Lender Processing Services Law Firm Targeting April Charney, Foreclosure Defense Pioneer

You know the powers that be are pretty desperate when they feel compelled to go after a Legal Aid attorney.

Admittedly, April Charney is no ordinary Legal Aid attorney. She was one of the first lawyers to focus on the question of whether party showing up in court really was the right party and whether it could demonstrate that it had the right to foreclose. Most judges (as in the non-captured-by-corporations kind) regard these as threshold issues. If someone shows up in court claiming that you owe them money and they want the judge to garnish your wages, I’m sure you’d want the judge to listen if the person who wanted your money couldn’t prove he had gotten your IOU from the chap who had made a loan to you years ago.

Charney has helped lawyers in Florida and around the US with these types of arguments, and has also been active in the group of lawyers working with Max Gardiner in North Carolina. She’s a diligent researcher and keeps on top of the rulings in her arena.

In some ways I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner, but pro bank members of the Florida bar are apparently orchestrating an effort to get Charney fired from Legal Services of Jacksonville, which on its face is absurd. If you want to help April, 4ClosureFraud has provided names and contact information of the JALA (I assume Jacksonville Area Legal Aid) board members. I hope you tell them (nicely) that getting rid of Charney, given her track record, would raise a lot of questions and likely very unfavorable press for JALA.

By way of background, Lender Processing Services, a firm that provides various software platforms and other services to mortgage servicers, is in a great deal of hot water. Its stock is down over 50% despite buybacks to prop it up, largely as a result of litigation taking aim at its dubious business model (see here and here for background).

Here are the details from FolioWeekly:

It’s not really surprising that attorneys whose law firms represent those big mortgage holders would like to silence Charney and punish her boss JALA executive director Michael Figgins for not reining her in. But it’s shocking that attorneys from Holland & Knight, the firm that represents LPS, and a local judge would be working behind the scenes to convince the JALA board to fire Figgins as a set up to go after Charney.

On August 3, Holland & Knight attorneys Buddy Schulz and Dominic MacKenzie and Duval County Circuit Court Judge Hugh Carithers hosted an informal lunch at the law offices with 10 members of the board of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and JALA board president Hugh Cotney. A painting of a pod of sharks that hangs in the lobby of Holland & Knight offices set the tone.

Schultz, MacKenzie and Judge Carithers, who told the group he wasn’t speaking as a judge but as a private person, yeah right, described Charney as a “loose cannon.” Cotney seemed to share their view. They criticized her for embarrassing Jacksonville by bringing Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi to the foreclosure court of Judge A.C. Soud. (Taibbi wrote a wickedly scathing story on foreclosure in Florida that was published in November 2010 issue of the magazine). Charney’s lawsuit against the sacred cow nonprofit HabiJax was also discussed. Charney represents residents of HabiJax’s Fairway Oaks subdivision, which was built on top of an old garbage dump, see Folio Weekly, “Buyer’s Remorse,” published Feb. 13, 2007. fairway-oaks-1 fairway-oaks-2 fairway-oaks-3 fairway-oaks-4 fairway-oaks-5 fairway-oaks-6 fairway-oaks-7 (The details of negotiations between Legal Aid and Habijax have been discussed at JALA board meetings but are supposed to be kept private, and it bothered one board member that the Holland and Knight attorneys, who aren’t on the board, seemed to know about it.)

The lunch was billed as a casual one, but the intent was to build a consensus to replace Figgins. His contract is up for review and board members will be asked to make of vote of confidence in his leadership at their September meeting. In addition to Charney, the attorneys also opposed the surcharge on criminals tagged for JALA and a commercial where Figgins talks about the support of JALA by personal injury attorney Eddie Farah. A board member said it was wrong that Figgins wasn’t there to defend himself. “It was kind of a covert friendly little conversation over lunch,” she said, “but it felt like a mutiny.”

If this crowd thinks getting rid of April is going to be a plus from a reputation standpoint, I shudder to think what Taibbi might do to them on a second go round. This sort of thing shows the arrogance of local fixers who fail to realize that trying to cover up corruption once the public is on to the con has high odds of backfiring.

