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My Statement Regarding Negative Press

I’ve spent the last 9 years of my professional life defending homeowners in foreclosure cases throughout Florida.  It’s not only my career; it’s my life’s work.

Acting as a voice for consumers through one of the most trying and painful experiences of their lives against corrupt financial institutions – a true David vs. Goliath battle – has been one of my life’s greatest joys.  I wouldn’t change it for anything, and, God willing, it’s what I will be doing for many more years to come.

That said, make no mistake:  what I do is extremely difficult.

Much of the difficulty is pragmatic.  You see, when I’m representing people in foreclosure, I’m defending people who, almost by definition, have little or no money.  These clients typically cannot afford to pay lawyers much of anything, much less by the hour.  The only way to help such homeowners is to charge a low fee.  But the only way I can run a business (approx. 30 staff, 4 attorneys) in exchange for such a low fee is to have a high volume of cases.

I have always been transparent about this dynamic.  It’s explained in detail in my firm’s standard fee agreement.  Most clients understand, given this dynamic, that we can’t hold their hand at each step of the process.  To borrow a phrase from a colleague, my fees are about 25% of what most lawyers charge … which is like somebody getting a $400.00 room at the Ritz Carlton on Priceline for $100.00 and then complaining that they did not get a personal concierge and an upgraded room that somebody who paid $10,000 for the presidential suite received.

Most clients understand this dynamic and are absolutely wonderful.  To all such clients, I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.

Unfortunately, when you represent thousands of clients over a period of years, it’s impossible to please everyone 100% of the time – especially folks who are facing foreclosure and, in some cases, an uncertain future.

Make no mistake, I’d put my work product up against anyone’s.  Over the years, I’ve won about half of my trials – a ridiculously high win percentage if I can say so myself (remember, it’s not like my clients paid their mortgage), particularly given how appellate courts have repeatedly morphed the law in a way that facilitates foreclosure (the elimination of 559.715 as a defense, “substantial compliance” for paragraph 22, the “boarding process” exception to the admissibility of business records, the virtual elimination of the statute of limitations in the foreclosure context, the Ortiz presumption, etc., etc.).  All told, I’m approaching 1,300 dismissals – that’s 1,300 times where a lender filed a foreclosure lawsuit against a Florida homeowner yet that case ended with a dismissal instead of a foreclosure.  (For some context, I don’t know anyone else with over 200 such dismissals.)

I’ve also been counsel in numerous appellate court decisions.  In the process, I’ve often felt like the lone voice of Florida consumers, hoping to change the law in a way that will help everyday Floridians (often without payment, or strictly on a contingent fee, even as my opponents are typically paid by the hour).  Some such decisions have been favorable, and some have not, but I can’t imagine any lawyer working more tirelessly than I have to create good law for consumers in the appellate arena.

All of this said, on many files, I couldn’t stop a foreclosure.  Sometimes, there just aren’t any defenses to present.  Sometimes there are, but that judge just didn’t agree on that day.

Most clients understand and appreciate the effort that goes into what I do, regardless of the result obtained.  Again, for all of you, I appreciate you greatly.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned it’s impossible to please everyone 100% of the time.

I am not going to respond in detail to the allegations two clients have recently brought against me.  Suffice it to say I disagree, am confident I acted professionally and appropriately, and am confident the truth will emerge.

The other, enormous difficulty I face in representing consumers is the system in which I operate.  You see, many judges, if not most, are fair-minded.  Some judges, however, simply don’t like the concept of foreclosure defense.  Some such judges will actively help bank lawyers and/or search for ways to facilitate foreclosure.  This problem was no doubt exacerbated, if not understandable, when the Florida legislature tied pay increases of court personnel to the courts pushing foreclosure cases through the system.  When viewed in that vein, it may be easy for some to view me as the “enemy,” as I’m the one who is preventing foreclosure cases from being pushed to judgment.  Yet all I’m doing is ensuring consumers get treated fairly against financial institutions that are notorious for treating them otherwise.

I’m proud of the work I’ve done in Florida courtrooms.  Am I passionate, fiery, and aggressive at times?  Absolutely.   Have I often perceived that is what is necessary to ensure consumer rights are protected?  You betcha.  Do I believe I’ve acted professionally in the process?  Yes.

Some time ago, a judge was unhappy when I moved to disqualify him after he gave legal advice to the bank’s lawyer (my opponent) in open court.  He responded to my motion to disqualify by throwing me out of the courtroom, disqualifying himself from all of my cases, and, most recently, complaining about my conduct.  Though disappointing, I’m confident I acted appropriately in that instance; in fact, faced with the same scenario in the future, I’d do the same thing.

In the process of him complaining about me, that same judge also noted how a different judge removed me from court mid-trial (again, when I was fighting for a homeowner).  Yet the judge presiding over that trial never complained.  In fact, I had four trials after that time with that judge, and not only did all four proceed without incident, but all four cases were dismissed.

Suffice it to say anyone who reads negative press about me should bear in mind two things:

1.  The foreclosure process in Florida courts is not friendly to consumers.  If you don’t have a lawyer who will fight for you, chances are high that you’ll get steamrolled.

I fight.  Not everyone likes that, but ask any judge or bank lawyer who they’d hire to defend their foreclosure (if they had one on their own home) and I bet many of them would choose me.  In fact, many already have.

2.  I’m not perfect.  But I’d put my body of work in this field, on both the trial and appellate levels, up against anyone.  Frankly, I shudder to think about what the foreclosure process would look like if I weren’t involved since 2008.  That said, to anyone I may have let down along the way, I can say with all sincerity that I’ve tried my very best.  😊

All clients should remember to friend request me on Facebook, a forum which is more private and sometimes easier for me to post about foreclosure-related issues.

 

Mark Stopa

www.stayinmyhome.com

Posted in Main | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to My Statement Regarding Negative Press

  1. KENNY JIMNO says:

    Mark Stopa, one of the best examples came when we were Waiting for out case to come up and opposing counsel were there to be over heard saying ” who is their counsel?” Reply ” Mark Stopa” and another say ” Crap” .. ..that says so much that I know you have, are and will continue to do an OUTSTANDINGLY AWESOME job fighting for us all.

  2. Pingback: My Statement Regarding Negative Press – Tampa Lawyer

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