By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen
It’s rare that we get to celebrate a victory here, especially in the mortgage and foreclosure arena, but we saw one this week. Down in Florida, where the anti-foreclosure activist movement really took root, one of the worst judges in the state lost her job, and many of the same players had a role in the defeat.
It’s hard to achieve a reputation as the worst foreclosure judge in Florida, the home of the “rocket docket” and other abuses of due process, but Palm Beach County Judge Diana Lewis had a claim on it. The best way to get a sense of her judicial style is to read this transcript excerpt:
Mr. Stopa: Judge, you acknowledged yourself, on multiple occasions, on the record, that, you know — Initially, you had multiple times where you said you were ruling for the defendant, and then you said if you didn’t, it would be reversed. I’m not arguing with you, but my point is that I think there are legitimate grounds to go to the Appellate Court, and before my client is divested of the property and a third party purchaser tries to buy it and, potentially, take possession, ultimately to potentially be removed, then a stay should be entered so that we can pursue our right on an appeal…
The Court: You’re welcome to do that.
Mr. Stopa: Can I submit you an Order that grants a stay?
The Court: No. Your stay is denied.
Mr. Stopa: On the issue of stay, can I ask for an explanation, or what have you, because, you know –
The Court: My job is to move cases.
Mr. Stopa: I’m sorry?
The Court: My job is to move cases and that’s what I’m doing.
Lewis basically embodied the concept that homeowners with arrears are automatically deadbeats, and that the actual procedures of law establishing property rights, existing for over 300 years in America, meant absolutely nothing. There’s not even the semblance of impartiality here; foreclosure cases simply move to final judgment by default. Not to mention that she was boorish, rude, and dismissive of people simply trying to have their day in court. Here are a series of testimonials – the words “vile,” “despicable” and “disgrace” frequently crop up.
Lewis comes from a political family; her father was a state senator with a focus, paradoxically, on homelessness. There’s a homeless facility in the area with her father’s name on it, and the running joke among the legal community is that his daughter kept it well stocked. Lewis won a judicial election in 2002 and was up again for re-election this year. Jessica Ticktin, a 35 year-old foreclosure attorney with experience in Lewis’ courtroom, decided to challenge her.
Ticktin insists there was no single incident or case that made her decide to go after the jurist who took the bench the same year Ticktin graduated from law school.
“It’s not just me or my law firm,” she said. “It is a problem many, many attorneys in Palm Beach County and out of county attorneys have experienced with this judge. They and their clients were treated unfairly and inappropriately. Her demeanor is a big problem.” […]
The flap is mainly over her use of the results of biannual surveys the county Bar Association takes, asking its members to evaluate local judges. In the most recent survey, 147 of the 216 attorneys who responded said Lewis’ judicial demeanor needs improvement. Almost half — 99 — gave her similar marks for impartiality and 74 said she should do more to enforce standards of professionalism. The results were similar in surveys conducted in 2011 and 2009 […]
She said she suspects most of the complaints come from lawyers, like many of those in Ticktin’s office, who appear before her on foreclosure cases. Many are ill-trained, never having had the advantage of being mentored by older lawyers, she said.
This is a typical take from Lewis. The lawyers she harassed and demeaned in her courtroom every day simply had to be unqualified. But when so many lawyers have the same complaint, it’s obviously indicative of the problem.
The legal community across the state backed Ticktin, as did several editorial boards. “At some point in her current six-year term, incumbent Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Diana Lewis’ reputation for rudeness stopped being a forgivable quirk and became an embarrassment for the judiciary,” said the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Activists, lawyers and ordinary Floridians donated money and time to Ticktin’s campaign (here’s an example). I’m told that friends of the blog Lisa Epstein and Michael Redman stayed on their feet in the hot sun on Tuesday for several hours, encouraging voters to choose Ticktin over Lewis.
