Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post
An unassuming drywall hanger from Greenacres has banks warning of a “widespread financial crisis” if the Florida Supreme Court favors him in a landmark foreclosure case justices will hear this week.
Plucked out of the 4th District Court of Appeal, Roman Pino v. the Bank of New York is the first significant foreclosure complaint to be heard by the high court since the state’s legendary housing collapse.
It’s particularly unusual because the 41-year-old Pino had already settled the case when the Supreme Court decided in December to take up a legal question it said could affect the mortgage foreclosure crisis statewide.
At issue is whether a bank can escape punishment for filing flawed or fraudulent documents in a case by voluntarily dismissing it. (A voluntary dismissal allows the bank to refile at a later date.)
That’s what Royal Palm Beach-based foreclosure defense attorney Tom Ice said happened when he challenged a document created by the Law Offices of David J. Stern and sought to question employees about its veracity. On the eve of those depositions, the bank moved to dismiss the case, blocking the court’s ability to address any sanctions.
“The objective here was to hide from punishment for the wrongdoing,” Ice said.
While the confidential settlement between Pino and his lender will remain unaffected by the high court’s decision, law professors say the question goes straight to the integrity of Florida’s judiciary.
“Here you have the highest state court in a state ravaged by foreclosures deciding on their own to address this issue, and that is significant,” said Michael Allan Wolf, a University of Florida property law professor. “They seem to be anxious to enter the fray on this, and there is no question this is a fascinating topic.”