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Mark Stopa’s Response to Chief Judge Thomas McGrady’s Press Release

I’ve read and re-read the Press Release of Honorable Thomas McGrady, Chief Judge of Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit.  I understand where Judge McGrady is coming from, and I agree with him in certain respects.  In others, however, I respectfully but strongly disagree, so much so that I feel compelled to respond.  

First off, I agree that many judges should be commended for “upholding their oath of office” and “following the law.”  Florida’s judges are facing an unprecedented challenge vis a vis the incredible volume of foreclosure cases, and many judges have performed admirably, particularly those in the Sixth Judicial Circuit over which Judge McGrady presides.  Let’s put it this way – my biggest frustration as a foreclosure defense attorney is that judges so routinely treat foreclosure lawsuits much differently than other lawsuits.  With a few glaring exceptions (who I will not name but I’m sure Judge McGrady knows who I’m talking about), the judges in the Sixth Judicial Circuit generally do not act this way, and that’s certainly a good thing.  

That said, I respectfully but firmly disagree with Judge McGrady’s broad-sweeping statements regarding foreclosure cases in the entire state of Florida.  With all due respect, Judge, you may realize what’s happening in the Sixth Judicial Circuit, but I don’t believe you know what’s happening in other counties, so I don’t think it’s fair for you to criticize anyone who is commenting on events in other counties in Florida.  

Every day, it’s a battle for foreclosure defense attorneys such as myself to ensure the most basic rights for homeowners in foreclosure cases.  Many times, it feels like we aren’t just battling the banks and their lawyers, but the judges as well.  Sometimes, I half-expect these judges, as a hearing concludes, to rip apart their robes and reveal a “Bank of America” T-Shirt exposed underneath.  You may think that sounds absurd, but, all too often, that is the climate I’ve seen and felt as a foreclosure defense lawyer in Florida.  

You obviously feel passionately that these problems are not pervasive in the Sixth Judicial Circuit, and I’m not going to argue with you about that.  Instead, I’ll say this – as for the rest of Florida, you haven’t seen what I’ve seen:

- You haven’t seen a Palm Beach senior judge, at the start of a rocket docket of more than 100 summary judgment motions, assert he’s “heard it all before,” limit the arguments of homeowners and their attorneys to sixty seconds, even going so far as to count down the time as the minute concludes.  You may think there aren’t “robo-judges” in Florida, but how else would you define this?   Remember – those were summary judgment motions.

- You haven’t seen a senior judge in Tampa let the bank’s lawyer argue for 4 pages of transcript at a hearing on a Motion for Ssummary Judgment, then limit the defense argument to 4 lines of transcript, cut off the attorney after those four lines, and enter summary judgment without reading or looking at the opposing affidavit, written response, motion to vacate default, or motion to stay for military status (justifying his conduct in the face of due process objections by asserting it was “too little, too late” since the case had been pending for two years). 

- You haven’t seen Lee County judges systematically and sua sponte require docket soundings in all foreclosure cases, immediately after the cases are filed (without clearing the date with counsel and without allowing phone appearances), and require all discovery be completed in two months, for the purpose of granting summary judgment or setting trial, even though the case is not at issue and the homeowner’s motion to dismiss has not been adjudicated. 

- You haven’t been told, by a senior judge in Hernando County, that a plaintiff’s attorney can schedule a summary judgment hearing whenever he wants, without clearing the date with defense counsel (or even knowing defense counsel has a conflict), and that if defense counsel has “a problem with it,” he needs to file a motion to strike the hearing.  You didn’t hear this judge assert, when defense counsel complained about the procedure, that it was his “job,” at the instruction of the Florida Supreme Court, to dispose of foreclosure cases as quickly as possible.  

- You haven’t tried to set hearings on defense motions in foreclosure cases, only to have court assistants or administrators tell you that the available hearing times were reserved exclusively for plaintiffs’ motions.  Of course, there is never a time set aside for defense motions – only for the banks’ motions.

- You haven’t tried to attend foreclosure hearings in Tampa (Section I, on the fifth floor) only to be told those hearings are not open for public access. 

- You haven’t received dozens of conformed Orders on disputed matters, ex parte, without notice and without hearing, which most Florida judges sign routinely, even when it is obvious that these Orders are not agreed Orders, usually without giving defense counsel a chance to object.  For instance, I once had a situation in Tampa where I prevailed on a motion after a hearing and the Judge entered an Order in my client’s favor, I prevailed on rehearing and the Judge entered a second Order in my client’s favor, yet, weeks later, the bank’s attorney submitted an Order, ex parte, that reversed the Court’s rulings, and the judge executed it before I received a copy in the mail or a chance to respond  Respectfully, this never happens except in foreclosure cases, yet in the foreclosure context, it happens routinely. 

