SOURCE: Becker & Polaikoff

Becker & Polaikoff

September 02, 2010 09:32 ET

Becker & Poliakoff Applauds Manatee County Circuit Court Judge's Order Imposing Fines Against Bank's Foreclosure Law Firm

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL--(Marketwire - September 2, 2010) -  Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. today announced its support for this week's decision by Manatee County (FL) Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan to enter a finding of Contempt of Court against a Ft. Lauderdale law firm for its actions in dragging out a foreclosure procedure involving a Manatee County Homeowners Association for three years. The cited firm represented a bank in the mortgage foreclosure action with Barrington Ridge Homeowners Association, Inc. represented by attorney Scott Petersen of Becker & Poliakoff's Sarasota office.

In the August 30 ruling, Judge Dunnigan cited the bank's law firm with contempt and ordered it to pay a fine of $49,000 for its failure to appear at a series of hearings that it set with the court.

In a case filed in November of 2007, the bank's firm set the bank's motion for summary judgment for hearing seven times. Each time the hearing was cancelled because the bank's firm failed to follow court rules or failed to show up for the hearing. After four such cancelled hearings, Becker & Poliakoff, on behalf of Barrington Ridge, filed a Motion to Compel the bank to proceed with its foreclosure case. Lawyers for the bank failed to appear at subsequent scheduled hearings.

"The practices we see from banks' law firms responsible for thousands of foreclosures across the state have now been met with forceful court action," said Petersen. "This week's fine and contempt order will send a strong message that the banking industry and its representatives must act responsibly in dealing with the ongoing real estate crisis affecting thousands of condos and HOAs throughout the state."

He added, "The abusive practices that the judge attacked have been a serious impediment to the progress of Community Associations in maintaining financial stability without the benefit of maintenance fees from 'underwater' units that have been abandoned by owners."

At this week's hearing, Mr. Petersen argued that the judge should find the bank and its law firm in contempt for failing to obey the Court's Order on the Motion to Compel the Bank to Proceed with Foreclosure and should pay Barrington Ridge Homeowners Association, Inc.'s attorneys' fees from the time of the motion forward. Petersen stated that the Association suffered monetary damages from unpaid assessments while the case remained pending for almost three years. Additionally, Petersen stated that each time a hearing was set, it gave the Association hope that the case would soon be over. After the bank's firm failed to appear time and again, the Association was left to wonder why the court allowed the bank and its law firm to continue to delay the case.

Judge Dunnigan found the bank's lawyers in civil contempt of court, ordered the law firm to provide a written description of its policies and procedures outlining how it will not schedule cases for hearing until it is prepared to go forward and will have its attorneys personally appear at all hearings in Manatee County. The law firm was ordered to provide a signed verification from all attorneys who will appear in Manatee County that they understand the new policies and procedures, as well as the local court rules. The judge imposed a $7,000 per day fine upon the law firm for each day that the Court does not receive the policies and procedures and verifications. The Court imposed a $49,000 fine, or $7,000 for each hearing at which it failed to appear in this case.

Additionally, the Court awarded Barrington Ridge Homeowners Association, Inc. its attorneys' fees from the filing of its Motion to Compel the Bank to Proceed with Foreclosure to the present, and awarded the homeowners lost wages and interpreter fees incurred when they appeared in person at hearings at which the bank's lawyers failed to appear. Lastly, the judge stated that she would decide within 60 days whether or not to proceed against the bank's law firm and its lawyers for indirect criminal contempt.

About Becker & Poliakoff

Becker & Poliakoff is a diverse commercial law firm with more than 125 attorneys in 13 Florida offices, New York City, New Jersey, Nassau (Bahamas), Prague and affiliated international offices. Celebrating its thirty-seventh (37th) year of serving clients, the firm has seven primary areas of practice: Real Estate, Construction, Community Association, Customs & International Trade, Commercial Litigation, Corporate & Securities, and Government Law & Lobbying. For more information, visit: www.becker-poliakoff.com.

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