The Florida Supreme Court has ordered a Leesburg lawyer to stop taking new business and to close his practice by early August, when he'll be disbarred for at least five years.

Mark F. Germain, who handles mostly criminal law, didn't answer an email asking whether he'll fight the court's ruling, which was handed down July 8.

Germain, 55, is accused of trying to squeeze $1,500 out of the defendant in a battery case in exchange for his client, the victim, refusing to testify in the matter.

The case began July 1, 2011, when Jeffrey Bowman of Lady Lake was arrested on a charge of domestic battery against his girlfriend, Bonnie DePaolo. Germain, who was representing DePaolo, requested that Bowman meet him at Denny's Restaurant "in order to make it all go away," according to the Bar referee who investigated the matter.

Failure to protect client

Bowman refused the deal Germain offered, and the lawyer, who was on Bar probation from two earlier offenses, called Bowman's brother to try to seal the same deal. He, too, declined it and suggested to Germain that it was extortion, according to the report by referee Stanley Griffis III, a circuit judge in Alachua County.

Still, Germain prepared a proposed agreement between DePaolo and the defendant and consulted the attorney supervising his probation, James Hope.

Hope told him, "I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole."

By then, however, Germain had already signed it. The State Attorney's Office eventually obtained a copy of the agreement and sent it to the Florida Bar, which began investigating.

The Bar referee found that the Germain failed to protect DePaolo by not helping her get an injunction against Bowman, by signing away her ability to sue for her injuries and by urging her to sign an agreement that didn't even cover the cost of her injuries.

Then, the referee ruled, Germain interfered in the Bar investigation by convincing his client to sign sworn statements that were "not accurate." DePaolo was unable to read the affidavits, let alone understand them, the referee stated.

Previously disciplined

One reason for mercy is that Germain suffers from "some sort of mental health impediment" but wasn't willing to consider treatment, Griffis wrote. During the various proceedings, Germain repeatedly accused the referee and other involved of committing a variety of crimes or of cronyism.

Over the years, Germain has been the subject of four disciplinary proceedings by the Bar, including one in 2007 that resulted in him being suspended for a year, then readmitted in 2010.

If Germain does not fight the disbarment, he could apply to be admitted again in five years.