Florida Supreme Court suspends local lawyer

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SPRING HILL – A local attorney has been suspended by the Florida Supreme Court for misusing client funds.

A petition for emergency suspension of Shawn Michael Brannagan, who has a private law practice at 2120 Mariner Blvd. in Spring Hill, was filed by the Florida Bar on Sept. 6 and approved by the Florida Supreme Court on Sept. 23.

An audit of Brannagan’s trust account – which holds client money, such as a retainer fee, while a case is progressing through the court – found the attorney had used money from his clients for personal use. The audit also found between $3,000 and $7,400 was missing from the trust account between Oct. 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013.

Court documents show Brannagan withdrew $3,000 from a trust account Oct. 11, 2012, and in a later deposition he said he used the money to pay bills and had a verbal authorization from his client to do so.

An investigation by the Florida Bar found Brannagan’s client had loaned him money on two occasions in 2010 and once in 2012, and each time the loan was documented. The client said he did not loan $3,000 to Brannagan in October 2012 and said he would not have loaned him the money without a written agreement.

Brannagan withdrew $2,300 from his trust account Jan. 14, 2013, and said in a deposition he spent the money for personal means but intended to withdraw the money from his operating account. The Florida Bar investigation found Brannagan’s operating account was “never more than $465.88” during the time of the transaction, so he would not have been able to withdraw $2,100.

The audit also showed Brannagan’s trust account did not have enough money to meet his liabilities and throughout the summer of 2012 was about $7,400 short.

The Florida Supreme Court has ordered Brannagan “suspended from the practice of law until further order of this Court,” and to stop representing clients within 30 days of the order. The Florida Bar website shows Brannagan was admitted in December 1996, and practices civil litigation, criminal, general practice, personal injury and product liability.

According to Brannagan’s website, he previously was a state attorney in the 5th and 13th judicial circuits and past president of the Hernando County Bar Association. He has represented clients in state and federal courts.

Calls to Brannagan on Friday were not immediately returned.