation, Servia defeated Little by a 5-percentage-point margin.
Little did not immediately respond to the Bradenton Herald’s request for comment Thursday afternoon.
However, in an interview with the Bradenton Herald prior to the election, Little said he felt disbarment was “unlikely,” but admitted any final decision was out of his hands.
“What (the Florida Bar) does, I can’t control,” Little said at the time. “The Supreme Court is the ultimate decider.”
The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to suspend Little is much harsher than a judge’s recommendation that he and his law partner Scott Kallins be placed on probation for one year and be required to speak about their wrongdoing in front of other attorneys.
After listening to the details of the case in April 2018, Circuit Judge Archie B. Hayworth Jr., suggested that their reputations would be helpful in teaching new and veteran attorneys to avoid engaging in similar misconduct.
Little and Kallins are well-known for their local TV commercials, in which they carry baseball bats and claim to “go to bat” against insurance companies.
“Insurance companies play hardball, and so do we,” the partners say in a commercial for Kallins Little Delgado law firm in Palmetto.
Judge John F. Lakin, who accepted the Tampa Bay Rays tickets but denied that it had any effect on outcome on the case, retired from the bench while he was under investigation in March 2016.
Little has also been ordered to pay the Florida Bar $5,395.82 in legal fees, and will be placed on one-year probation when he is reinstated. At that time, Little is also directed to complete a practice and professionalism enhancement program.
Kallins faces the same punishment as Little, according to the Florida Supreme Court.