Archive for April, 2011

Consenting to an Order Denying a Motion to Dismiss

One of the things that drives me craziest about being a foreclosure defense attorney is when I see fellow foreclosure defense lawyers, in court, voluntarily withdrawing their motions to dismiss or consenting to entry of an Order denying those motions.  Sure, this has no direct impact on my cases, but I hate seeing homeowners prejudiced by bad lawyering.  Plus, I fear this suggests to judges, albeit implicity, that motions to dismiss are not worth arguing – that creates the false impression that such motions lack merit, and that’s not the impression we want to be leaving on our judges. 

I’m not suggesting that foreclosure lawyers bring motions to dismiss that lack merit.  Rather, my point is that, in my experience, there is almost always a bona-fide reason to dismiss a foreclosure complaint.  Judges don’t always agree, but the way the banks’ lawyers prepare these complaints, there is invariably some good-faith argument for dismissal.  So when I see colleagues giving up on these motions without a fight, it drives me nuts!

If you’re a foreclosure defense attorney or a Florida homeowner facing foreclosure, and you don’t think motions to dismiss can be granted in foreclosure cases, check out the Orders below.  There’s obviously no guarantee such a ruling will happen in any given case, but Orders like this are entered frequently enough that it would be hard for me to imagine consenting to an Order denying a motion to dismiss (without a hearing).  

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion To Dismiss Amended Complaint

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss Complaint

Order on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss

Order on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Complaint

Order on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss

Order on Defendant(s) Motion to Dismiss

Order on Defendant(s) Motion to Dismiss

Order on Defendant(s) Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss Complaint

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss Complaint

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss Complaint

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss Complaint

Mark Stopa

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Citimortgage lawsuit with Stern

I have one question as I review the following story, explaining the pending lawsuit between Citimortgage and David Stern:  Wouldn’t it be fun to serve an interrogatory on Citimortgage, something along the lines of:

‘Identify all facts, including but not limited to all documents and the name, address, and phone number of all witnesses, that in any way pertain to your allegation that you don’t owe back pay to Stern because his own negligence caused you to terminate your contract with him.  In your answer, please explain in detail all acts of negligence committed by Stern which you believe justify the termination of your contract.’” 

I’m not asking for much – just one interrogatory. 

Of course, I don’t have the ability to procure this information, as I’m not The Florida Bar or the Florida AG.  Sigh.  Of course, it seems neither of them is doing much to procure answers to these sorts of questions, either.  Louder sigh. 

Here’s the story.   

by Kim Miller, Palm Beach Post

CitiMortgage, Inc., says it doesn’t owe back pay to the Law Offices of David J. Stern because the Plantation-based firm’s own “decisions, conduct, and/or negligence” caused its contract to be terminated.

Stern’s firm filed a breach of contract lawsuit against CitiMortgage last month in Miami-Dade County, claiming it is owed $4.4 million for work completed on the bank’s foreclosure cases.  CitiMortgage and the firm _ once one of the largest so-called “foreclosure mills” in the state _ had been doing business since about July 2009.

In a Thursday response to the suit, now removed to the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, CitiMortgage complains that Stern’s firm made business promises that it broke when allegations of foreclosure-related wrongdoing surfaced and it was fired by federal mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

CitiMortgage also claims the bank’s own performance review of the firm in September found that it “falsely reported” that it had completed tasks on files that it had not.  The bank also filed a counterclaim against the firm in excess of $75,000.

“CitiMortgage has incurred, and continues to incur, costs and attorneys’ fees in connection with issues arising from plaintiff’s alleged or actual acts or omissions, performance, attempted performance, and/or handling of the matters referred by CitiMortgage to plaintiff,” the bank’s response says.

The costs include the reassignment of cases to new attorneys _ an ongoing problem in Florida’s foreclosure courts that was likely exacerbated by the shutdown of Stern’s foreclosure operations March 31.