- You haven’t had a client have a Final Judgment of Foreclosure entered against him – hours prior to the beginning of the summary judgment hearing, then have the judge explain this was her “procedure.”

- You haven’t seen the Administrative Orders in Orange, Seminole, and Lee Counties, which systematically prohibit any phone appearances in foreclosure cases, in direct contravention of Fla.R.Jud.Admin. 2.530, which requires that phone appearances be granted for all hearings of 15 minutes or less absent good cause.  (It is my opinion that these Orders exist to make it harder for attorneys to defend homeowners and, hence, to cause more foreclosure cases to go uncontested).   

- You haven’t witnessed senior judges routinely reschedule hearings where the defense counsel is present but plaintiff’s counsel is not, yet systematically grant the relief sought by plaintiffs when plaintiff’s counsel is present and defense counsel is not.  This double-standard is, respectfully, gross, yet it happens on a regular basis throughout Florida courtrooms in foreclosure cases. 

- You haven’t successfully argued that a summary judgment hearing should be stricken from the calendar, had plaintiff’s counsel cancel that hearing pursuant to the court’s Order, yet have a senior judge enter a Final Judgment of Foreclosure (even though nobody was present at the hearing) because she did not even look in the court file or the docket, so she did not see that the hearing had been cancelled. 

- You haven’t watched a Brevard County judge repeatedly chastize foreclosure defense attorneys for filing motions to dismiss, arguing it was a “waste of time” and that counsel should be “trying to settle the cases,” then, when counsel responded that the motions to dismiss were sometimes granted, angrily retort that “accomplished nothing” because the bank could amend or re-file.  Of course, this judge gave no explanation how it was possible to “settle” cases with banks when judges such as himself make it so apparent that he is hostile towards homeowners. 

As I re-read your article, Judge, I’m troubled at the apparent insinuation that recent media reports and news stories are not based on fact.  Generally speaking, they are.  The media is not making up stories about foreclosure fraud and robo-signers.  These stories exist because of real events that have happened to real people.  Hence, the problem, in my view, is not that the media or foreclosure attorneys have misled the public into a negative perception about the judiciary, but rather that there are legitimate problems in how foreclosure cases are being handled in our courts.  That sounds harsh, but, respectfully, if nothing were amiss, then there would be no news stories. 

Essentially what I’m saying is this – I hear what you’re saying in your article, but I respectfully submit that your assertions, as well as your target audience, are misplaced.  Instead of trying to speak to the public at large, and assure them the judiciary is fair through your words, prove the judiciary is fair through actions.  Prove it by influencing other judges, throughout Florida, to handle the foreclosure crisis more like the Sixth Judicial Circuit.  Convince Lee County to stop issuing those Orders setting docket soundings at the inception of a case.  Tell Orange County to stop prohibiting phone appearances.  Help all Florida judges realize that disputed Orders should not be entered ex parte, even in foreclosure cases.  Convince all judges that it’s not fair to reschedule hearings where plaintiff’s counsel does not attend but to rule for the plaintiff when defense counsel does not appear.  Suggest that the Florida Supreme Court amend the rule on lack of prosecution in foreclosure cases, so as to dismiss foreclosure lawsuits that are languishing. 

As I see it, if you can use your influence to help fix the problem, you won’t feel the need to issue press releases like the one you did, as the public’s perception of the judicial system will take care of itself.  

Mark Stopa

www.stayinmyhome.com

Posted in Main | 14 Comments »

14 Responses to Mark Stopa’s Response to Chief Judge Thomas McGrady’s Press Release

  1. Request for Congressional Foreclosure Panel to Examine Foreclosure Lawyers
    http://www.change.org/petitions/view/request_for_congressional_foreclosure_panel_to_examine_foreclosure_lawyers#

    Lawyers are officers of the court knowledge of applicable laws and civil procedure is not required from mortgage lenders, nor loan servicers. In states that require judicial foreclosures, FORECLOSURE LAWYERS are the ones who file lawsuits to seize and sell property; and lawyers are responsible for filing and recording foreclosure property deeds.

    An investigation could prove helpful to sorting out whether improper and illegal foreclosure proceedings are linked to any self-dealing conduct disadvantaging lenders, investors, homeowners, and city governments.

    Inadequate or questionable foreclosure can lead to useless property deeds that impede real estate sales. Increasing numbers of title insurance companies are refusing to cover foreclosed properties; and certain mortgage default claims, are being denied because of defective foreclosure proceedings. . .”
    http://www.change.org/petitions/view/request_for_congressional_foreclosure_panel_to_examine_foreclosure_lawyers#

  2. Pingback: Foreclosure Fraud – Mark Stopa’s Response to Chief Judge Thomas McGrady’s Press Release « Foreclosure Fraud – Fighting Foreclosure Fraud by Sharing the Knowledge

  3. Jason Werner says:

    Tremendous courage, Mark.

