The announcement yesterday that Florida’s Attorney General Bill McCollum is investigating the Law Offices of David Stern, Marshall Watson and Shapiro and Fishman for violations of Florida’s unfair and deceptive trade practices act and the announcement that the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division is looking into whether these firms have submitted false documentation to courts in order to speed foreclosures should be enough to stop the insane march to foreclosure sale that is happening thousands of times in Florida every day.
So why should the investigation by Florida’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer shut down foreclosures across the state? Well, keep in mind that the Attorney General’s office is already investigating Florida Default Law so with today’s announcement, virtually all of the foreclosure mills operating in the State of Florida are being investigated by the Florida Attorney General. The companies being investigated for serious violations of state laws are not fly by night call centers….they’re not shady loss mitigation or loan modification fronts, we’re talking here about law firms and lawyers….highly trained professionals that a) should know better and b) should be held to a higher standard than your typical shady businessperson.
Foreclosure Slop and Sewer Service Everywhere
Last week I reported on the fact that I got a $1.5 Million Dollar Judgment Thrown Out (Post Here). The next day, I stumbled across another $1 Million Dollar Judgment that should probably be thrown out because it was questionable on its face. (Post Here) Just since then I’ve stumbled upon several examples of questionable service and I’m convinced that the foreclosure docket is littered with improper service that makes any action taken on the foreclosure case, including any Final Judgment of Foreclosure VOID! That means it’s like the Final Judgment did not happen at all. The subpoenas issued by the Attorney General seek information about the service of process companies employed by the mills, among other things. One can only assume based on this that the AG is looking at issues of sewer service and other improprieties related to service.
Any Time a Foreclosure Mill Uses Constructive Service, No Judgment Should Be Entered
Any person that is the subject of a lawsuit is entitled to personal service…that means a Sheriff or process server personally hands that lawsuit to the defendant and swears to the court that he identified the defendant (and puts the date and time of service on the affidavit). Constructive service or service by publication should only be used in the very rare circumstances when the Defendant cannot be found. The process server is required to make an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry that specifies all of the steps the server took in order to try and obtain service. In an unreasonably high number of foreclosure cases, the process servers swear to the court that they made a diligent effort to perfect personal service on the defendant but were not able to. Here is a key fact to look for in every case where constructive service is used….how long after the summons was issued did the Plaintiff move for constructive service? In far too many cases, constructive service is applied for less than 30 days after the original summons was issued. Given the unreasonably high volume of summonses issued to small time process servers, it is physically impossible for them to have made a diligent search for all those defendants.
Allegations of Faked Documents
Our courts and our judges must be able to rely upon the representations of the lawyers that appear in their courtrooms and rely upon the veracity of the evidence they submit. Based on the broad nature of the Attorney General’s investigations and the widespread evidence of forged and fake documents that are being submitted by the foreclosure mills, our judges should have zero confidence in any of the evidence that has been submitted by the mills….some judge have already expressed as much…the question now is why are the millionaire foreclosure mills still given the benefit of the doubt….that’s really what summary judgment is….in my mind not a single additional summary judgment should be granted until judges can develop some confidence that the orders they’re signing are not based on faked, forged, questionable evidence. I’m going into a hearing today where I’ll make just that case….
I wonder how our senior judges (or any judge for that matter) will feel about issuing summary judgments to law firms that are under investigation by the Attorney General.