Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Robin Hood Law Firm

One of the coolest things we get to do as a foreclosure defense lawyers is write checks to clients.  Most clients hire our firm under an arrangement in which they pay us a flat fee each month for the first hour we work on the case and any additional hours are worked on a pure contingency basis.  Under such an arrangement if we want to get paid for the rest of our time we need to win the case and recover attorney’s fees from the bank.  When we get foreclosure cases dismissed or win cases on summary judgment or at trial, we go after the banks and servicers to get paid for the rest of our time and to obtain reimbursement for our clients for the attorney's fees they previously paid. 

Redacted check issued to client after firm obtained dismissal of Wells Fargo's foreclosure case and obtained a judgment against the bank for attorney's fees.

If you scroll though our blog you will find quite a few attorney fee judgments that order banks and loan servicers to pay attorney’s fees to our firm.   One of our clients asked why we put fee judgments and fee checks up on our blog.  The reason is to let homeowners know that that some of the time homeowners win and that when they go shopping for a lawyer what law firm they choose makes a difference.  Some lawyers who represent homeowners confuse foreclosure delay with foreclosure defense.  To us foreclosure defense means fighting foreclosure cases with a goal of winning a significant portion of our cases and finding solutions through settlement, loan modification, short sale or deed in lieu for the rest of the cases when possible.  Our sophisticated clients want more than knee-jerk, cookie-cutter, stall tactics.  We evaluate our clients' cases with an big picture view that considers asset protection and tax consequences. 

When we win cases and recover fees from the bank our fee judgments are usually sufficient to return to the client a substantial portion for the fees the client previously paid.  This past week, I got to write a check for $2,651.00 to a foreclosure defense client of our Melbourne office.  We obtained a dismissal without prejudice of the client’s case after Wells Fargo’s lawyers failed to timely comply with a Court order.  For the past five months there has been no pending foreclosure case against our client ( the bank has not re-filed), our client has made no mortgage payments, and he has had no legal expenses.  Now the client has received a check to reimburse him for more than half of his prior legal expenses.

To see a redacted copy of the check to our client full size in a separate window click the link below:
Redacted Check 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fat File Lawyers vs. Thin File Lawyers

Pictured Above:  Actual Shuster & Saben Case file from case where firm defeated 
U.S. Bank and their counsel Doug Zahm, P.A. 

In April a foreclosure case our firm had been defending for well over two years was scheduled for summary judgment hearing in Brevard County, Florida.  Generally if a bank files a motion for summary judgment and “wins” the hearing on their motion, the case is for all practical purposes is over and all that is left is for the Court to administratively set a sale date, sell the property, transfer title to winning bidder at the foreclosure auction, and issue a writ of possession to remove the home’s former owner.

Summary judgment hearings are either “special set” meaning a hearing usually fifteen minutes in length is scheduled for a specific time before a specific judge or set on a “cattle-call” mass docket where thirty to one hundred cases have summary judgment hearings set for the same time and the court goes through all of the cases set in an hour or two.  Our case was set on a cattle call docket with ninety seven cases.  When I arrived at 9:00 for the haring, I learned our case was number eighty-eight  on the judge’s list of cases set for the morning.  Thankfully, I bought something to read.  It was going to be a long morning.  While re-reading the case law I would present to the Court when our case was called, I watched the hearings of other lawyers and unrepresented homeowners.  In most of the cases nobody showed up for the homeowner.  In every case where there was no homeowner present and no lawyer present for the homeowner, the bank’s motion for summary judgment was granted and a sale date was set. 
When the first contested case where the homeowner actually had a lawyer present was called,  I looked up from what I was reading to see a confident colleague walk to the lectern with a file as thick as a telephone book. The homeowner's attorney explained “ Judge we have rescheduled the bank representative’s deposition three times at their request but the deposition has not happened yet.  The case is not ripe for summary judgment because discovery is not compete. “    After a brief rebuttal from the bank’s lawyer the Court denied the bank’s motion.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Three Year Old Foreclosure Case Settled with Short Sale

When the recession of 2008-2010 hit, a young Florida mom’s employer closed and in a short span of time she faced financial hardships of both unemployment and divorce.  In her divorce she kept the family home in Palm Bay, Florida.  Unfortunately, the value of the property fell more than 60% when the local real estate market collapsed.  She now owed nearly $150,000 on a property worth less than $50,000 and her limited income from unemployment was insufficient to pay her mortgage.  When Space Coast Credit Union filed a foreclosure action against her in 2009, the homeowner traveled to a legal aid office in Daytona Beach where a legal aid lawyer helped her draft a do it yourself ( Pro Se ) Answer. 

The homeowner originally obtained the loan on her home from Space Coast Credit Union ( SCCU) who in turn sold the loan to the Federal National Mortgage Association, also known as Fannie Mae or FNMA.  In 2009, SCCU filed a foreclosure action against the homeowner which she defended herself through 2009 and part of 2010.  In 2010, the homeowner found a job as a legal assistant and attempted unsuccessfully to modify her mortgage.  In 2010 after mediation was unsuccessful and Space Coast’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment the homeowner hired Melbourne Florida foreclosure defense attorney, Richard Shuster, to defend the foreclosure action.

Shuster & Saben defended the foreclosure action for two additional years during which time the homeowner made no mortgage payments.  During the three years that the client made no mortgage payments she was able to use the savings to provide for her family, and later after finding employment, to replenish her savings that were wiped out by unemployment and divorce. 

Shuster went on the offensive in the foreclosure action and deposed Space Coast’s corporate representative.  The firm hoped to win the case under a theory that the proper plaintiff was Fannie Mae the loan owner and not the loan Space Cost the loan servicer.  The firm used testimony from the deposition to defeat Space Coast’s motion for summary judgment. Unfortunately, the Court denied the motion for summary judgment the firm filed on behalf of the homeowner.  Since the Court denied both sides’ motions for summary judgment the case would ultimately have to be resolved by trial.