Justices weigh bad documents vs. debt in foreclosure case
TALLAHASSEE — There was no slam dunk for homeowners in the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday as justices considered a Greenacres foreclosure case, commenting at one point that the defense attorney was just looking for a “gotcha to get out of the mortgage.”
The case, Roman Pino v. the Bank of New York, is the first significant foreclosure complaint to be heard by the high court since Florida’s housing collapse. Although Pino and the bank reached a settlement last year, justices said in December they wanted to weigh in on the potentially benchmark case.
At issue is whether a bank can escape scrutiny for filing flawed or fraudulent paperwork by simply dismissing the foreclosure.
Lenders maintain that the right to voluntary dismissal is a long-established rule of law, which, if overturned, would have sweeping consequences not just in foreclosure court but in all litigation.
Homeowner advocates complain it is too often used as a shield against punishment and doesn’t fix the underlying allegation that fraudulent paperwork was filed in court.
“There has never been a matter of greater public importance than this court’s obligation to deter fraud and defend its integrity,” said homeowner attorney Amanda Lundergan, of Ice Legal, in her opening remarks.