By Kevin Chiu
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is going after foreclosure attorney David J. Stern in state court in an aggressive effort to speed up the court case against the foreclosure kingpin. The state’s top prosecutor has filed a motion asking the Fourth District Court of Appeal to certify a decision that makes a recent decision a case of “great public importance.”
Stern and his law office are accused of illegally foreclosing on hundreds of thousands of homeowners in the U.S. robo-signing scandal by forging court documents to push the foreclosures quickly through Florida courts. The Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a decision stating that the Attorney General’s office lacked authority under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act to subpoena records from Stern as part of its investigation.
The Attorney General’s motion is asking the court to certify that its decision passes on the question of great public importance: “Whether the creation of invalid assignments of mortgages by a law firm and subsequent use of such documents by the firm in foreclosure litigation on behalf of the purported assignee is an unfair and deceptive trade practice, which may be the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.”
The case is a major issue in the robo-signing investigation, which is being looked into by all 50 state attorney generals, and U.S. government regulators, who are auditing as many as 4.5-million foreclosure files to determine the extent of illegal foreclosures. Bondi’s office is also investigating six other Florida law firms for wrongdoings in the foreclosure crisis.
The law offices of David J. Stern halted foreclosures in March 2011 after Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and other mortgage servicers withdrew their business from the firm, which had been incorporated and sold stock on Wall Street as a successful company before the robo-signing scandal exposed the company to public ridicule.
The Florida Attorney General is attempting to escalate the matter so that Bondi will be able to pursue charges against the law firm and its employees, and obtain a judgment for damages on behalf of former Florida homeowners improperly foreclosed by Stern and his firm.
Bondi has already obtained a $2-million settlement from the law offices of Marshall C. Watson in connection with the foreclosure scandal. The Stern case has been certified as a class action lawsuit to seek damages on behalf of homeowners who have been illegally foreclosed from their homes.