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Jacksonville Injury Lawyers

SELECTED 2013-2018

Dentist Howard S. Schneider UPDATE: What happened at the incompetency hearing?

Our offices represents 128 victims of Dr. Howard S. Schneider, the Jacksonville pediatric dentist who has been accused by his victims of dental malpractice, dental abuse and accused by the state of corresponding billing fraud. On May 24, 2016, there was a hearing in the State of Florida v. Howard S. Schneider, involving whether Schneider was competent to stand trial.

What happened?

Attorney Bill Sheppard appeared for former dentist Mr. Schneider. He submitted two affidavits to the court from various medical professionals, which essentially stated that Dr. Schneider has some form of incompetency, challenging whether he can adequately stand trial due to dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The prosecution wanted a more independent neuropsychologist to examine Schneider. The Court ruled Dr. Umesh M. Mhatre would examine Dr. Schneider. This choice is a little unusual because Dr. Mhatre “specializes in Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry” according to his biography. However, Dr. Mhatre has testified in many cases, including in front of Judge Cox, and certainly should have the ability and credentials to make the determination necessary.

Incompetency: What does it mean?

As we explain in our blog, Incompetency to Stand Trial: What Does it Mean?, in criminal court proceedings, competency refers to a defendant’s ability to proceed and participate in the various stages of a case. By law, defendants are found incompetent to proceed if they do not:

  • ♦ understand the charges/allegations against them,
  • ♦ comprehend the possible penalties,
  • ♦ understand the adversarial nature of the legal process,
  • ♦ have the ability to disclose to an attorney pertinent facts that would aid in their defense,
  • ♦ exhibit appropriate courtroom behavior,
  • ♦ have the ability to testify relevantly.

Specifically, the relevant Florida law states:

916.12 Mental competence to proceed.—

(1) A defendant is incompetent to proceed within the meaning of this chapter if the defendant does not have sufficient present ability to consult with her or his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding or if the defendant has no rational, as well as factual, understanding of the proceedings against her or him.

Mental health experts appointed pursuant to s. 916.115 shall first determine whether the defendant has a mental illness. If and when a defendant is found incompetent to proceed, criminal court proceedings are halted. If competency is restored, defendants return to court and criminal case proceedings resume.

Wait a Minute…

This all begs the question of when did he “become incompetent”? Clearly, Schneider performed procedures, including x-rays, over and over again and did work on teeth he didn’t plan to. For years, victims can show he did vast amounts of unwarranted dental work. Was this intentional for billing fraud or because of dementia? Or some combination of both? Either way, this is clearly an argument for the civil suits. An incompetent physician is pretty clear evidence of malpractice. However, what about the criminal suit?

So does he now “get off” on the criminal charges? No. Several things are still unclear?

  • ♦ Is/Was he truly incompetent?
    • If so, me may not immediately stand trial.
    • If not, he will go to trial.
  • ♦ If so, is this something which can be treated?
    • If so, he will stand trial once his competency has been rehabilitated.
    • If not, he will be continuously evaluated and the court may provide guidelines and conditions on his ability to remain on bond.
  • ♦ Has the State taken the depositions of witnesses, such as his wife and former employees, to place a timeline on his alleged incompetency?
    • We do not know the answer to this question yet.
  •  ♦ What do the current expert reports say?
    • We do not know the answer to this question yet.

Other Cases

This doesn’t just involve his criminal case, but the divorce case, the foreclosure action filed by Regions against his home, the civil matters and even a car wreck he got into where a lawsuit was filed against him. The effect differs on each case, but if he’s incompetent, Dr. Schneider may not be making any decisions or presenting any personal defenses in all of them. All of this remains to be seen.

In Conclusion…

The court will decide all of this in a few weeks. Stay tuned for more updates as we know them..

More Information:

General Information About Dental Abuse Civil Cases:

Case Against Howard S. Schneider:

National News Stories About Schneider Case:

Other Resources:

Evidence Locker:

The Law Offices of John Phillips are based in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach, Florida, but John is licensed in Florida, Georgia and Alabama and before the U.S. Supreme Court. We will consult wherever injustice lives. In addition to personal injury and wrongful death, our firm handles family law matters and select criminal defense cases. You can contact us at help@floridajustice.com.

John Phillips Schneider Arrest Press Conf