William Scherer, left, of Conrad & Scherer. Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM. And Paul D. Turner,right, of Perlman Bajandas Yevoli & Albright. Courtesy photo.
Conrad & Scherer co-founder William R. Scherer Jr. has claimed Perlman Bajandas, Yevoli & Albright partner Paul D. Turner threatened to revive an allegation that Scherer used intimate photos as leverage in a 2014 family law case, if Scherer and his firm didn't send a $10 million payment by noon Thursday.
Turner sent the email at 11:45 a.m. Monday, according to Scherer's complaint filed in Broward Circuit Court, alleging extortion and abuse of process.
"Our client demands $10M to resolve all claims," the email said. "In exchange for such a payment, she will enter into a settlement agreement which will include mutual provisions regarding confidentiality and releases."
The complaint labels the pre-suit demand a malicious attempt to use "law licenses as weapons" to destroy Scherer's firm and reputation "solely for the purpose of causing ridicule, contempt and injury." Scherer alleges it violates Florida Statute 836.05, which governs criminal threats and extortion.
Bruce Rogow — counsel to Scherer and his firm — said he filed the suit based on the "extraordinary and bizarre way" the demand was presented, and has seen nothing like it in his 55-year career.
"I've the most extraordinary experiences. Maybe it's the kind of cases I've handled or the people that I've been involved with. I have never seen anything like this," Rogow said. "So, aside from being shocked, I was disappointed."
But Turner denies any wrongdoing, and instead suggests Scherer is trying to preempt fallout from a lawsuit against him by West Palm Beach Circuit Judge Marni Bryson. He claims there was nothing improper about the pre-suit demand, sent on behalf of Bryson and stemming from the judge's intention to sue over her experience when she was a litigant and Conrad Scherer served as opposing counsel.
"This was a failed, Hail Mary attempt to keep the judge’s lawsuit from being filed," Turner said of Scherer's extortion claims. "We rest on the allegations in our complaint and will have no further comment at this time."
'The whole thing was shocking'
Meanwhile, Conrad & Scherer did not pay the $10 million from the pre-suit demand, and the judge filed her complaint.
Bryson could not immediately be reached for comment. She filed suit Thursday alleging Scherer — who once represented a witness in a child custody battle between the judge and her ex-husband — threatened to reveal intimate photographs of Bryson in the run-up to her re-election, if the judge didn't go along with a marital settlement agreement. Bryson said the photos were pictures she took to chronicle her pregnancy. Her complaint says she was dumbfounded at the suggestion the lawyer had "intimate" photos of her, until she realized what they were.
Bryson's lawsuit seeks damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks to stop Scherer and his firm from distributing the photos.
Thursday's email came out of the blue for Scherer, according to Conrad & Scherer's counsel, Rogow, who said he intends to refer the matter to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution.
"The whole thing was shocking," Rogow said. "On the allegations in the complaint, they are strange, they are untrue and it’s hard for me to understand how a sitting judge could bring a lawsuit like this four years later."
Read Scherer's full complaint:
Scherer also requested emergency relief, asking the court to temporarily block Bryson's complaint, but was denied.
Broward Circuit Judge David A. Haimes has set a Tuesday status hearing.
The dispute is not the first time the two South Florida firms, Conrad & Scherer and Perlman Bajandas, have butted heads.
In 2017, Perlman Bajandas attorneys represented a plaintiff who claimed Conrad & Scherer reneged on a $20 million loan from an ex-client to launch a national human rights practice and to litigate against convicted Ponzi schemer and lawyer Scott Rothstein. The plaintiff in that case claimed the firm never honored the debt, and that it wouldn't be able to stay afloat if it repaid him, and moved for sanctions. He moved for sanctions and ultimately the plaintiff won summary judgment.
Scherer has practiced law for more than 40 years, often serving as plaintiff's counsel in high-profile civil lawsuits. In 2017, he won a $44 million verdict for Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, billionaire Wayne Huizenga, former AutoNation Inc. executive Michael Maroone, who claimed Wachovia Mortgage Corp. violated the Uniform Trade Secrets Act by inadvertently disclosing contact information for would-be buyers through an email blast.
Rogow's most recent nationally watched case include his representation of President Donald Trump's former political adviser Roger Stone.
Turner, who was admitted to the bar in 1997, leads his firm's litigation practice and specializes in complex commercial disputes.
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