by Christine Stapleton
The 4th District Court of Appeal withdrew its Feb. 2 opinion in a foreclosure fraud case “of great public importance” on Thursday and issued a revised opinion – with a new footnote – for the Florida Supreme Court to review.
The footnote makes clear that the law firm of Ackerman Senterfitt – which is handling the appeal for The Bank of New York Mellon – was “not involved in the proceedings giving rise to the allegations of misrepresentation and fraud upon the court.” That was the law firm of David J. Stern, currently under investigation for using fraudulent documents in thousands of foreclosure cases.
The appeal stems from the foreclosure case against Roman Pino. Mellon was represented by the law firm of David J. Stern. Pino hired the law firm of Thomas Ice, whose attorneys claimed the documents being used to foreclose on Pino’s home were “fraudulently made.” Pino’s attorney filed a motion for sanctions against the bank.
The bank then dismissed the case. Because the case was closed and Pino sustained no damages, the judge refused to review the evidence of fraudulent documents. Ice’s firm appealed, arguing that fraud upon the court trumped Mellon’s voluntary dismissal of the case.
The 4th DCA rejected the Ice arguments but certified the case to the Florida Supreme Court.
“We conclude that this is a question of great public importance, as many, many mortgage foreclosures appear tainted with suspect documents,” according to the appeal. If courts are allowed to pursue accusations of fraud after the lender drops the case “it may dramatically affect the mortgage foreclosure crisis in this State.”