Lawyer and the Landscaper
David Boies's eight-year war against a
Florida gardener may have
come to an end.
The American Lawyer
July 1, 2005
"Page Six," The New York Post's gossip section, is usually more concerned with
Paris Hilton than professional ethics. But an article in May proves that at least
one lawyer has the star power to keep up with Paris. The headline-"Boies Loses
Boies, of course, is David Boies, the founder of Boies Schiller & Flexner. "Loses
Another One" is a reference to the latest-and perhaps the last-battle in the
long-running war between the Armonk, New York, lawyer and Scott Lewis, a Florida
gardener. After nine years of litigation, over $500,000 in sanctions and attorneys
fees assessed against Boies Schiller and its client, and two referrals to the
state bar for disciplinary proceedings, Boies may finally be buried.
The firm was disqualified from further involvement in the case by Judge Jonathan
Gerber of the Palm Beach County Court, who referred Boies Schiller to the Florida
bar for investigation and possible disciplinary action. He also sentenced Patrick
Bilton, one of Boies's business partners, to 90 days in the Palm Beach County
Jail for criminal contempt.
Judge Gerber read the order from the bench. Afterward, Lewis went out to the
hallway, shed a tear of relief, then went home for a quiet celebration with his
wife and children. He's happy, but afraid that he hasn't seen the last of David
The odyssey began in 1996, when Lewis sold his gardening business to Boca Raton
resident Amy Habie. Months later, Habie sued Lewis, claiming that Lewis was violating
a noncompete agreement by stealing clients. Lewis, in turn, claimed that Habie
never paid him the money she owed. Habie was represented by Boies, who was with
Cravath, Swaine & Moore at the time. They were first introduced by a law
school friend of Boies's who was handling her bitterly contested divorce from
Guatemalan textile tycoon José Habie.
Lewis filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by a Florida judge. In response,
the veteran of International Business Machines Corporation's epic antitrust battle
with the U.S. Department of Justice filed a 76-page antitrust and racketeering
complaint against Lewis in federal court in Miami. Conspiracy was an essential
element of the claim. Lewis's coconspirators, according to Boies, included two
other gardeners and the guy who installed the sprinklers.
In 1998 the case worked its way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh
Circuit, which ruled against Habie and Boies. A settlement was reached just before
the ruling, but questions about Habie's compliance with that agreement have dragged
on ever since. Lewis has represented himself pro se since 2000 (a period which
includes nine appeals by Boies Schiller); Boies has represented Habie for free
throughout the proceedings. Twenty-three lawyers from Boies Schiller (which inherited
the matter from Cravath) have worked more than 10,000 billable hours on the case,
according to documents filed in court by Boies Schiller. An expert for Lewis
has estimated the time to be worth $4.5 million.
There are many sides to the relationship between Boies and Habie. So many sides,
in fact, that Boies suffers a conflict of interest, according to a ruling by
Judge Gerber, because a trust set up for his children's benefit owns a 25 percent
interest in Nical of Palm Beach, Inc. (Nical was set up by Boies for Habie to
acquire the gardening business). Habie, who owns 50 percent, is the chief financial
officer of Boies Schiller. The third partner in Nical is Bilton. He has been
convicted eight times for narcotics trafficking and money laundering. Bilton's
wife, Ann Hines, is also an employee of Boies Schiller, although the firm declined
to specify what she does for the firm. Boies and Habie are also officers in a
Nevada corporation called Diamond B Ranch, Inc.
The case has been an ethical morass for Boies. His firm and its client have been
sanctioned and held in contempt at least ten times. Boies is not allowed to take
depositions in the case unless a Florida attorney is present. In 2003 the Florida
bar found probable cause that his funding of the litigation violated Florida
rules of professional responsibility. The state court declined to punish Boies,
but his personal appearances in Palm Beach dropped sharply after the finding.
If the Florida bar pursues the ethics complaint suggested in the most recent
order, Boies could be disbarred from practicing in the state.
David Boies did not return phone calls seeking comment.