Newcomer to Argue High-Stakes Foreclosure Case Before Fla. Supreme Court
As a relative novice in the legal profession, Ice Legal senior associate Enrique Nieves III is prepping for his biggest case and his first appearance before the Florida Supreme Court.
At 31, Nieves is assigned to argue a case that may decide the fate of thousands of mortgage foreclosures similar to his case, Roman Pino v. Bank of New York Mellon.
The question before the court seems straightforward: Can banks escape fraud claims in foreclosures by simply dropping their case?
But the ramifications are potentially severe, and with its decision the state’s high court will likely decide what consequences lenders will face for the robo-signing scandal and allegedly fraudulent assignment-of-mortgage documents that has affected thousands of cases.
The national media swarmed on the issue, and last fall lenders imposed their own moratoriums on new foreclosure filings. The attorneys general in all 50 states launched investigations of lenders.
In Nieves’ case, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled Feb. 3 that BNY Mellon legally avoided a claim that it committed a fraud on the court by voluntarily dismissing a foreclosure action against Pino, a Lake Worth, Fla., resident. The claim was dismissed after Pino’s counsel scheduled depositions and asked for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether BNY Mellon used a fraudulent mortgage assignment.
On appeal is an 8-1 en banc decision saying courts have no authority to rescind voluntary dismissals and that no harm was done. Judge Mark Polen disagreed, saying the allegation of a systemic fraud was the very thing the Supreme Court addressed in its 2010 rule change giving courts greater latitude in sanctioning plaintiffs who make false allegations.
If the Supreme Court agrees with Polen, a host of homeowners may get a chance to seek sanctions from their lenders. Those are the stakes for Nieves.
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