An argument over a client, in which that woman was put in the back of a car and the woman’s daughter was hit with that car, resulted in a De Land lawyer being punished both criminally and professionally.
In Volusia County Court, 60-year-old Michael Moore pleaded no challenge to the battery and ended six months’ probation in November. As for the Florida Bar complaint, Moore pleaded guilty to professional misconduct and was reprimanded by the state Supreme Court.
Reversing that car during a disagreement about her mother
In May 2020, Moore’s guilty plea says, he began representing married couple Lisa and Robert Forsyth after they were referred by another attorney. Lisa Forsyth’s daughter, Rachel Gambelunghe, filed a disability claim, alleging that her mother was incapacitated and abused by Robert Forsyth (Gambelunghe’s stepfather).
“Ms. Gambelunghe and Mr. Forsyth had fundamental differences over Ms. Forsyth’s well-being, her medical care and her finances,” Moore’s IOU says.
Gambelunghe was granted temporary emergency custody of her mother in July 2020 and the court appointed a lawyer for her mother.
“[Moore] believed that the court-appointed attorney was not acting in Ms. Forsyth’s best interests, and [Moore] was concerned that Ms. Forsyth was being over-medicated,” said Moore’s guilty plea.
Moore’s arrest report states that Gambelunghe had to go to court on the afternoon of October 15, 2020 to add permanence to the custody order, which was due to expire at midnight. Forsyth was going to go with her to the hearing.
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Digression: Earlier in 2020, after being charged with felony domestic violence following an argument with his wife, Moore entered the deferred prosecution program. Online court records from Volusia County post his participation in the program on April 27, 2020. Court documents confirmed that, said the duration of the program was six months, but noted Moore’s successful completion of the program – with random drug screening, anger management class, mental health and substance abuse assessments – on May 20, 2020.
So Moore had nothing over his head when he showed up at Gambelunghe’s apartment on the morning of October 15, 2020 for that afternoon’s hearing.
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According to the arrest report, Moore arrived with one of Forsyth’s former neighbors. Gambelunghe told police she asked Moore why he was there without notice. She said he told her he wanted to see Lisa Forsyth. Gambelunghe said she told Moore to leave.
But when Gambelunghe went to grab her phone to call the police, the arrest report says, her mother ran past her and answered the door. Moore and the former neighbor, the arrest report said, pushed Forsyth into his car.
“[Moore] knew that Mrs. Garnbelunghe belonged to Mrs. Forsyth. temporary legal guardian for emergencies,” the referee’s report said. “Without permission from Mrs. Gambelunghe, [Moore] allowed Mrs. Forsyth to get into his vehicle. [Moore] then tried to leave the premises. Mrs. Gambelunghe tried to stop [Moore’s] vehicle and yelled at [Moore] to release Mrs Forsyth.
“[Moore] then reversed his vehicle and reversed his vehicle into Mrs. Gambelunghe.
The arrest report says that Moore went into her twice. Moore’s IOU says he only did it once. Both say Gambelunghe suffered no injuries.
“[Moore] claims he was unaware that Ms Gambelunghe was behind his car when he reversed the car,” the referee’s report said.
With the help of the apartment manager, Gambelunghe blocked Moore from leaving with her mother. The police arrived and told Moore to get Forsyth out of the car.
In addition to six months’ probation, Moore was required to take an eight-hour anger management course and do 50 hours of community service.