Archive for August, 2010

401(k) withdrawals increasing – WHY?

One of the stories making national news right now is how 401(k) withdrawals have increased drastically.  As the article reflects, the main reason for these increases is people paying their mortgages.

I can’t begin to tell you how much this disappoints me.  I’m not going to repeat my entire blog about strategic default, below, but I will say this.  Loan modifications aren’t happening.  If you think the bank will agree to a loan modification if you can “hang on” a little longer (by paying your mortgage with 401(k) funds), you’re probably waiting for Santa Claus.  In other words…

Before you pillage your retirement account, and ruin your future, to keep paying a mortgage you probably can’t afford (on a house worth far less than you owe), I strongly suggest you re-evaluate your situation.

In my view, it’s rarely a good idea to use retirement funds on monthly mortgage payments.    

Posted in Main | 3 Comments »

When do judges decide who wins a foreclosure case?

Yesterday, I had an experience in court that has absolutely rocked my world, causing me to wonder:

When do judges decide who wins a foreclosure case? 

Do they evaluate each case on the merits?  Or do judges see “foreclosure case” and automatically decide, in their minds, that the bank is going to win (but refrain from announcing such until entry of final judgment)?  In other words, is the outcome of these cases predetermined by some judges?  As a zealous advocate for homeowners, I’d certainly like to think not – particularly in cases where judges see my name.  After all, I’ve been in courtrooms throughout Florida for a long time now, fighting to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, and I’d like to think I’ve developed a good reputation as an aggressive foreclosure defense attorney.

My experience yesterday, though, as outlined in this Motion to DQ Judge, makes me wonder, not about myself, but about the thousands of cases in Florida where homeowners don’t have an attorney.  I strongly encourage you to read the entire Motion to DQ Judge, as it’s a matter of public record, but here’s the cliff notes version.

On August 19, 2010 at 9:30, a summary judgment hearing was set on a mass-motion calendar.  My clients were pro se until just a few days prior, so the documents I filed in opposition to summary judgment had not yet made it into the Court file yet.  As such, the Judge thought my clients were pro se.  At or before 8:15 a.m. on August 19, 2010, the Judge entered conformed copies of a Final Judgment of foreclosure even though the summary judgment hearing was not scheduled until 9:30 a.m. that day.  That’s worth repeating:

The judge entered a Final Judgment of foreclosure more than an hour BEFORE the scheduled hearing.

Sounds impossible to believe, but it’s true.  I learned about this, in fact, only by happenstance – my associate went to the courthouse to review the court file before the hearing, and, upon review of the court file, saw conformed copies of the Final Judgment in the file.  The hearing was not set to begin for more than an hour, yet the Judge had already made copies of the executed Final Judgment, to be mailed to all parties.

If that sounds too hard to believe, click here – you’ll see the judge’s stamp on a Final Judgment of foreclosure, dated August 19, 2010.  The pictures aren’t great (as they were taken by my associate via his cellphone at 8:15 a.m.), but they clearly show the judge’s stamp on a Final Judgment of foreclosure on August 19, 2010, before the summary judgment hearing had begun.

At 9:30, when the hearing began, I voiced my concern about this to the Judge.  She was obviously caught off guard, but it quickly became apparent to me that her “procedure” is to make conformed copies of the Final Judgment, to be mailed to the parties, prior to the hearing (and to send out those copies to all parties immediately upon conclusion of the hearing).  Essentially, she’s already made up her mind before the hearing, is holding the gavel in the air, and is ready to throw it down as soon as the hearing starts.

In my view, the obvious problem here is that the Judge is pre-judging the outcome of the case even before she’s heard what the homeowner has to say.  Apparently, she’s unwilling to wait to see what happens at the hearing – she’s so convinced the bank is going to win, she’s made copies of the Final Judgment and envelopes to mail the judgment to the parties.  Essentially, the axe is in the air and she’s ready to drop it as soon as the hearing begins.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this.  I’ve set forth mine in the Motion to DQ Judge.  Suffice it to say I’m very troubled.  What’s really scary is that, prior to this hearing, I had thought this Judge was one of the more friendly judges as far as foreclosure defense goes, which begs the question – if a friendly judge is doing this, what are the other judges doing?

