On a recent Friday morning in Miami-Dade County, Judge Maxine Cohen Lando went on the record to dress down a foreclosure mill in such a fashion that it brought chills to any lawyer who is a member in good standing of the Florida Bar.
The foreclosure case was before the court because the defendant had brought a motion to dismiss the foreclosure with prejudice. The judge, having previously become annoyed with the bank and the bank’s counsel, had requested that there be an order to show cause. The judge was questioning the pleadings and wanted the foreclosure mill representing the bank to come forward and prove that they had not been involved with any inappropriate conduct.
The judge was clearly upset and said to the banks’ attorneys:
The court went on to question what kind of supervision is going on at the foreclosure mills and whether the named partners were in any manner setting up the proper systems to ensure that quality work was being produced. The court specifically stated that legal work being dished out in a factory-like fashion may “be okay for you, but it is not okay for the court.”
The judge further questioned whether the attorneys gave legal counsel to their clients, stating:
Or is it just that you do everything your clients tell you to do, you blindly submit papers, that get thrown in front of the court. And that’s what I’m seeing with this case, It is not the only one like this.
The judge was further annoyed that when she personally had tried to call the law offices of this particular firm, she was unable to get through. Judge Lando further stated:
I couldn’t get a human being on the phone . . . and if I’m not mistaken opposing counsel came before the court and also testified that. I hear time after time from your office, which is why I had to put this case over, that even when I fax you things I have lawyers walk in here and go “well we don’t get the faxes.” Now I know you get the faxes. Who the heck is reading what is sent to your office? You’re certainly not.
The judge finally made it very clear that if the lawyer doesn’t care enough to review what is supposed to come in front of him, where:
Your bar license is on the line, because you bet this gets sent, not only does the president of the Florida Bar want to know about these things but so does Tallahassee. And if you don’t think that I’m going to send it to them, and I’m going to send them this transcript, you’re wrong sir. The fact that you have not reviewed even what was submitted to this court, tells me that you don’t take any of this seriously. As a judge for 20 years and a lawyer for 16 more, I have learned to go on what people do not on what they say.
After further ranting and scolding the court goes on to say that it is finding the attorneys in contempt for failure to properly review the documents and for submitting them to the court improperly reviewed. The court states that:
This is not lawyers’ work. This is not the work that lawyers do and this is not a properly filed lawsuit because I’m questioning whether you even had the proper documentation in the first place . . . but if you cannot hear what I’m saying to you, which is you’re a lawyer and you can’t file things until your ducks are in a row. I don’t care what the banks—your clients—are telling you. Your job is to give your clients legal advice and you’re not doing it. You’re acting as a robot for a plaintiff who is not even giving you the information you need to file a proper foreclosure. Now if you choose to do that, you do that at your peril before this court . . . Don’t file foreclosures unless you have all your documentation, all your assignments, your note, your mortgage and everything is in a row. Don’t file it period. That’s proper procedure and you tell your clients you are unable to file it. My experience is that lawyers who walk in here from these firms do nothing but a bunch of foreclosures every day, uncaring about their professional responsibility and this is a really good example of it.
The court goes on to discuss courtesy and dignity in response to the attorney’s statement that “I’m all in favor of treating defendants with respect, courtesy and dignity.” The judge exclaimed:
Courtesy and dignity? I, a judge, couldn’t get a lawyer on the phone. You tell me how that is courteous and dignified? You say that you think that every litigant should be treated courteously and with dignity. Do you know how many litigants have walked into this courtroom and said “I can’t get a lawyer on the phone. I don’t know who to talk to.” They can’t get anybody on the phone. Now, if you’re going to represent these banks, these mortgage companies, then you will be accessible. And you are not. I know that from my own experience of trying to get someone from your firm on the phone. How about this? You should take less cases, because you clearly can’t handle the cases you’ve got. So if that means you make less money, that’s not my problem either. None of that is my problem. This level of practice is shoddy. It is grossly negligent. It is worthy of a judge looking at it, and saying what is going on here? How dare you file something like this? And come in front of the court on a motion for final summary judgment with this sort of pleading and with this sort of backup information. … And the court will draft an order finding you in contempt, finding you grossly negligent and I’m sending this to the Bar. This is just enough. It’s time that somebody looked at this stuff and reacted instead of waiting until you come in front of the judge having a judge dress you down which I’m very sorry to have to do and then say, “Wait a minute. We can fix this.”
Finally, after close to three and a half years of pleading with judges and telling them what was wrong and how they were being duped to become a private collection agency for the banks when the banks had taken advantage unduly of homeowners, the law, our system of justice, we finally have judges waking up from their deep sleep and realizing what has happened.
But this is America, and in America we always eventually wake up from our deep slumber and set the record straight. Sometimes it takes a little too long, but invariably we eventually get it right. In this case, and in this situation that is happening one case, one judge, and in one courtroom at a time. At the end justice will prevail and it is great to be a practicing lawyer helping to set the record straight.
In the trenches,