On Thursday, Palm Beach County Chief Judge Peter Blanc sent out a cattle call of case management conference orders in cases where lawyers from Stern’s firm are still the attorneys of record.  Nearly 9,000 Palm Beach County foreclosures are in limbo following the collapse of the firm and subsequent attempt to transfer cases to new attorneys.  Blanc said today that he hasn’t heard any response yet from the orders.

“I believe Stern attorneys are still appearing in a sporadic manner,” Blanc said. “I have received nothing that would confirm that the office is now officially closed. Only time will tell.”

Mark Stopa

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Leaving a Legacy

A cordial response to my last post, below, prompted this final email (presumably) to Ms. Downs …

Ms. Downs,

Thanks for your response.  I am glad you sense my passion on this issue.  I’ve been trying to explain the source of that passion, and I fear I’ve left off a critical point (and, with this, I’ll try to leave you alone).  

I sense that many people who work in the legal system (judges, judicial assistants, clerks, etc.), cannot wait to get back to “normal” times, before the foreclosure crisis dominated their workloads.  That’s understandable.  After all, I’m sure it hasn’t been fun for them to have their workloads doubled or tripled for the same pay. 

However, for many Floridians, a foreclosure lawsuit on their homestead is the only experience they will ever have with the Florida judicial system.  As I told the Florida Supreme Court in a recent letter, the foreclosure crisis Florida is experiencing, right now, is what the average Floridian will remember about the legal system in 20 years. 

If this is what Floridians will remember about our system of justice, then, respectfully, we should all be mortified. 

Let’s put it this way.  

I’m 34 years old.  In 20 years, I want everyone I encountered during the foreclosure crisis to remember that I battled the banking industry (and, on occasion, judges) to make the legal system as fair and affordable for homeowners as possible.  That doesn’t mean my clients will always win (on the contrary, as foreclosure defendants, many will lose), but I want my clients to always feel like they at least got a fair shake in court.  On a personal level, I want people to remember that I was willing to go into a gun-fight, day after day, with a bag of rocks (as, often, that’s what foreclosure defense feels like – going into a gunfight with a bag of rocks), and I did so as inexpensively as possible.  Mostly, though, I want everyone to feel, whether they won or lost their case, that Florida’s judicial system is fair, even for the “little guy,” especially if you have competent legal representation. 

I’d like to think most of my clients feel this way.  I’d like to think this is the legacy I will leave long after the foreclosure crisis is over. 

However, my clients make up an infinitely small percentage of those dealing with foreclosure.   

So the question becomes … what about all the rest? 

What does the typical Floridian think about our system of justice, having gone through the foreclosure courts?

Unfortunately, I fear most Floridians think our system of justice has no “justice” at all. 

I fear most Floridians view our courts as a forum for the rich and powerful (like banks) to achieve a result that the “little guy” (like homeowners) cannot possibly prevent, no matter the merits of the case. 

I fear many Floridians think judges don’t care about justice if they get too busy – that speed is more important than a just result. 

I fear many Floridians, rightly or wrongly, think judges are somehow aligned with the rich and powerful (like banks), and will look the other way when the rich and powerful put on fraudulent evidence to prove their case. 

I’m not saying I agree with these views.   And I realize these are horrifying statements. 

Unfortunately, this is what happens when hundreds of thousands of homeowners, most of whom have no experience with the legal system, get their foreclosure lawsuits adjudicated in the manner that many have been adjudicated – public perception of Florida’s system of justice goes down the toilet.     

In my view, these are the questions we should be asking:

 ”What is the legacy that we are leaving here?” 

“What will the typical Floridian think of the legal system in 15-20 years, after the foreclosure crisis is over?” 

“What am I doing to fix these problems, and leave a better legacy for Florida’s system of justice?” 

Now more than ever, it’s up to us to leave a better legacy. 

Thanks for your time.


