2012-02-04palmbeachpost.com

The responsibility to hold lawyers accountable for foreclosure misconduct now rests solely with the Florida Bar after the state attorney general's investigation into high-volume foreclosure law firms collapsed this week.

And here's an article about the latter item -

Florida's once-heralded foreclosure mill investigations have fizzled as the attorney general's office has failed to find the right strategy to continue its pursuit and three law firms call for the cases to be dismissed.

...

In 2010, flooded with complaints about unbridled foreclosures, former Assistant Attorneys General Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson said they felt their only option to protect consumers was to go after the law firms under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The act governs trade or commerce, but it is unclear whether it can be used against law firms. Attorneys for the firms argue that what they are accused of did not qualify as "trade or commerce" and that the statute is intended to protect consumers. Technically, the consumers were the banks, they say.

...

In December, after losing an appeal in the 4th District Court of Appeal to subpoena Stern, Bondi asked the court to certify its decision as one of "great public importance" so she could appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

But some foreclosure defense attorneys believe the move was a hollow gesture to appease critics.

Instead of looking to the Supreme Court, Bondi's office could have issued subpoenas under a different statute, possibly criminal investigative subpoenas, [Tom] Ice said.

"But the attorney general's office hasn't availed itself of that opportunity, which leads me to believe the certification request was a mere pretense for political purposes," he said.

Edwards and Clarkson, who were forced to resign in May despite exemplary evaluations, said the attorney general's office is trying to make it appear it has no power. But Edwards acknowledged that taking on law firms is tricky and the legal avenues to pursue a case were in constant debate.

Still, with consumer complaints coming in daily, Edwards said they were frustrated by the lack of a clear course and tried to find a way to "shoehorn" the concerns into the 501 statute.


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