    In the name of Jesus Christ, these crook judges are perishing in their own corruption for their support of the banks’ fraud and continued acceptance of their bribes.

  4. Alina says:

    Well said Mr. Stopa.

    With regard to telephonic appearances in Orange County, foreclosure mill attorneys are allowed to telephonically appear, however, defendants and/or defense attorneys are not.

    Additionally, pro se defendants are unable to hire a court reporter in Orange County. I called 3 or 4 firms and was flat out told that they do not work for pro se defendants. One of the firms I contacted was Esquire, with whom I have done a great deal of business only to be told that is their procedure. I then called Esquire in Houston and asked the same question – I was told that they do work with pro se defendants. Esquire in Houston had no idea why Esquire in Orlando would not accept a pro se client.

    Judges accept whatever document is placed before them by plaintiff’s counsel even if there is a clear misrepresentation of the document. In my case, opposing counsel claimed to have sent the Notice of Default on June 16, 2008, before filing the foreclosure action. The judge directed counsel to file a copy the letter. The letter filed was date June 16, 2006 and was not a Notice of Default. When I brought it to the judge’s attention, the judge refused to reconsider his prior ruling.

    In one case I am familiar with, the judge told the defendant that she had lived in the house long enough without making a payment. This particular homeowner had been told by Chase to stop making their mortgage payments in order to qualify for a modification. At the time of the MSJ hearing, they thought they were still negotiating with Chase and were surprised to learn that Chase was foreclosing.

    Many more stories that the Honorable Judge McGrady should be made aware of.

    • Mark Stopa Mark Stopa says:

      I hadn’t seen/heard that about plaintiffs appearing by phone in Orange County but defendants not being able to.
      If that happened to me, I’d seek disqualification of the judge immediately. There is clearly no reason for one side to be permitted to appear by phone but not the other.

  5. Well stated Mark!
    This should be sent to all of the “fully participating” major media outlets.

    Thank you Mark, for standing up, telling the truth, supporting fact and law, not compromising on due process, and defending the Florida and US Constitutions and all applicable Florida rules of civil procedure, rules of evidence, bar oaths, judicial orders, FL UCC, and 1000 years of well established property laws, etc., etc…..

    Thanks to all the other Florida foreclosure defense attorneys who properly defend Florida homeowners who never had a chance with their (all alleged, of course) fraudulent lenders (who were simultaneously defrauding investors, committing securities fraud, illegally foreclosing, forging documents while entering fraudulent documents into government records, bilking Florida Counties and Florida taxpayers of recording fees, etc., etc…..)

    Respectfully,
    Rob Harrington
    National WAMU Homeowners Support Group
    http://www.wamuloanfraud.com

  6. Kathy Utiss says:

    Mark,

    I commend you for all the hard work you do there in FL. I’m in MO. I’m not an attorney. But I’m a foreclosure fighter. I’ve also been one of the top mortgage collectors in the country. It baffles me with the information I have that no one has tried to deposition me.

    It really opens the light on the servicing side. The unnecessary foreclosures and charge-offs. Having managed assets for Chase and Citi I tried to stop the financial crisis from happening. Once I went thru the whole process of having my home stolen for the way I have to pay my bills!

    For every homeowner that doesn’t have a way to I’ve faced a total obstruction of justice for having a way to have everything I own paid off free and clear in 5 days or less. Problem: NEED A REAL BANKER

    We even recently devised a new mortgage product that is Fannie Mae Approved but denied. As our new product would guarantee any loan we do and prepay the prinicipal and interest up front on our loan to where we can be fair in giving loans back to homeowners. Especially, since we’re guaranteeing their payoff in 30 yrs!

    Not just on our loan but the homeowners as well. Our idea could revolutionize the whole mortgage market and possibly eliminate the need for foreclosures. And income that once went to debt servicing huge debts is now open to spend and facilitate job growth.

    Only problem is Fannie Can borrow all they want from the Fed but if you want them to loan against paid for treasuries they can’t do this. Do you know how much a homeowner saves by guaranteeing principal repayment up front? A whole lot!

    However, who knows how it will work out they want a real way to solve this mess. It can be done! Investor’s are on standby to reinvest with the way we’ve devised and homeowners would be a lot happier!