Mark Stopa

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Pubic Perception of the Legal System

After a few more emails were exchanged in response to the posts, below, I wrote the following.  I did so because, in my view, the public’s perception of the legal system is at stake, and that point should not be lost in this debate. 

I understand and respect your point, Ms. Downs.  I truly do.  Respectfully, however, I’d respect your point more if you expressed the same concern about the problem as the adjective(s) used to describe the problem. 

After all, whether the problem is most appropriately described as “concerning” or “disgusting” does not change what has transpired in Lee County, nor does it faciliate a solution to the problem.   I responded to your first email with the following:  

I encourage you to read my affidavit, attached to the ACLU’s petition.  Don’t the facts set forth therein bother you?  What is your solution to fixing those problems?  I understand your critique of my position, but where is your solution to the inherent flaws in the systems being employed in Lee County?   

Unfortunately, you did not respond to those questions.  You likewise did not respond to my indications that there was nothing in the judges’ emails about administering justice, ensuring fairness, or complying with due process.   

Obviously you have no obligation to respond to me.  And I realize these are difficult, sensitive issues.  However, dialogue about these issues is absolutely necessary to help create a solution to the problem.  Judges have been engaging in this conduct, contrary to basic notions of due process, for years now, largely because nobody is standing up and saying it is wrong.  So while I understand your point about saying so in a tactful manner, to say nothing at all, in my view, is just as inappropriate, if not moreso.  After all, to do nothing is to enable the problem to persist, and to deny there’s a problem, in the face of those emails and the ACLU’s involvement, is misguided.  

You in particular have a unique position of authority in Florida.  People will listen to you.  For whatever my opinion may be worth, I encourage you to use your authority to let your voice be heard. What’s happening in Lee County courtrooms is wrong, and it’s time more people said so (with whatever adjective(s) you deem appropriate).   

A final point … I have spoken to thousands of homeowners in Florida.  The public’s perception of the judiciary has never been worse.  It is particularly bad in Lee County.  If we care, at all, about the public’s perception of lawyers and judges (as you obviously do), then we cannot sit idly and do nothing while the conduct that is happening in Lee County courtrooms keeps transpiring.  The absence of anyone speaking out is why the public’s perception of us has degraded to such low levels.

If you don’t know what I mean, I will gladly facilitate a way for you to talk to Lee County homeowners. Have you ever spoken to a Lee County homeowner?  Have you ever seen a foreclosure court proceeding there? Before you defend these judges any more, I encourage you to do so.  Regardless, no matter what you think of me, or foreclosure defense lawyers in general, I hope you will do something for the public’s sake.  After all, I assure you, at stake here is far more than the adjectives used to describe the conduct.   

Thank you.

Mark Stopa

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A Response from the Florida Bar President

Mayanne Dowds, the President of the Florida Bar, responded to my last post, discussing the emails from the Lee County Judges, with the following.  My reply to her follows that.


I write as an individual, a lawyer in Florida who received this email.  Although it would be easy not to respond, I cannot let the record stand with the statements made in this chain unrebutted.

I have read every email attached to this email. Not only do those emails NOT support the claims made below – that the judges in Lee County were acting in a “disgusting” fashion without regard to due process – but they actually show  judges working hard to do their jobs as well as they can, and to find the appropriate way to process the staggering caseloads they must manage.  These thoughtful judges are communicating about how best to proceed, trying to understand what their colleagues are doing, sharing approaches, and  obviously interested in the best possible approach to a difficult problem. 

It is wrong and unfair, in my opinion, to make sweeping derogatory statements about these judges, who cannot defend themselves. It is wrong to claim that a dense record supports a sweeping and damning conclusion, knowing that most will not take the time to read the materials.  And it is unfair to do so in such a dramatic and widespread fashion.

I understand that people can have reasonable differences about what is right and wrong in these cases, and I certainly understand claims that due process is not being satisfactorily addressed.  Those claims should be prosecuted or defended as the clients and their lawyers see fit.  Sharing information is an admirable goal. Using a forum to damn others — not so much.

