Foreclosure lawyers scrutinized for ethical violations
By Todd Ruger
The state group that disciplines lawyers is debating how to deal
with reports of attorneys using errors and false statements to retake
property in foreclosure cases.
Some of the most egregious Florida examples come from Sarasota
County, where a study this summer that looked at the civil courts
system found three of four foreclosure cases that went forward without
the proper paperwork.
In one case, an attorney for a lender used a false reason to schedule a Sarasota widow’s home for a foreclosure sale.
one circuit judge in Sarasota, after an attorney assured her everything
was in order, happened to glance at foreclosure paperwork and realized
the two properties were in Miami, a few hundred miles outside her
Judges have said they can only catch a few in hopes of keeping the rest honest.
section of The Florida Bar that seeks to give everyone equal access to
the courts says stories like those prompted it to push for a special
committee to review any ethical violations in foreclosure cases.
we let these things happen without consequences, then we are allowing
attorneys to take people’s homes," said attorney Harley Herman. "As
long as the bar sits back and does nothing, its a bad situation."
Herman equated the problem with an issue the bar’s Board of Governors tackled a few years ago: rampant attorney advertising.
Equal Opportunity Law section will present its case Friday at the Board
of Governor’s meeting that letting the behavior go will hurt the image
of attorneys. And the resolution will be reviewed and a committee that
looks at attorney discipline.
Not all attorneys agree something needs to be done.
attorney Norman Vaughan-Birch, who sits on the Florida Bar Board of
Governors, said a special panel on lawyers is not necessary because
there is already a disciplinary process in place.
who sees errors or fabrications can file a complaint with the Florida
Bar that will be investigated, Vaughn-Birch said.
Complaints against lawyers are confidential until a decision is made, so it is unknown whether that has been happening.
B. Neukamm, who heads up the section on Real Estate law, called it a
"knee-jerk resolution" and said it addresses a small number of
"Identify those lawyers and have the bar investigate
them," Neukamm said of the resolution. "At least the way it is phrased,
it seems to sully the reputation of a lot of lawyers."