It paid off. Last Tuesday Ticktin defeated Lewis 54-46. My spies tell me that Judge Lewis was more peevish than usual on the bench the next day. No matter; she won’t be there much longer.
One judicial election certainly does not make up for the outrage and human tragedy that has defined this foreclosure crisis era. But it feels good to see some measure of justice prevail, at least by subtracting one of the worst of the worst in bank-loving judges. It does show that the spirit of the movement that gave its best shot at forcing accountability on the most powerful forces in America remains alive. They may have gone local, they may be focused on small and unheralded issues, but they can still pack some force. Just ask ex-Judge Diana Lewis.
That’s heartening. One down and dozens to go.
” It does show that the spirit of the movement that gave its best shot at forcing accountability on the most powerful forces in America remains alive. They may have gone local, they may be focused on small and unheralded issues, but they can still pack some force.”
It’s very sad, but it seems that for bank-loving judges in American courts this will probably be a promotion for Lewis. Let’s see what her next job is; she could be smiling all the way to the bank.
I had the misfortune of getting a newly minted Fed “BK” judge Sandra Klein here in Los Angeles, after my original judge – Victoria Kaufman – tough but fair, moved to a different office. Kaufman had been impressed by how I was managing my restricting, saying on more than one occasion to banks that kept trying to get the stays lifted, “Mr. Chaney is doing everything he is supposed to be doing in Bankruptcy. He is getting everything cash flowing, every is rented, and you can’t say I he doesn’t maintain the places,” she said indicating photos of my restored gems.
Kaufman approved my plan, did lift the stay on one building. When Ocwen and ASC started refusing my court ordered payments, and then ASC started demanding payment on the second on the foreclosed property, I was had to unfortunately reopen my BK case (another $40k on top the of $80K for the original one – do not be a personal debtor owing over a million dollars – you will be tossed into the giant Chapter 11 maw, with usually no more than 700 of the most unfortunate nationwide. The lawyers will charge you corporate Chapter 11 rates, but, as I found out with Klein, you have almost no protections corporations enjoy under Chapter 11. Of course, it can never be said too often, Joe Biden is the father of this overhaul, carrying water for all the credit card companies headquartered in Delaware. Smile away with those caps and those dental caps Big Joe. Lipstick on a pig for sure. And his son continues the grift in Ukraine. I digress.
Klein’s total work experience had been on year with a law firm, and the last ten years investigating fraud for the U.S. Trustee, where of course, she never saw a bank commit fraud. So when she got to the bench, appointed by 9th Circuit Porn King Judge Koscinski (I may have misspelled that punks name) he praised he “well rounded experience.”
In one year she has assumed the demeanor of a snipey Judge Judge Judy, right down to the snappy New York accent, Otherwise, she sounds exactly like Lewis. She allows bank lawyers to wax eloquent in her courtroom, and rules for them. Debtors, she demands a written motion, then always denies it. In my case I was seeking a stay on a Chase loan on which I had been current for 2 years, but the term expired and the bank was seeking “voluntary” foreclosure, I could not refit because Ocwen and ASC were reporting me as late to the crediti bureaus for returning the three years worth of checks for the Plan amount, and also, as I said, because Ocwen was trying to collect on a worthless second (that had been dismissed in the first BK round, when the stay was lifted and Wells (Trustee for Morgan Stanley) and Ocwen got the property.
This horrible woman only holds court twice a week, and on certain cases, she only hears them ONCE A MONTH. This is unheard of in BK. It’s a daily grind usually.