We all have an obligation to speak and act respectfully, and with due regard for our roles in our system of justice.  Words have power, and we all have a responsibility to remember that.

I am confident that no one on this list intends harm, and I’m not suggesting that anyone has acted intentionally badly.  I simply ask for some care, and caution, in how we communicate about these important issues.

Thanks for “listening.”

Best regards to all,

Mayanne Downs

My Reply 

Ms. Downs,
As the author of the email/blog to which you respond, I deem it necessary and appropriate to respond to your email. 
I have a great deal of respect for many if not most of Florida’s judges, and I believe the last paragraph of my email reflects that. 
Regrettably, however, I don’t find anything the Lee County judges do to be “thoughtful” or “appropriate.”   
And unless you have litigated in Lee County, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize my perspective on this issue. 
I’ve been on the front lines of the foreclosure crisis, not just in Lee County, but many other counties, since 2008. 
So when I give these opinions, I do so with a lot of experience and a tremendous basis for comparison. 
You seem to think what the Lee County judges are doing is “necessary.” 
I could not disagree more. 
Judges in other counties don’t act this way.  They just don’t. 
In Lee County, virtually everything those judges do vis a vis foreclosure cases is designed to dispose of foreclosure cases as quickly as possible. 
Is that what our system of justice has been relegated to?  Speed above all else? 
As I see it, a judge’s job is to administer justice on each and every case/file that comes before him/her. 
To act as an impartial arbiter and ensure fairness to both sides. 
I read those emails several times. 
I saw nothing in those emails about administering justice. 
I saw nothing in those emails about ensuring fairness or complying with basic notions of due process. 
You say “claims should be prosecuted or defended as the clients and their lawyers see fit.” 
But that’s actually sort of the point. 
I’ve tried defending cases in Lee County. 
I’ve tried “defending cases as I see fit.”
And I think I’m really good at defending foreclosure cases.
However, defending foreclosure cases in Lee County, with the systems those judges have employed, is borderline impossible.   
After all, how can you defend homeowners facing foreclosure when judges require personal attendance at monthly docket soundings, even when plaintiffs don’t want to prosecute the case (forcing lawyers to wait for several hours for a two-minute hearing at which nothing takes place), set those docket soundings unilaterally without clearing the date, won’t allow phone appearances, won’t allow continuances (unless it’s the plaintiff’s lawyer who wants a continuance of trial because the plaintiff doesn’t want to have a contested trial), give such abbreviated discovery cut-offs that there is essentially no discovery allowed at all, set trials prematurely (by their own admission in the emails), won’t give more than a couple of minutes for homeowners to argue, order defendants to set hearings on outstanding motions before the next docket sounding but then won’t allow defendants to coordinate such a hearing, etc., etc.  
The system is so perverse that do you know what strategy many defense lawyers are forced to employ?  Defend and hope the plaintiff gets so frustrated/uncomfortable that they file a notice of voluntary dismissal. With all due respect, does that sound like justice to you? 
I encourage you to read my affidavit, attached to the ACLU’s petition.  Don’t the facts set forth therein bother you?  What is your solution to fixing those problems?  I understand your critique of my position, but where is your solution to the inherent flaws in the systems being employed in Lee County?  I hope you’re not trying to suggest there is no need for a solution. 
You say these issues should not be discussed in an open forum “to damn others.” 
There was no intent to “damn others” here. 
The intent is to create public awareness to the rather obvious problems with this system so as to promote change. 
It’s up to lawyers like me – and, candidly, people in positions of authority, such as yourself, to address the obvious problems in Lee County. 
Unless and until that happens, the most basic notions of fairness and due process are being thrown out the window, all for the sake of expediency. 
Personally, I refuse to accept that.  I refuse to accept that our system of justice can be so marginalized. 
In my view, the people of Florida deserve better.

