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Florida Supreme Court Denies Parties' Request to Dismiss Case of 'Great Public Importance' - Pino v. Bank of New York Mellon

December 15, 2011

The Moreno Valley foreclosure defense lawyers at Howard Law, P.C., wrote earlier this year about a case alleging fraudulent foreclosure documents, which seemed headed for the Florida Supreme Court. In Pino v. Bank of New York Mellon, Roman Pino alleged that the foreclosure documents used by BNY were fraudulent, then asked the court to sanction BNY for attempting to repeat a foreclosure it had already dismissed. The case made it to Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal, which upheld the lower court's dismissal of Pino's motion. However, in an unusual move, the appeals court asked the Florida Supreme Court to review its ruling. The parties later settled and asked to dismiss the case, but the Florida Supreme Court declined, agreeing that the topic needs judicial resolution.

When BNY originally filed the foreclosure case, Pino objected because there was no document showing that the mortgage had been assigned to BNY. The bank amended its complaint to include an assignment, but this assignment had not been filed with the county and was dated just before the foreclosure was filed. Pino moved for sanctions for fraudulent documentation, and BNY voluntarily dismissed the case. Five months later, however, it re-filed the foreclosure. Pino responded by filing a new motion in the original foreclosure to vacate the dismissal for fraud on the court, then sanction BNY by dismissing its new foreclosure case. The trial court dismissed this, holding that it had no jurisdiction to decide because the case was voluntarily dismissed. The Fourth District agreed, but ruled that the underlying issue of potentially tainted foreclosure documents could affect numerous Florida foreclosures, and certified the case to the high court.

While that appeal was pending, Pino and BNY settled their case and filed a joint stipulated dismissal with the Florida Supreme Court. In the instant ruling, the court explained why it declined to dismiss the case. It started by noting that the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure do not require courts to dismiss cases on request, but merely make it possible. Indeed, the court has recognized that when a case is of great public importance and likely to recur, it has discretion to keep the case alive. This case may be moot, the high court said, but the issue of whether BNY can face sanctions for a fraudulent assignment of mortgage after voluntary dismissal could affect many other foreclosures. In fact, the court said, it has implications outside mortgages and foreclosures as well. Thus, it disapproved the stipulation of dismissal and took the case. A dissent said parties should not be "dragooned" into spending resources briefing a case they have already settled, and that precedent cited by the majority is wrong.

At Howard Law, P.C., we are pleased to see the high court take up this case. Like California, Florida is one of the hardest hit states in the foreclosure crisis, and any decision on the merits of this issue could affect many people who are fighting pending foreclosure cases. Our lead Placentia foreclosure defense attorney, Vincent Howard, wrote earlier in 2011 about this case and its potential to give more foreclosures the close scrutiny they deserve. Here in southern California, the foreclosure process is not judicial, which means there's no court or judge to examine the validity of the paperwork unless the borrower takes the initiative to file a lawsuit. Often, it's only when a Murrieta foreclosure defense lawyer steps in that the lender realizes the borrower is serious about protecting the home.

If you're in foreclosure or expect to be soon, and you're not getting a fair shake from your lender and loan servicer, you should call Howard Law, P.C., to discuss how we can help. For a consultation, send us an email or call 1-800-872-5925 today.

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