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Supreme Court hears oral arguments in seminal Palm Beach County foreclosure case

by Dara Kam | May 10th, 2012

Florida Supreme Court justices hammered a lawyer representing a Royal Palm Beach homeowner this morning in a seminal foreclosure case that could have far-reaching effects on other civil litigation.

The justices heard oral arguments in the unusual case involving Roman Pino, a drywall hanger whose lawsuit has already been settled. It’s the first foreclosure case to come before the state’s high court since the housing collapse.

Pino’s case against the Bank of New York Mellon focuses on whether lenders or other plaintiffs can escape penalties after filing bogus documents with the court simply by voluntarily dismissing the lawsuits. A voluntary dismissal allows the bank to refile at a later date.

The Palm Beach County homeowner accused the bank of using false documents in its foreclosure proceedings against him. Pino and the bank have since settled the case, but his lawyers want the high court to decide whether trial court judges have the ability to overturn voluntary dismissals.

The justices peppered Amanda Lundergan, a lawyer with the Tom Ice law firm that represented Pino, with questions during oral arguments this morning. They seemed to have trouble understanding what harm Pino had suffered.

“What it seems like to me, you’re just looking for a ‘gotcha’ to get out of the mortgage. Am I wrong?” Chief Justice Charles Canady said.

“Absolutely wrong,” Lundergan said. “This is not about Mr. Pino. This is about the bank and the fraud that was committed.”

But Bruce Rogow, who represents the bank, said Pino’s lawyers are essentially asking the judges to change court rules about voluntary dismissals and that the foreclosure case could have far-reaching effects.

“We have not had problems. This is, because it’s a mortgage foreclosure case, because there are a lot of those cases, it has attracted a lot of attention. But I think we have to look at this in the universe of general civil litigation. And this has not been a problem in general civil litigation,” Rogow said.

In Pino’s foreclosure case, his lawyers challenged a document created by the Law Offices of David J. Stern and sought to question employees about its veracity. On the eve of those depositions, the bank moved to dismiss the case, blocking the court’s ability to address any sanctions.

Ice made headlines with the Pino case in 2010 when he was featured in a national magazine article about Florida’s so-called “foreclosure mills” and the discovery of allegedly fraudulent documents.

The robo-signing scandal was just breaking at the time, Florida’s foreclosure “rocket dockets” were full speed ahead, and David J. Stern’s Plantation-based firm was a foreclosure empire handling more than 100,000 cases statewide. It has since closed after losing most of its clients in the wake of the scandal.

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15 Responses to “Supreme Court hears oral arguments in seminal Palm Beach County foreclosure case”

  1. Sanford Says:

    It’s about time sombody stand up to the bullies. This will have resounding effect of the foreclosure market if Pino wins. I am pulling for Mr. Pino.

  2. Tag A. Long Says:

    You have to go to the State Supreme Court to determine whether or not fraudulent behavior in a case should or should not go unpunished?

    What a pathetic state of affairs.

  3. Big Banker Says:

    Hey, The Big banks print money and can buy politicians, attorney’s general, and judges, or more easily we will give them a preferred rate on a liar loan so they can get a bigger house to avoid the public from within.

    If we can foreclose on an entire block it can be bulldozed and a nice estate can be created for our friends.

    The outcome here should be interesting!

  4. Think ! Says:

    Rags make paper,
    Paper makes money,
    Money makes banks,
    Banks make loans,
    Loans make poverty,
    Poverty makes rags.

  5. don keiber Says:

    Chief Justice Charles Canady needs to be removed from the bench. Aren’t judges required to be impartial and hear the facts before rendering (or in this case guessing at) a legal opinion? He seems unconcerned with the criminal acts of certain banks and attorneys. A biased judge circumvents our entire system.

  6. The Ice man cometh Says:

    Let’s cut through the clutter and go back to why the forclosure was filed.

    He didn’t pay his mortgage.

    If false documents were indeed used in the process of foreclosure, then those who are responsible should be held accountable, just as Mr. Pino should be held accountable for not paying his mortgage.

    I have no pity on those who signed their name to a mortgage for a home they couldn’t afford. None whatsoever.

    I didn’t buy, sell, or mortgage property because I knew it was going to cause the problems we are in now. Being an electrician, I was approached by flippers who wanted my services so they could make a killing. I turned them down because I knew the property wasn’t worth what they were going to make someone pay.

    Frankly I find it an anathema that a man of law could stand in front of the highest court in the State of Florida and say it’s not about Mr. Pino getting a free house. Bolderdash!!
    In the end that’s what they are seeking.

    Put him on the street. Maybe he’ll learn to be responsible and not put himself in a place he can’t afford.

    If anyone thinks this post is some agenda against “a people”, your right, it is.
    It’s an agenda against the irresponsible behavior of a “Irresponsible People”
    who have ruined the lives of responsible people.
    And I can tell you firsthand, those looking for a “gotcha” think it’s all a joke and mock the laws and those responsible for enforcing them.
    I’ve not taken a dime of unemployment compensation or food stamps. Not so much as a slice of cheese from a food bank!

    I was responsible and have been rewarded Nothing for being so.

  7. Jim Weix Says:

    I sort of have mixed emotions.
    Can a bank robber escape penalties after robbing a bank and then voluntarily returning the money?
    Of course not!
    Should a bank escape penalties after filing bogus documents with the court simply by voluntarily dismissing the lawsuits?
    Of course not!
    Is it the bank’s fault that Florida’s so-called “foreclosure mills” filed fraudulent documents?
    That would not seem fair!
    Should a homeowner, who doesn’t make their payments, get a free house?
    Obviously not!
    Maybe the solution is to have the banks and attorneys that filed fraudulent documents face criminal changes.
    That will never happen though!

  8. Jesse Says:

    Ditto to the The Iceman cometh comment!

  9. Indict Them Says:

    Florida Suprem Court is corrupt and must be investigated by the FBI.
    What stock do they Own, what Rich people are they meeting with and having access to their Yachts and planes and Estates.

    They refuse to address the Bank Corruption, meaning they are corrupt and must be investigated.

  10. lela Says:

    I sort of have mixed emotions.
    Can a bank robber escape penalties after robbing a bank and then voluntarily returning the money?
    Of course not!

  11. ezine Says:

    I didn’t buy, sell, or mortgage property because I knew it was going to cause the problems we are in now. Being an electrician, I was approached by flippers who wanted my services so they could make a killing. I turned them down because I knew the property wasn’t worth what they were going to make someone pay.

  12. ezine Says:

    ??? why

  13. Alan Brady Says:

    Please keep us posted on this case. There will be far reaching ramifications.

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    Anyone working two or three jobs isn’t “making it.” Getting rid of illegal aliens isn’t the answer. Changing, or enforcing, regulatory laws governing corporations, requiring those who send their capital gains to pay as much tax as the rest of us, and jobs programs, are what will aid citizens. Let’s not place our hope in the illusion that our economic or criminal problems lay with a single group of people.

  15. Program Pity Says:

    Hey everyone. I was justing checking the touring dates and noticed the Bluegass Album Band has a few dates. Who does the lead singing as Tony’s not singing much these days? The albums are great, keeping the tradition of bluegrass in check. Thanks for now…

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