A bold move by a Scott Rothstein investor to disqualify an attorney who sued him failed Thursday.
Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld ruled that Bill Scherer could stay on as the lawyer for a handful of investors who lost $125 million through Rothstein's Ponzi scheme.
Michael Szafranski -- one of numerous defendants Scherer sued last year -- played two roles: He was a "verifier" for Rothstein's biggest group of investors, Banyon, and an investor with others in the now-convicted lawyer's fabricated legal settlements.
Szafranski's lawyer Christopher Berga argued that Scherer had a conflict because Szafranski initially spoke to Scherer about representing him, but then used "confidential information" from the investor to sue him.
Scherer testified that he spoke to Szafranski briefly in November and made no promises to represent him while collecting information for a lawsuit against Rothstein and others allegedly linked to his $1.2 billion scheme.
"It was a 'howdy' call.' Hi, how are you? Let's set up a meeting...'' Scherer testified. "You cannot retain a lawyer in a complex fraud case involving hundreds of millions of dollars in a five-minute cell phone call Saturday evening at 8 o'clock."
At one point in the hearing, Streitfeld quipped: "Who knows? Some day it could be based upon a Twitter."
Szafranski not only lost his bid to boot Scherer, the one-time Bay Harbor Islands investor was also sued in federal bankruptcy court Wednesday. Attorneys for the bankruptcy trustee in the Rothstein case are trying to recoup about $33 million from Szafranski and his firms.
His lawyer, Berga, had no comment.
Only Rothstein has been charged with a crime, though federal prosecutors have said their investigation isn't over. Rothstein pleaded guilty last month to racketeering charges and faces up to 100 years in prison at his sentencing on May 6.
- Amy Sherman and Jay Weaver