Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has been suspended from practicing law in Florida after failing to pay his dues to The Florida Bar. As such, the organization has now formally identified Gaetz as “not eligible to practice law in Florida.” Cris Dosev, a veteran and real estate developer who ran against Gaetz in a Republican primary for his Congressional seat last year, suggested that Gaetz’s delinquency “might be a calculated move,” with him possibly “preemptively trying to remove a level of scrutiny from the Bar.” Extra “scrutiny” from the Bar could come with potentially imminent criminal charges in connection to sweeping corruption and potential child sex trafficking with which Gaetz may have been involved.
Notably, a spokesperson for Gaetz insisted that the lapse was intentional. Specifically, Gaetz staffer Joel Valdez said that the Congressman “is no longer actively engaged in the practice of law,” adding that he is instead “focused on representing his constituents in Congress, not the courtroom.” That trite turn-of-phrase doesn’t quite reflect how Gaetz actually spends much of his time — often, he seems far more interested in garnering national attention than representing the particular needs of his district. He even embarked on a national rally tour with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). What does that have to do with “representing his constituents in Congress”?
There definitely could be another level to these new developments in Gaetz’s career. As the publication pointedly explains, four attorneys indicated to The Daily Beast that “it is extremely rare for lawyers to” simply fail to pay their dues in hopes of letting their authorization from the Bar expire amid a career shift. Instead, there’s an option to pay a $175 fee that allows lawyers to be deemed “inactive” while remaining a “member in good standing.” With Gaetz’s approach, he’s instead been labeled “delinquent.” As attorney and activist Daniel Uhlfelder, who lives in Gaetz’s district, put it:
‘He clearly doesn’t take his law license very seriously when he doesn’t take the time to pay the $265 dues. He’s not a serious lawyer. He’s not a serious congressman. He’s not a serious person. This is one small but symbolic example of that.’
Gaetz has come under scrutiny from the Bar in the past, including in connection to a threatening tweet that he posted targeting former Trump ally Michael Cohen ahead of his Congressional testimony. The tweet contained a reference to “girlfriends” on Cohen’s part, with the implication that Gaetz had dirt on him. The grievance committee of the Bar subsequently said that Gaetz’s actions were “unprofessional, reckless, insensitive, and demonstrated poor judgment.”