The doctor/lawyer no one wants
By Mary Jo Melone
2/9/2010 © Health News Florida
Donald Alan Tobkin of Hollywood, who has degrees in both medicine and law, can’t work at either profession.
In 2006, Tobkin lost his medical license after being charged with selling OxyContin to an undercover Hollywood police officer. Now he faces the possibility of losing his law license, too.
Public records of the professional proceedings against him have described his behavior as “especially egregious and reprehensible.” He has been accused of “legal, moral and ethical shortcomings.” He has been charged with “a pattern of contemptuous conduct” and of making “a horrible mess.”
This morning, Tobkin got his chance to answer his latest critics before the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Bar, which doesn’t want him any more than the Board of Medicine did, asked the Court to disbar him.
“If ever a case cried out for (that), this is such a case,” the Bar said in its brief to the high court.
Tobkin stands accused of a pattern of mismanagement of clients’ funds in two medical malpractices cases.
After one client learned that Tobkin had been arrested for selling drugs, he fired him. The judge in the case ordered Tobkin to turn over the proceeds of a settlement in the case but he failed to do so promptly, according to the Bar, and was held in contempt.
In another case, the Bar said, Tobkin failed to have a guardian ad litem appointed for an autistic child and the funds meant to be set aside for his care remained in Tobkin’s trust account for five years.
Tobkin started his argument before the Supreme Court this morning by reciting the Serenity Prayer. Then he said: “I didn’t cheat anyone out of any money.”
Three of the justices peppered him with questions. “I think the Bar has a very strong case on everything,” said Justice Barbara J. Pariente.
The court ruling on the request for disbarment may take several months. Should the answer be yes, the ruling may be moot; Tobkin never sought reinstatement to the Bar after he was suspended in 2006 for misconduct in two other malpractice cases.
In one of those cases, Tobkin was accused of a confrontation with another lawyer and employees at a cancer center over records, and security was called to intervene. When the judge told him he would lose the case, he sued some of the defendants in another county in what another judge called a “sham proceeding.”
During the disciplinary proceedings leading up to today’s hearing, Tobkin said he was disabled by mental problems—major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder—since 2003. But he never told his clients, according to the disciplinary report.
He has not yet gone to trial in his 2005 drug arrest. The case, set for trial in May, has been repeatedly delayed by “the number and nature of his motions,” said Gregg Rossman, the assistant Broward state attorney who will prosecute the case. The case is on its third judge.
Tobkin has twice been arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence. One case was dismissed. The outcome of the other could not be determined.
According to the Bar’s brief to the Supreme Court, Tobkin was also held in contempt for non-payment of child support in 2008.
A lengthy, detailed profile of Tobkin published in New Times in June 2005 describes many of the events in his turbulent life. It quotes his ex-wife Marilyn Lindsey as saying:
"I really do believe that if Donald would have just submitted to treatment and medication, he could function normally. And if he could function normally and direct his intelligence for good instead of destruction, he could really help a lot of people. He could have a good life, and he could be a good father.
"But instead, he chooses to hurt people, and if he gets a mad-on for somebody, it doesn't matter if you did something wrong -- he'll find something; he'll make something up. And torture you."
--Mary Jo Melone, an independent journalist in Tampa, can be reached by e-mail.