Florida Justices Side with Bank in Foreclosure Fraud Case
Written by Emil Fleysher | February 16, 2013 | Foreclosure
The case, Roman Pino v. The Bank of New York, was the first significant foreclosure case to be heard by the high court in Florida since the housing collapse. Odder still is that the case was heard after Pino had already settled with the bank in a deal that allowed him to keep his house. Pino’s attorney had challenged a document created by the former Law Offices of David J. Stern and sought to question the firms employee’s about its authenticity. The night before those dispositions were scheduled, the bank moved to dismiss the case effectively blocking Pino’s opportunity to argue for sanctions. Pino then settled and was able to keep his house. This case was to decide whether to uphold a law that allows banks to use voluntarily dismissals as a tactic to avoid being penalized for filing fraudulent documents in foreclosure cases. The 4th District Court of Appeal had previously agreed with the circuit court ruling in Pino that a voluntary dismissal couldn’t be reversed, but said it wanted the high court to make a ruling because “many, many mortgage foreclosures appear tainted with suspect documents”.
The Supreme Court ruling supporting the law and overturning the Appeals court decision came as a shock to Florida foreclosure defense lawyers, even more so because the new ruling was unanimous. Pino’s attorney stated, “The Supreme Court has spoken loud and clear that it doesn’t care about litigants that abuse the court system and that fraud is OK. There are no ramifications if you get caught defrauding the court, just take a voluntary dismissal and start over.” A voluntary dismissal grants the bank the right to refile at a later date. Michael Wolf, a University of Florida law professor said that although the justices supported current rules of civil procedure, they did address other penalties that could be invoked if fraudulent documents are filed. Some penalties include having the attorney referred to the Florida Bar as well as having the bank pay both court costs and attorney fees.
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