We appealed to Klein for a stay – after all, by this point Chase had a receiver in place, and was collecting all the rents, which more than covered the note. She denied, the stay, I paid off my creditors, fulfilling the terms of my plan a year early, she would not grant a dismissal (so I could open a new case and get an automatic stay,) In court, we appealed for another stay – my law firm ill-advisedly sent a women lawyer, and Klein has an aversion to women lawyers [I think she knows they can see through her act and are aware of incompetence.) My lawyer was almost in tears at the rude treatment by Klein, but Klein demanded a written appeal for a motion again. During the day she also allowed a bank to have a third month to get a signature on an appraisal, turning aside the women’s lawyers appeal that three court appearances in three months was costing her client a fortune. Bank gets another month for signature. In another case, bank and debtor have agreed to a stipulation that debtor will pay bank X, and the bank will not take the property. Klein DOES NOT LIKE this happy outcome for the debtor, and overrules the stip. Banks objects, says we do not want the building, Klein tells them they are taking the building. And so it goes.
The last judge like Klein on the L.A. bench was a women who the BK bar unanimously petitioned to remove from the bench, She was removed, and note to DannyC – she did not get a job with a banker law firim as is customary, she was reviled. Firms knew no opposing would deal with her, and she was reviled, She’s now running an 800-BK-Law firm from a small office. I do not believe in Dr. Martin Luther King’s adage that the time frame of a moral universe bends toward justice. I know it bends to money. But I see that with Lewis, that judge here in L.A., and hopefully Klein, that sometimes it also bends down and puts a knee on a bitch’s or bastard’s throat. Very rarely, but once in while.
Thanks David for the good news.
Can this former jurist now be sued for being a accomplice to many crimes? Let’s hope…
Hmm. I wonder why our county bar association doesn’t do a survey … biannual or otherwise.
Actually, no, I don’t wonder.
Not a surprising attitude on the part of the judge, and sadly, all too common…..
Seems to me very practical advice for anyone doing activism, even soft activism:
Organizing 101 (get contact info – don’t rely on corporate social media for your movement, their loyalties are the bottom line):
Ack I think I meant to post this in links. Off topic but not this off topic :)
That’s heartening news! One small clarification: Ticktin didn’t win by 54 to 46, but by 54% to 46%. When I first read that, I wondered how the voter turnout could have been so tiny! Duh – silly me. The votes are listed as 55,181 to 46,175.
Sounds good. Now what are we going to do about the 74% of the federal judiciary that came from large corporate law firms and another 15% that came from big government?
When we get that fixed, maybe individuals and small businesses might stand a chance in federal court.
Federal judicial appointments ARE NOT for life. US Constitution, Article 3, § 1:
“The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in
such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The
Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good
Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which
shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”
Show something other than “good Behavior” and they can be removed. Admittedly, not an easy task, but possible.
Possible yes, but definitely not easy, as you say. According to this web site:
15 federal judges have been impeached since the U.S. was founded. 8 were convicted and removed from office, 3 resigned, and 4 were acquitted. Most definitely not easy.
There have been numerous attempts to impeach federal judges, according to:
I am glad that there is an advocate on the bench and Jessica Tickton will do a great job…except Judge Diana Lewis was sharing an ugly little secret that all the noisy advocates in Florida keep forgetting and is why I don’t jump in with the noise factory down here that pretends to be moving in a constructive direction but instead is just so happy to get three likes on a facebook page. Mark Stopa is one of the better foreclosure defense lawyers in Florida, but instead of blaming the judges and asking them to be “hero’s”, the energy should be directed at the real problem.