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  1. Rick Cass

    That luncheon and the conduct of the judge and Knight and Holland attorneys strikes me as a violation of the ethical rules for lawyers and judges. Every attorney has a duty to zealously represent their clients. Acts seeking to punish such zealous representation by members of the judiciary are unethical and repugnant. Indeed, I wonder about the legality of a secret board meeting with a large law firm’s attorneys and a sitting judge without public notice.
    As a former VISTA volunteer attorney and legal services lawyer, I am appalled. The aristocracy is now going after every competent and effective representative of the poor, the near poor and the middle class. A feudal “ownership” society is what they seek. If we don’t seek to protect April Charney, then the next victim will be even easier to dislodge. This, after the new Florida pretender to the title of Attorney General fired the two most effective prosecutors investigating the mortgage fraud in Florida. Obama’s administration is trying to isolate and diminish the investigations by the New York attorney general, and the Iowa AG soils his oath with a fix with the banks. One must conclude that the housing/banking/servicing problems are far worse than we have imagined to date for these kinds of assaults to be so publicly attempted.

    1. Procopius

      When Scott Rothstein was first arrested for running a Ponzi scheme I stumbled across a great blog at the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, The Pulp http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/. Between the stories and the comments I got the idea that Southern Florida is an incredible cesspool of corruption, nepotism, and cronyism. I don’t think the Judge or the attorneys have any concern about their reputations. They figure they will be seen as smart and aggressive businessmen and both applauded and respected for that.

  2. Tao Jonesing

    If this crowd thinks getting rid of April is going to be a plus from a reputation standpoint, I shudder to think what Taibbi might do to them on a second go round.

    I guess this crowd prefers to be feared rather than respected. If the point is to teach people not to screw with you (or else), getting rid of April will be a BIG plus.

    This sort of thing shows the arrogance of local fixers who fail to realize that trying to cover up corruption once the public is on to the con has high odds of backfiring.

    I sure hope the whole thing will backfire. I just don’t know that the public is really “on to the con.” They’re too busy being distracted by other things.

    1. Nathanael

      Is the corrupt behavior being published *locally*?

      If so, I think any successful attack on Charney will backfire. These finance types simply don’t know how to be feared. Florida has very high gun ownership.

      1. skippy

        Simply put…debt is a subset of Law…right or wrong…it can not function with out the basis… functional government…cough enforcement of Law.

        Skippy… which ever construct people wish to structure themselves, there will always be Laws…sigh.

  3. los angeles injury Attorneys

    Getting rid of April is not everything. We must be concern about all the law and work accordingly. The main thing is to get rid of corruptiion.

  4. R Foreman

    Yves, you missed the (see here and here for background) links in the LPS litigation taking aim at their dubious business model.

  5. Help Fannie Make You Homeless

    Sleazy corporate lawyers don’t like “loose cannons” apparently. (They also specialize in hiding what it is that they do as corporate lawyers. If the average Dick and Jane only knew, they’d know who the loose cannons actually were.)
    The Florida Bar has now earned such a large negative impression from the citizens, I would think everyone’s ass/career should be on the line.

  6. Deontos

    I hope Matt T. applies his Acerbic Pen to this battle. A good old fashion “outing” of all their criminal corruption and political duplicity is perfect grist for Mr. Taibbi.

    1. leapfrog

      Yay! LPS needs to go bye-bye. It would be even nicer if there were investigations, prosecutions, incarcerations and restitutions, but that won’t happen.

      1. Fraudulently Yours

        Can we seize management’s houses? You know, distribute them amongst the homeless and otherwise innocent?

  7. bmeisen

    April Charney for President! I’m serious. She’s brilliant, folky, got media presence and has helped a lot of people. Get it set up and we will follow!

  8. aletheia33

    i sent a note to everyone on the list provided.
    feels good to be able to do something, hope it helps charney some.

    could the tide perhaps massively turn against the crooks and fraudsters? to a point where the few of charney’s ilk, who have stood firm in the face of all the intimidation these criminals can muster, end up with the hero’s accolades they deserve for preserving the rule of law in our polity? i’m not holding my breath, but it’s nice to imagine justice getting sorted out after all.

  9. thediylawyer

    I have reprinted parts of this post on my site and will be tweeting my followers and writing letters too. Thanks for the heads up. Florida says like a testing ground for illegitimate and unethical tactics against excellent lawyers. Make sure they do not get a passing grade.

  10. neo-realist

    I don’t think the mortgage holders and the mortgage processors care about what Matt Taibbi writes about them. They probably figure that the only people that read his column are big city “libruls” as opposed to working stiff proles who vote against their interests.

    Plus, I believe from their standpoint, the mortgage bankers are fighting for their lives as business and are pulling out the stops to destroy a crusader.

    I also hope Ms. Charney stays “safe”. Considering the sleaze and corruption of South Florida, who knows what other tricks may be in store to neutralize her.

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