Mark Stopa

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One Objective – Disposing of Foreclosure Cases

Today, my outrage about perverse foreclosure procedures reached a new level. 

Prior to filing its Petition in the Second District, the ACLU succeeded in obtaining emails and internal memos from the judges in Lee County.  Yes, they’re available for everyone to see.  Here’s a link.  Scroll down to page 108 (App.108 at the bottom of the page) and read the emails. 

This is truly disgusting stuff.  I’ll let you read for specifics, but from my perspective, all of the judges, in particular Judge Carlin, had one singular objective – dispose of foreclosure cases as quickly as possible, regardless of law, procedure, due process or basic fairness.  To accomplish that end, these judges were willing to do seemingly anything, even create pre-determined rulings to legal issues. 

Granting a motion for continuance?  No way. 

Lawyer not available for a hearing?  Doesn’t matter; hearing proceeds. 

Case not at issue?  Doesn’t matter – set for trial anyway.

Plaintiffs cancelling hearings?  Set a docket sounding so they can’t cancel. 

Plaintiffs aren’t setting enough hearings?  Contact them ex parte and tell them to set more hearings. 

Not disposing of enough cases?  Set quotas, increasing the number of cases being heard.  200 per session.  250.  500.

The parties want to abate a case to discuss settlement?  Abatement is not an option, even when both sides want to resolve the lawsuit without a foreclosure.

Personally, I’d like to see the Judicial Qualifications Committee review this conduct.  After all, we’ve heard a lot about lawyer misconduct and Bar grievances, but judges should be accountable, too.  This is absolutely disgusting.  And if that sounds harsh, read the emails

Maybe you think I’m crazy to call out judges who I have cases before.  Maybe I am.  But wouldn’t it be crazier to stay silent and let this conduct continue unchallenged? 

This makes me appreciate even more the many good judges throughout Florida who actually listen to arguments and care about trying to follow the law and rule correctly.  To all of you, and you know who you are, thank you.

Mark Stopa

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ACLU Petition in Second District – Wow

Here is a copy of the Petition filed by the ACLU in Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.  Wow. 

I’ve spoken many times on this blog about the perverse foreclosure procedures being utilized in Lee County.  This Petition does an excellent job of encapsulating those improprieties in one brief. 

There is no way anyone reading this Petition cannot see the problems with how Lee County is operating its foreclosure cases.  Hence, as I see it, the only question is whether the Second District cares enough to do something about it.  I guess we will see.

As you read the Petition, look closely at the references to the internal memos and emails sent from one judge to another or the judges to the clerks about foreclosure policies and procedures.  How thoroughly disgusting is all of this?  I mean, I know we’re supposed to be respectful of judges, but when I see the unconscionable bias dripping out of these emails and memos, my only thought is that a standing order of disqualification is appropriate for many of these judges, in all foreclosure cases.  That sounds harsh, but I don’t know how any reasonable person could think they’re going to get a fair shake when these judges are acting in this manner.  It’s truly appalling, and if you ask me, not enough people have been willing to stand up and say so. 

Anyway, I guess we’ll see what the Second District thinks.  Meanwhile spread the word about this.  The more people who can make this arguments, the harder it will be for the Lee County judges to continue these ridiculous procedures in foreclosure lawsuits.

Mark Stopa

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ACLU Joins the Foreclosure Fight

The ACLU has filed an extraordinary writ petition in Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal, challenging the procedures in place in Lee County’s foreclosure courtrooms.  This should come as no surprise, as the appeal challenges the very issues I’ve discussed in this blog, i.e. setting trials when a case is not at issue, not allowing phone appearances, judges prosecuting cases, etc.  In fact, I’m pleased to say I filed an affidavit supporting the petition. 

Quite candidly, as a conservative Republican, I’m not sure I ever envisioned the day I’d be joining forces with the ACLU.  But the diversity of our positions actually illustrates the point – the procedures in Lee County are so perverse that political views fall by the wayside; right is right and wrong is wrong, and Lee County’s foreclosur procedures are just wrong.   