Governor “Dred” Scott has illegally removed ALL the constitutionally mandated funding for the Florida Court System…that’s right, good ole gov “dred” has done what his little banking friends asking him to do…hold the judges hostage to funding…
BUT…the Florida constitution SPECIFICALLY states the Courts are to be FULLY funded by the State…but..nooooooooo…
when the foreclosure crisis began, the legislature accepted boatloads of money to break the law and ignore the constitution…have talked to some well known high profile foreclosure defense lawyer buddies here but everyone is afraid to file the lawsuit, fearing being sanctioned…and with Goldie Lox for an Attorney General who refuses to investigate the billion dollar fraud club-NTC- in palm harbor florida (maybe its because that company is run by some skamantology friends of friends she took money from) being the one who would probably fight against it in court, no one moves forward on what judge Lewis (and other judges who are loudly saying the same thing) is trying to point out is a huge problem here…
To me it seems no different than a Brown v Bd of Ed situation…let me give you another theory on Judge Lewis…she wanted to go…she was openly talking about a hardly unknown or undiscussed problem in Florida. The Judicial Assistants have not gotten a raise in over TEN YEARS…the judges get very little support staff…and the Clerks were more than happy to go along with the current situation…
Do they ask the Secret Service to compare the ink on these phony blank facsimile stamps that are being produced out of the blue…meaning the Clerks ?? They are empowered to do that and the Secret Service has a giant ink database that would easily show the date the ink was created and would be able to show that these undated “miracle” blank facsimile stamped endorsements are a fabrication. Florida has specific case law that says if someones name is being stamped on one of these financial instruments, that person MUST not only be supervising the third parties who are putting on these stamps…they also have to be in their presence. Having found about fifteen of these “mystery” named people, not a single one EVER put the stamp themselves on them, NOR, were they even aware of when and by whom it was done. One works over at the World Bank and was threatened by a large bank based in Louisiana he used to work for if he dared testify against them…he has a mortgage to pay and kids to put through school so he was not ready to be a “hero” on that day…
ooooph…enough already…glad to see Jessice Tickton is in place, BUT…she will probably soon find herself being sent to the “star chamber” and threatened with removal if she takes up too much time to move cases along…and also remember…the chief judge can just as easily assign her to divorce court…the judges in many jurisdictions get rotated into different parts of the court system…and “for their own good” they are at times not allowed to handle certain matters as they have not been on the “judicial” side as magistrates or arbitrators…which I think the soon to be Honorable Jessice Tickton…has not had experience in yet…
and she will hit a big wall in respects to another problem with the judiciary in Florida besides the funding…the number of judges and judicial resources are not just being held hostage by gov “dred” for his banker buddies, the entire system is basically the same size from when Florida had only 6 million people in it…even without the illegal hostage taking of the courts by guv “dred” for his bankster buddies, the system is grossly over worked as the population of Florida soon passes 20 million…
but it does send a bit of a signal that the citizens have drawn a VERY BRIGHT YELLOW LINE where the Honorable Diana Lewis used to sit…
although I would have preferred that the first removed judge have been a man as there are one too many male attorneys who don’t seem to have a problem with a male judge giving them a hard time, but when a female judge does it…she is a problem…..
Would it be possible to access the SS data base somehow?
although I have heard rumors of some larger private investigation firms or security personnel of major firms having purported access to the database, for the most part it is designed for law enforcement use only.
you would need to get the cooperation of local law enforcement who may or may not know they actually can get access to the database.
in the extreme, you could find a lawyer who might try to insist by court order, a writ, to have the law enforcement agency process the “mystery ink” through the database.
oops…secret service dry ink database story links got garbled
Hello Lannie! Glad to see you do research too! See you at the meetings..
To those of you who are “Fraudulent foreclosure/mortgage servicing/mortgage origination-Attentive,” I would like to get your input on the following news story:
I hope someone out there can scratch below the surface here and find out what is truly going on. It may just be that one partner from a foreclosure mill truly embezzled $30 million from his own firm–or is it that he was actually the good guy and reported fraud and is now getting spanked for it? I dunno.
But I’m suspicious when the “Mean Girls” all start pointing at each other and placing blame.
Because, ya know–they’re the Mean Girls. And the meanest girl is always the loudest in her “crying foul.”
The folks over at The Housing Wire blog seem to be really mad at this guy. Maybe too mad at this guy:
The reason I’m saying this is only because I felt sorry for the guy when I read the HW article about him. It sounded a bit TOO “Mean Girls.” (And I tend to not feel sorry for a lot of foreclosure/closing/title mill lawyers in the Metro Atlanta area, including the two who signed the lawsuit against this guy.)
