By Richard Johnson, with Paula Froelich and Chris Wilson
DAVID Boies the top trial lawyer representing Al Gore in his desperate attempt to overturn George W. Bush's victory in Florida isn't licensed to practice law in that state. But if he were, he'd likely be facing a disciplinary hearing in Tallahassee.
Boies and fellow lawyer Edward H. Wohl his co-counsel in representing Bruce Winston in his nasty fraternal feud with brother Ronald Winston are both under investigation in New York by the Appellate Division's Departmental Disciplinary Committee.
Wohl and Boies are both accused of entering into an agreement in 1996 with a witness, Kathleen A. Kerr, who had worked for Ronald at the family jewelry firm, Harry Winston Inc. In Florida, Wohl faces similar charges.
It is almost certain Boies would also be a subject of the Florida probe if he were a member of the bar there. "It's the first thing we look at," said Ken Marvin, the Florida Bar's branch staff counsel.
"The agreement included compensation to Kerr in the amount of $25,000 for the initial 50 hours of assistance," the Florida Bar vs. Wohl complaint states, "and a bonus ranging between $100,000 and over $1 million depending upon the æusefulness of the information provided by Kerr.'"
In both Florida and New York, where various Winston v. Winston suits were contested, lawyers are not allowed to pay material witnesses for their testimony.
The hearing in Tallahassee against Wohl was adjourned in October pending a settlement of the Winston warfare, scheduled to take place on Dec. 18 with Ronald buying out his brother Bruce for $54 million.
The investigation in New York is much further behind. "This office typically defers until an entire litigation is complete," the disciplinary committee's first deputy chief counsel, Richard Maltz, informed Ronald Winston in a letter last year.
Boies, America's hottest trial lawyer on the heels of his victory for the Clinton administration over Microsoft, is appearing in Florida courtrooms at the pleasure of the judges who give him permission to work in their state.
The Bar's Marvin noted: "A lawyer who is appearing in a Florida court on a pro hoc vice basis is held to the standards of the Florida Bar - but we can't take his license away."
An adverse ruling in New York could mean Boies would lose his privileges in Florida. And then Al Gore will have to find himself a new lawyer. Boies didn't return calls.