The ACLU has a press conference scheduled tomorrow to discuss this issue in more detail.  Here’s a press report on the story.

Mark Stopa

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Florida Court System – on the Verge of Closing Down?

I had a hearing in Volusia County this morning, and the judge explained that if funds were not immediately received for the court to operate that the Court would be forced to close, starting on Monday.  No, I’m not talking about one judge, or just the senior judges – I’m talking about the entire civil court system – CLOSED.  And I’m not talking just about Volusia County, either – this is a state-wide problem.  In Pinellas, for instance, judges were discussing the potential need to close the civil courthouse for the entire month of June. 

These ridiculous budget problems should never have reached this point.  In my view, the problem started when the legislature started forcing the courts to rely on filing fees from foreclosure cases to fund daily operations of the court system.  Perhaps this worked for a while, but, to nobody’s surprise, when the foreclosure filings decreased in recent months, the Florida courts did not have enough money to operate.  In response, instead of budgeting more money for the operation of the courts, the legislature and Governor Scott did nothing, letting this problem reach the point where judges, litigants, and lawyers feared the court would have to close altogether.

Today’s breaking news is that the Governor finally approved temporary funding, avoiding a furlough, at least for now.  However, this is not a solution – it’s putting a band aid on a patient who needs surgery. 

Respectfully, I’m appalled that Governor Scott would let the problem reach this point.  A functioning court system is at the heart of the state.  Child custody disputes, restraining orders, foreclosure cases, and all other types of civil cases cannot be resolved/adjudicated without a court. 

Reading the article, here, it seems Governor Scott delayed his approval of this funding to induce the courts to agree to accept less … sort of like a game of chicken.  I wish the judges made the Governor jump off the tracks first.  “No, Governor Scott, we can’t reduce our funding any lower” … and if he refused to grant the necessary funding, force the temporary furlough.  Perhaps if Governor Scott saw how Florida operated without a court system then he’d start to garner some appreciation for the funds that are needed to keep the system functional. 

Anyway, it’s truly sad that it’s come to this. 

Here’s the article. …

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady and Gov. Rick Scott‘s Office reached a breakthrough emergency funding agreement Wednesday morning, sparing courts statewide from having to shut down for four days next week and two weeks in May.  Scott agreed to a $19.5 million bridge loan, enough money to keep circuit and county courts going through the end of the May. An earlier deal with the Legislature means there will be no shutdown in June. And courts should be flush with newly appropriated money July 1, at the start of the new fiscal year.  The loan means more than 4,000 employees in courthouses across the state will not be forced into furloughs.

“I am very happy to say that the people of the state of Florida will have a well-functioning court system for the balance of this fiscal year,” Chief Orange-Osceola Judge Belvin Perry Jr. told reporters during a break in a Casey Anthony hearing at the Orange County Courthouse.

Just Tuesday, it was feared the court budget shortfall would mean furloughed employees plus three weeks of shuttered courts.  Canady began warning legislators and other state officials of a probable cash shortfall in January. He implemented a hiring freeze in February.  He went public with his request for emergency funds three weeks ago. Both houses of the Legislature had approved the loan but Scott only authorized a portion of it — $14 million. That left a gaping hole and time running out.

Chief judges from around the state met with court budget writers in Tallahassee Monday and shaved about $9 million from their request. They warned Scott that if he didn’t agree to a bigger loan by this Friday, a cash flow emergency would force them to shut down court operations Monday through Thursday of next week and for 10 additional days in May.

News of possible furloughs and an impending court shutdown spread around the state Tuesday as chief judges warned their employees and explained the problem to reporters.

Orlando attorney David Oliver was on Day 2 of a two-week multimillion-dollar jury trial before Circuit Judge Thomas B. Smith in Orange County when the judge Tuesday warned that the trial might be interrupted and he might declare a mistrial due to the funding crisis.