So when the Mean Girls start pointing fingers at each other with such steadfast determination to let the truth roll out–don’t you wonder which Mean Girl to focus in on?
The Judge to whom the case was assigned was supposed to hear a Motion yesterday on a Restraining Order that pertains to this case. But the docket just says, “Issue Resolved.” Which seems sorta weird.
There was also a “suspicious package” found at the Fulton County Court House yesterday. :-0
Yep. That ought to “resolve” an issue or two…..
I dunno. Big Title Insurance Companies losing money.
What if this is like the game, “Jenga?” Maybe this one little piece of wood will make the whole thing come tumbling down?
But, seriously–if anyone out there has any ideas as to what the ramifications are–please DO TELL! We housewives down here in Georgia just can’t take the suspense….
be vawee kwy yet….I’m hunting elmers….
hmmm…the interesting part of the stories is a story behind the stories…
Fidelity is 70% owner of Land Castle….hmmm…
you do remember linda green right ??? LPS robo babe…???
Fidelity is the Jacksonville based Title company that controls over 50% of the foreclosure work in the country through its old LPS subsidiary…hmmm…
I had been told by a lawyer I know in the tampa bay area that does a lot of title work that there was some sloshing around of money by the big title companies in how they “buy” the insurance policies, much like companies in the market who pay for order flow…he suspected that these foreclosure firms were actually “in effect” subsidiaries of Fidelity through the title companies almost all the foreclosure mills have in the background…hmmm…never saw anything directly connecting the Docx – Linda Green Robo drama company to a foreclosure firm before…
on the theory that Hardwick was being fair…in most of the cases for various lawyers I do support work for in the tampa bay area at least, the Hardwick lawyers seemed a bit more rational…
maybe the poor little elmer fudds running Fidelity were not happy that more homeowners were not being pushed to the curb faster…
also remember…there was some strange goings on with David Stern having gotten 60 million dollars for his “Title Company and support” side of his business not long before he was driven out of business….
wabbyt season…duck season…wabbyt season…duck season….hmmm…elmer season
OMG. A total Scooby-Doo moment, here!
“…he suspected that these foreclosure firms were actually “in effect” subsidiaries of Fidelity through the title companies almost all the foreclosure mills have in the background…”
That’s it! THAT makes sense.
Okay, so the law firm that filed the Complaint against Nat Hardwick is Weissman, Nowack, Curry & Wilco. (The actual attorneys are Jeff Schneider and Angele Rishi.) Jeff Schneider is the Chair of the Real Estate Section for the Georgia State Bar Association, Angele Rishi has a low profile. Does title litigation.)
Now–let’s unwrap this.
In Atlanta we have:
1) McCalla Raymer/Prommis. Prommis filed for BK last year. Surfaced again as Affinity Title.
2) McCurdy Candler. McCurdy Candler dissolved its “Default Practice” on July 31, 2014.
3) Morris Hardwick Schneider. Partner caught embezzling this month? (Or–perhaps didn’t get memo about fraud- as-business-model? And accidentally reported said fraud?)
Okay. I’m gonna stop right there for the time-being…..
But it’s almost sounding like some sort of…..hmmmmm…..how do you say….some sort of crime syndicate??? Quelle Horreur!
Okay. Gimmie The Red Pill.
King County Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde granted summary judgment while denying the Homeowner discovery. We have a denial of due process. It is un-fucking-believable what’s happening in our judiciary branch of government.
The more we find out the more it seems that everybody is on the take. One of the reasons for the Arab Spring (aside from inflationary food prices) was the rampant corruption where nothing gets done unless you can bribe an official. In the U.S., TPTB are stealing everything and their lackeys are taking the rest. It’s been going on for years, but Americans are too dumb, too lazy, too delusional, too addicted to TV (or sports or gambling or you name it) to get off their duffs and either protest or vote everybody out of office.