An argument over a client that included putting that woman in the back of a car and hitting the woman’s daughter with that car got a DeLand attorney punished both criminally and professionally.
In Volusia County court, 60-year-old Michael Moore pleaded no contest to battery and finished a six-month probation in November. As far as the Florida Bar complaint, Moore pleaded guilty to professional misconduct and got a reprimand from the state Supreme Court.
Backing that car up 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 petition for incapacity, alleging that her mother was incapacitated and being abused by Robert Forsyth (Gambelunghe’s stepfather).
“Ms. Gambelunghe .and Mr. Forsyth had fundamental disagreements over Ms. Forsyth’s well being, her medical care, and her finances,” Moore’s guilty plea says.
Gambelunghe was granted emergency temporary guardianship of her mother in July 2020, and the court appointed an attorney 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 overmedicated,” Moore’s guilty plea said.
Moore’s arrest report says Gambelunghe had to go to court the afternoon of Oct. 15, 2020, to add permanency to the guardianship, which would be expiring at midnight. Forsyth would be going with her to the hearing.
Digression: Earlier in 2020, after being charged with misdemeanor battery domestic violence after a fight with his wife, Moore went into the deferred prosecution program. Online Volusia County court records post his entry into the program on April 27, 2020. Court documents confirmed that, said the program length was six months, but posted Moore’s successful completion of the program — with random drug screening, anger management class, mental health and substance abuse evaluations — on May 20, 2020.
So, Moore had nothing hanging over his head when he showed up at Gambelunghe’s apartment the morning of Oct. 15, 2020 before that afternoon’s hearing.
The arrest report says Moore arrived with one of Forsyth’s former neighbors. Gambelunghe told police she asked Moore why he was there without prior notice. She said he told her he wanted to see Lisa Forsyth. Gambelunghe said she told Moore to leave.
But as Gambelunghe went to grab her phone for a call to police, the arrest report says, her mother ran past her and opened the door. Moore and the former neighbor, the arrest report said, hustled Forsyth into his car.
“[Moore] was aware that Ms. Garnbelunghe was Ms. Forsyth’s. emergency temporary legal guardian,” the referee’s report said. “Without Ms. Gambelunghe’s permission, [Moore] allowed Ms. Forsyth to enter his vehicle. [Moore] then attempted to depart the premises. Ms. Gambelunghe tried to stop [Moore’s] vehicle and yelled at [Moore] to release Ms. Forsyth.
“[Moore] then put his vehicle in reverse and proceeded to back his vehicle into Ms. Gambelunghe.”
The arrest report says Moore backed into her twice. Moore’s guilty plea says he did it only once. Both say Gambelunghe suffered no injuries.
“[Moore] maintains that he was unaware that Ms. Gambelunghe was standing behind his car when he put the car in reverse,” the referee’s report says.
With the help of the apartment manager, Gambelunghe blocked Moore from leaving with her mother. Police arrived and told Moore to get Forsyth out of the car.
In addition to the six-month probation, Moore had to take an eight-hour anger management course and do 50 hours of community service.