    • John M says:

      Kathy – since you are in MO and have former ties to Citi do you have information on Robo-signing by either a “Pam January” or a “Karen Roberts’

      I am trying to gather info on these two and will share back. Con_tact
      CitiForeclosure”at”__ g__mail

  7. Pingback: Florida Attorney Mark Stopa’s Response to Chief Judge Thomas McGrady’s Press Release « Livinglies's Weblog

  8. John M says:

    If you have information on Robo-signing by either a “Pam January” or a “Karen Roberts’ or any links to Citi Depositions of other Citi staff

    I am trying to gather info on these two and will share back. Con_tact
    CitiForeclosure”at”__ g__mail

  9. Salley says:

    Hi there I located your webpage by mistake when i searched Yahoo for this topic, I must express your site is absolutely very helpful I also love the layout, its wonderful!

  10. Nancy Dubay says:

    I’m a Pro Se mom in Family Court…..I was impressed by your letter to McGrady and the supportive responses to you. It takes backbone to stand up against judges and other attorneys. However, I was HORRIFIED to read about rampant corruption among judges! No offense meant to you personally, but I have encountered rampant corruption amongst atorneys since this horrific divorce I’ve been subjected to. I intend to write a book and expose it. I’m SICK OF IT. My family law story is nearly as bad as YOUR judge story, and it includes judges as well. I’ve been in court since 2005 because I had the misfortune to marry a trial lawyer 28 years ago. The man had a 17 year affair and fathered a child while fathering a third child with me. I was 19 when I met him and am now 57. I cant find anyone to represent me Pro Bono and as a first timer in the workforce have no skills and no job history. It took me four years to find a receptionist job and I make poverty level income and am unable to pay rent. My ex, obviously a favorite of the judge’s had me and my MINOR child forced from my home of 25 years so he could sell it….instead it stood empty for four years while my daughter and have moved yearly and finally were evicted from our rental because I cant pay rent BECAUSE HE REFUSES TO PAY ALIMONY. He lies under oath repeatedly, and I’m appalled. Now, again, I’ve spent the last two and half years in court, on his modification of alimony. I win, and he pays ONCE and appeals,and never pays me. I’ve had to move again, and again face eviction. The only place who would rent to me is in foreclosure. No One will rent to me because he destroyed my rent history by non payment of alimony. My income barely pays bills. I cant pay rent. My friend had hired an attorney for me, who took her $10,000 retainer and treated me like dirt the rest of the two years, harassing me at work for my paycheck, his paralegal was rude, mean, and a bully. They quit billing me $50,000 and putting a lien on my unpaid alimony! I was a substitute teacher making $8.50 an hr when he took me on. HE KNEW I had no other money to pay costs etc. Not only did he quit because I cant pay, but he quit the NIGHT BEFORE trial, but the judge didnt allow it. I won, but he never tried for enforcement, instead billing me for emails sent to my attorney ex who is Pro Se, and NOT copying me on the emails! He threw me under the bus time and time again, and when he withdrew I was GLAD because he and his paralegal made my THROW UP when they called and I received mail from them. Yesterday, I got YET another BILL which they billed me for the copies for, $49, 500! I have NOTHING, yet he put a lien on my alimony, and the arrearages. In the divorce, I got nothing, but alimony and that was based on a lie. He claimed he made $220 and got away with it because the judge was so biased, and he really made $400,000. I lived with him 28 years. I know. It’s bad enough he was a bigamist but instead of allowing me to move forward and try and forge a life, he knocks me down and never pays alimony, and now appealed it! Now I am Pro Se in the Appeal Court and the Sixth Circuit Court! Judge Shames now recused himself and my jerk ex uses this as an opportunity to send me NO ALIMONY at all, where he had been throwing me a $1000, which by the way I must pay 15% taxes on, leaving me with $850. Not only that my former attorney quit three months after my APPEAL BRIEF was due and was representing me in the Appeal Court, and just simply did not file a brief for me! Now, my ex has contacted Judge McGrady who used to be our neighbor asking the case go to to a Senior Judge. He recused two judges and now continues to JUDGE SHOP, meanwhile NOT PAYING court ordered alimony and lying about his ability to pay. This is a joke, a farce and shameful and a blackeye to the Bar and all attorneys. This guy is making a mockery of the system and thinks he is above the law. I am not disposable and will NEVER shut up. If I dont get my alimony, then the world will know what he did to me and my daughter. We are facing homelessness with the alimony, and I wont go quietly. The joke is he does family law mediation and foreclosure mediation yet snubs a court order to pay alimony, and let our home go into foreclosure while it sat empty for four years and we had to rent.
    I’m penniless and going to be homeless, and not a single ATTORNEY in this town is incensed by this and will help me.

    • Mark Stopa Mark Stopa says:

      I’m so sorry to hear of your plight, Nancy, particularly since I don’t practice in family law, so I’m not in a position to help.
      I’m irked by many things in your story, particularly how your house sat empty as you had to (try to) pay rent to live elsewhere.
      That is totally and completely asinine.

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