Steve Dibert, MFI-Miami
Since starting MFI-Miami over two years ago, I’ve seen a lot of craziness in regards to foreclosure rescue. Matter of fact, you could call it the wild, wild west in Florida and with the recent exposure of robo-signers in the mainstream media, it’s only gotten worse.
In Florida alone, the number of foreclosure defense attorneys has exploded from 12 in June of 2008 to over 500 today. Of those 500, nearly 95% of them were unemployed former title attorneys or corporate attorneys who jumped on the foreclosure “bandwagon” because they saw dollar signs and wanted to keep up their appearance of success. To compound the problem most of these attorneys are grotesquely under-qualified to practice this type of law and most are overcharging clients or charging for work that is not being performed.
For example, an MFI-Miami client told me that his attorney charged him an initial $5000 retainer plus a monthly retainer of $1000 per month when the only thing the attorney did was file a notice of appearance at the initial foreclosure hearing.
Florida courts are so backlogged with cases that if a homeowner shows up at the initial foreclosure hearing with an attorney, the homeowner’s case usually gets placed on the bottom of the proverbial pile of 45-60,000 other foreclosure cases. This buys the homeowner at minimum another 12 months in house before the foreclosure mill gets around to filing anymore paper work allowing attorney to make $17,000 from the client for essentially doing nothing more than making one trip to the courthouse.
I’ve had Florida clients also tell me of attorneys who took $3500 from them as an upfront retainer only to be stuck developing a phone relationship with the attorney’s paralegal because the attorney was never around or would never return phone calls.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some very good and reputable attorneys doing foreclosure defense in Florida. Aside from the ones I work with on my site, there are people like Peter Ticktin in Ft. Lauderdale, Thomas Ice in West Palm Beach and April Charney in Jacksonville who are doing phenomenal work and who are winning. They win because they know how to litigate cases.
Unlike a certain “Foreclosure Activist” attorney who when unable to convince a judge of the merits of her argument then proceeded to post the judge’s financial statements on her website and screamed bias because the pension and mutual fund the judge was invested in contains stock in the major banks.
Now, I’m not a lawyer nor do I play one on the internet, but this was by far one of the biggest bonehead moves I ever saw. All this did was seal the fate of her clients in this county to a destiny of living in a cardboard box under an I-95 bridge overpass. I hate to break it to people but NEWSFLASH, judges all talk! Judges act like they’re NATO countries. An attack on one is an attack on all of them. So no matter what the judges may say publicly, privately this attorney is finished in this particular county. Besides, nearly every mutual fund or pension fund (public and private) has money invested in banks or asset backed securities because up until 3 years ago were considered safe investments.
Employees from this same law firm also approached a blogger from a major news organization asking him to lie to his boss to get them a press pass so they could take a camera into the aforementioned judge’s courtroom.
Its stories about bonehead law firms like this one that not only give the legal profession a bad name, it is one of the reasons judges are limiting access to courtrooms across Florida to foreclosure activists. It also makes the jobs of firms who are winning a lot harder because of the stigma it creates
Most of these attorneys also have unrealistic demands from the Florida judicial system. An attorney from the west side of Florida demanded in his blog today that judges review every foreclosure filing even if they are uncontested and that by not doing so creates a constitutional crisis.
I had an attorney from the Florida panhandle call me after reading one of my articles complaining about the rocket docket situation in Florida. He was in shock when I told him my attorneys in South Florida don’t seem to be having an issue. That is the truth, they really are successfully arguing their motions in front of rocket docket judges. Matter of fact, one of my cases that was profiled in the Miami Daily Business Review back in April was in front of a Rocket Docket judge who dismissed Wells Fargo’s motion for summary judgment and even bound the case over for trial.
One of the reasons, why the attorneys MFI-Miami work with are having great success is because of the professional relationships they have developed with the judges. As a prominent trial attorney in Detroit once told me, “A good attorney knows the law, a great attorney knows the judge.”
Unlike most foreclosure defense attorneys in Florida who take a defeatist attitude and plan on doing nothing more than delay the eventual eviction for the homeowner as long as possible, MFI-Miami attorneys win because they are not afraid to create strategies that position themselves to win. For example, MFI-Miami attorneys may purposely sacrifice a motion hearing in order to set up opposing counsel for a smack down at a future hearing.
Successful attorneys will tell you they succeed because they have memorized, The Art of War by Sun Tzu and they treat every case as if they are playing Chess. When trying to predict an outcome, they don’t simply add A plus B to equal C, they add C to D to find out what equals E. My experience has been most Florida attorneys want to stop at C and call it a day.
Foreclosure mills across Florida keep winning in court not because of corrupt judges or because of the “Rocket Dockets” but because foreclosure defense attorneys either want to argue legal theories dreamt up by Neil Garfield or foreclosure activists with no training in finance or lending or they just want to milk fees from the homeowner. Rocket dockets and corrupt judges offer a convenient excuses by attorneys to justify why they were unable to defeat a punk kid who is at most five weeks out of law school or to justify their fees for doing nothing