If there are any judges reading this, particularly in Florida, then let me say this.  I know the volume of cases with which you’re dealing is frustrating.  But you owe it to the people whose homes you are foreclosing upon to give them all a fair chance, whether they’re pro se, represented by Stopa Law Firm, or represented by some other lawyer.  Everyone is entitled to a neutral and detached judge.  Respectfully, if you’re making conformed copies of a Final Judgment before a hearing even begins, that’s just not fair.

Mark Stopa

Posted in Main | 23 Comments »

Foreclosure Mills Under Investigation!

Three of the law firms that regularly represent banks in foreclosure cases throughout the State of Florida – The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, P.A.; Shapiro & Fishman, LLP; and the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A. – are being investigated by the Economic Crimes Division of the Attorney General’s office regarding allegations of falsifying documents in foreclosure cases.  

But don’t take my word for it – check out the LINK here! 

I’d estimate that approximately 60% of Stopa Law Firm’s cases are against banks represented by one of these law firms.  Suffice it to say that this is big news (though this isn’t exactly “news” to those of you who’ve been following my blogs, below).

Posted in Main | 5 Comments »

Update: Solution to the foreclosure crisis

Just two days after I posted “My Solution to the Foreclosure Crisis,” below, I read this report that Obama is considering a significant proposal along the lines I discussed.  We’ll have to see what happens, but it’s good to know that our government is beginning to take stock of the extent of the problem.

Posted in Main | No Comments »

My solution to the foreclosure crisis

There’s no sense in belaboring the point any longer.  For me, the solution to the foreclosure crisis is clear:

Reduce the principal on every mortgage on every owner-occupied home in America such that the mortgage is no greater than the home’s present value.

Is this a radical solution?  Absolutely.  But let me ask you this: who would it harm?  Banks?  Please.  The banks got bailed out – with OUR tax dollars.  The bailout has enabled banks to recover, so much so that they’re now earning record profits, while mainstream America continues to suffer.     

When do the American people get their bailout? 

How many millions of Americans need to be foreclosed before the U.S. government steps in?  I don’t want to turn this into a political debate, but what I find most ironic about Obama’s failure to act in response to the foreclosure crisis is that, prior to the election, he was criticized as a socialist, wanting to take from the rich to give to the poor, yet exactly the opposite is happening:

with every foreclosure, the rich are getting richer at alarming rates while the poor and middle class continue to suffer.

It’s absolutely amazing to me that so much wealth is being transferred from the middle class and the poor to the rich – right under the nose of a Democractic president.

Anyway, would reducing every mortgage on owner-occupied properties to the current value of the property be a radical solution?  Absolutely.  Some people would argue this would be unfair to homeowners who’ve paid their mortgages.  I’m not oblivious to such arguments.  However, what’s our alternative?  Continuing to foreclose on thousands of homes every day?  Continuing to allow banks to earn billions and billions of dollars while the public suffers? Haven’t we seen by now that helping banks isn’t going to help Americans, the public at large, or the economy as a whole?  Banks only care about themselves and the profits of their CEOs – helping banks isn’t going to improve our economy.  For me, this all begs the question:  

Where are we headed here? 

In five years, are banks going to own 25% of all real estate in the United States?  30% 40%?  

Can you imagine how our economy would function with banks controlling that much real estate?  It’s a scary thought. 

Times like these are why we have a President.  Mr. Obama, it’s time for you to get involved and make a difference.  If you wait five years, or even two years, it will be too late.  Right now is the time to

Reduce the mortgage on every owner-occupied home to its present value. 

Of course, unless and until something like this happens, it’s incumbent upon homeowners facing foreclosure to retain a competent foreclosure defense attorney.  You never know – if you don’t give up, and hire an attorney to defend your case, maybe the government will do something like this, enabling you to keep your home (whereas if you give up, you’ll lose your home forever). 

Posted in Main | 4 Comments »