At a recent seminar with the Daily Business Review, 250 lawyers engaged in the practice of foreclosure law where a number of foreclosure and appellate judges served on a panel with me, I admonished the judicial branch to take heed. Specifically, I suggested that as the Florida Supreme Court in 1939 in Kilgore Groves, Inc. v. Mayo warned, one cannot allow judicial expediency to become the end all in the dispensing and administration of justice; for if that were to occur we would no longer be a society of laws but rather one of men that would allow the whims and notions of the moment to drive the law into an abyss that ultimately moves society towards anarchy.
Obviously, the way the courts are handling the foreclosure trial dockets by dispensing with traditional rules of due process, civil procedure and the rules of evidence puts these issues front and center. At times it would seem to the lowly bystander that the courts and judges are following “lore” rather than the law due to some unseen yet unbearable pressure from the Legislature, the Governor, the Supreme Court and even in some cases the chief judges of a particular Circuit to reduce their outstanding cases at all cost.
I once again suggest that in America historically we judge ourselves as much by the road we choose to take as we do our destination. The process of getting where we go as a nation will ultimately be the predictor of our destiny. How we get through this foreclosure crisis, and for that matter any other subsequent crisis, will be a measure of how we will handle future crises, whether with grace and dignity or simply with an eye to expediency at whatever cost. History will likely look back at this time period as one of the darkest hours in the annals of Florida jurisprudence. I for one do not believe the ends justify the means at any cost. However, I am clearly in a minority when compared to my esteemed brethren on the bench who may think it’s ok to sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water.
May G-d forgive us and them.
From the Trenches,
It’s been more than 100 years since the introduction of the first Labor Day.
Originally conceived to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers, Labor Day has, for many, just become another day off from work when we can go to the beach, invite friends and family over for a bar-b-que or just kick back, relax and read a good book.
Just as Memorial Day kicks off Summer, Labor Day signals the end of it.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”
For us at Oppenheim Law we endeavor every day to use the law in a positive way to effectuate change and to protect our clients’ constitutional rights to due process thereby ensuring that the system is fair and that no matter how big or powerful a bank or adversary may be, they too must follow the law; as no one is above this institution.
For us, our work is a labor of love. In the last year, we have helped countless Floridians remain in their homes as we successfully defended against big banks’ efforts to steamroll them out of their homes.
Labor Day has many meanings depending upon whom you speak. For those who have found themselves unemployed during the “Great Recession” it’s been a grim reminder of what they don’t have. Their labor has been simply trying to make it from one day to the next.
For others, Labor Day is about family: Mothers go into labor and then they labor for years after giving birth to raise a family.
In short, Labor Day isn’t a one-size-fit’s all event. It is a day to honor all Americans regardless of the work they do.
So, on behalf of my family and staff I would like to take a moment to celebrate everyone’s achievements and to wish you all a safe and enjoyable Labor Day Weekend.
In The Trenches,
Roy Oppenheim is Florida’s leading real estate and foreclosure defense attorney. He left Wall Street for Main Street and, in 1989, founded Oppenheim Law , Weston Title , and the South Florida Law Blog with his partner and wife, Ellen. His entrepreneurial spirit and passion for helping to defend homeowners led Roy to start “In the Trenches” where he speaks out for the people and their constitutional rights.
WEST PALM BEACH — Florida homeowners received more than $9.2 billion in home loan help through the historic National Mortgage Settlement negotiated last year, exceeding expectations by $800 million, according to a final progress report released Thursday.
The payouts, which came in the form of reduced loan debt, lower interest rates and allowing for short sales, were shared by 119,411 borrowers statewide, resulting in an average savings of more than $77,000 per homeowner.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was a lead negotiator on the settlement made with the nation’s five largest banks to atone for mortgage- and foreclosure-related offenses. It is heralded as a real estate rejuvenator by some _ allowing borrowers to stay in their homes with lower mortgages, or facilitating short sales.
But others in Palm Beach County said the awards seemed arbitrary and that success was like winning a golden ticket.
“In many cases, the clients didn’t need the help. In other cases, they had already lost the home,” said Kevin Maher, community outreach director for West Palm Beach-based DebtHelper.com. “To be honest, it seemed almost random.”
Still, the agreement was the broadest effort yet to help the nation’s struggling homeowners. Nationwide, $51.1 billion in mortgage relief was doled out to 642,130 borrowers with the average homeowner receiving $79,704 in savings.
The five banks in the settlement — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial _ were responsible for awarding varying amounts of relief. Bank of America gave the most at $27.8 billion.
Much of the aid came in the form of forgiveness of second loans. In Florida, $3.4 billion in second mortgages was erased for 49,808 borrowers.
Banks faced criticism early on for focusing on the secondary liens because it was money they likely would have lost anyway in a foreclosure, but it also allowed borrowers to more easily negotiate a loan modification on their primary mortgage, said foreclosure defense attorney Roy Oppeheim.
“We had a lot of second mortgages wiped out and that was like manna from heaven for my clients,” said Oppenheim, who is still critical of the settlement for being too lax on banks. “They got credit for things they would have already done without really paying for the robo-signing fraud that they committed.”
Delray Beach homeowner Jerry Rappelets said he was shocked when Bank of America hacked $120,000 off his primary mortgage, reducing his monthly payment by $900.
In the construction business, Rappelets and his family suffered financially when he was laid off and then got into a car accident that kept him from working for eight months. The mortgage reduction allowed him to stay in his home.
“It’s the house that my son came home to when he was born,” Rappelets said. “We’ve been there eight years.”
Thursday’s report was the fifth from the settlement’s monitor Joseph Smith. It covered the period from March 1, 2012 to June 30.
Because lenders do not earn a dollar-for-dollar match on relief provided to borrowers, the nationwide $25 billion deal has provided much more in mortgage aid to homeowners. For example, for every dollar forgiven by a lender on a second mortgage, it receives only a 10-cent credit toward its required settlement amount.
Smith cautioned that Thursday’s numbers were self-reported and had yet to be confirmed by his office.
This summer, banks were scrutinized by attorneys general for failing to meet customer service requirements that are outlined in the settlement.
In June, Bondi wrote Bank of America that she was ready to go to court to enforce the customer service side of the agreement after hundreds of homeowner complaints and affronts to her own staff. She said her office is having to get involved in cases where there are common-sense solutions that should be easy to reach.
In one situation, Bank of America allegedly refused to speak with a homeowner’s Legal Aid lawyer because of a “simple dispute over a ZIP code.”
On Thursday, Bondi said she will remain “diligent” in her efforts to ensure banks meet their obligations.
Real estate attorney and foreclosure defense attorney, Roy Oppenheim left Wall Street for Main Street, founding Oppenheim Law along with his wife Ellen in 1989 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is vice president of Weston Title and creator of the South Florida Law Blog, named the best business and technology blog by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Follow Roy on Twitter at @OpLaw or like Oppenheim Law on Facebook .
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