“Obviously, that was devastating news to hear,” Oliver said.

But with Scott saying yes to the loan, his trial continued.

Wednesday morning, Jerry McDaniel, director of Scott’s Office of Policy and Budget, sent Canady a two-paragraph letter, authorizing the $19.5 million loan from state trust funds.

Lane Wright, Scott’s press secretary, said the governor had wanted to see that judges were willing to make sacrifices.

“The Governor wanted to get those cost containment measures,” Wright said.

Said Perry, “We’ve had to tighten our belts, but at least we will be able to keep the doors open and provide a certain level of service rather than no service at all.”

There are just over 4,000 affected employees statewide — 921 are judges.

Had Scott not authorized the loan, courts statewide would have fired 220 employees – most of them traffic hearing officers. They’d also have stopped temporarily hiring retired judges to fill staffing gaps and halted payments to some contractors, including court reporters, expert witnesses and interpreters.

The court funding crisis is another outgrowth of the state’s mortgage crisis. Courts in Florida are primarily funded by filing fees. They’ve been a reliable revenue stream because of the glut of foreclosure suits in recent years, but a few months ago, that stream slowed to a trickle as mortgage companies scrambled to find documents to authenticate individual loans, fallout from allegations of loan officer “robosigning.”

The Office of State Courts Administrator, which manages the courts’ budget, reported last month that mortgage suit filing fees were 43 percent below projections for the fiscal year.

In Orange-Osceola they went from an average of 31,000 new cases a month to 3,100, Perry said.

“That,” he said, “was a major problem.”

Mark Stopa

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A Ray of Hope from an Unlikely Source

Earlier today, I had a unique opportunity to speak with a former attorney of one of Florida’s big foreclosure mills.  He was a young lawyer, like most of the mill attorneys, but this attorney was different.  He was on his own, looking for work. 

As a prospective employer, you can imagine my concerns about the possibility of hiring a former attorney from a foreclosure mill.  Why did he leave?  What bad habits did he learn?  What unethical behavior did he participate in? 

Then, something incredible happened.  This young attorney explained how he left this foreclosure mill – voluntarily – because the mill insisted that he engage in conduct that he deemed unethical.  In particular, the firm wanted him to prosecute foreclosure cases with paperwork he knew to be faulty, and he wasn’t willing to do it.

Before you ask, no, I’m not going to “out” this lawyer by naming him or the firm.  That’s his place, if he so chooses, not mine.  However, I will say:

1.  For many months, I’ve been opining that none of the mills are different than Stern; the only difference is that Stern got caught.  This is another illustration of that.

2.  It’s absolutely reprehensible to me that the foreclosure mills are putting young lawyers in this position.  It’s disgusting, really.  It’s the job – the responsibility – of more experienced lawyers to counsel young lawyers and mold them for the future.  To encourage, much less require, a lawyer to use fraudulent evidence to prosecute a case is appalling. 

3.  As disgusted as I am with this mill, I’m that encouraged with this lawyer.  Kudos to him.  To leave a job iin a bad economy, not having another job lined up … good for you.  You’ll go far in this profession.

As for other, young lawyers who are heeding the instructions of their bosses at the foreclosure mills to use fraudulent evidence, you need to think about your future.  Yes, everyone needs a paycheck.  But you’ll be a lawyer for 30-40 years if you play your cards right.   If you practice law the right way, it can be a rewarding, enriching experience for the rest of your life.  If you continue on the path you’re on, you jeopardize everything you’ve worked for, denigrating the entire profession along the way. 

For now, though, I thank the lawyer who left the foreclosure mill; you’re a ray of hope in a terrible storm.  You’re an example to all young lawyers, particularly those at the foreclosure mills who are routinely being told to engage in unethical conduct.  Thank you for showing everyone the right way to respond to such appalling misconduct.

Mark Stopa

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