Editor: Michael T. Pines is a San Diego foreclosure activist – that is, he helps homeowners resist foreclosure by banks of their homes. He has advised over 70 homeowners who have been evicted to move back into their homes because the foreclosure and evictions were illegal, in part due to “robo-signing” by bank employees. DA Bonnie Dumanis doesn’t like this. She has reportedly called “robo-signing” just a “new technology”. And this is why Pines sits in jail today. Here is an introduction by Carolyne Zellander, another activist in the world of resisting the banks. And in Pines’ own words – written in April of 2011 – he describes why he does what he does.
By Carolyne Zellander
Michael T. Pines is a warrior for homeowners, but today he sits in the George Bailey Detention Facility. Michael’s crime? Being relentless in fighting trumped up felony charges of “Stalking and a death threat”. Michael is being prosecuted by Bonnie Dumanis’ office and was free on bail. Michael’s accuser had been stalking and harassing not only him, but his 80+ year old mother and sister. Michael filed a “rebuttal” temporary restraining order against his accuser. In the court hearing on March 15th, , the judge ruled that restraining order to be harassment and lifted his bail. They took Michael away in handcuffs.
Michael tells his own story best in this letter he wrote shortly before his law license was suspended on May 1, 2011. This was written to the blog 4ClosureFraud…
In his own words:
I am writing to explain the status of my situation. The State Bar has issued an order that as of Sunday, May 1, 2011, I am on an “involuntary inactive” status. (No one is quite sure what that means).
I have regrets, but the Bar has done me an enormous personal favor and badly damaged my clients. I will immediately try to get the matter “stayed”, but given the improper conduct of the Bar I would guess that is unlikely.
I “voluntarily” became “inactive” as an attorney many years ago exactly because of things like this and had no desire to practice law ever again. I have always put my client’s interests ahead of my own, and fought hard strictly within the bounds of the law and it didn’t work very well. There are too many judges and attorneys that are not very smart, and/or lazy, or frankly corrupt. I hoped I had said good bye to law forever.
It is very difficult to practice law. It is very expensive requiring things like malpractice insurance, a large staff, office space, etc. Many ungrateful clients expect lawyers to be magicians and blame them for their problems and don’t want to pay. Most clients don’t understand that like doctors, they did not create the problem and are just trying to help. The problems are very hard to fix and take a very long time (our justice system is very slow). For some reason, clients think that shortly after you file a lawsuit, if justice is on your side you quickly win, but that is not the way it works.
It was and is far easier and more lucrative for me to be in the real estate business and only handle my own legal matters. I don’t need to be a licensed attorney to do that.
In September 2009, the San Diego County Bar asked me to give a seminar to attorneys and teach law in this area. I did and that is what started all this because hundreds of attorneys showed up. I discovered it appeared I was only one of four experts in the country on this area of law. I decided to restrict my activities to teaching. However, many property owners and other attorneys began literally begging me to become active in their legal cases and I did. I won. The State Bar has a contract with Bank of America.
WHAT I DID
Everyone now knows the “Banks” are stealing people’s homes using forged documents. They pretend the documents are real, don’t wait for a court to rule, and bully people out of their homes. This is illegal. But that’s not bad enough. After they bully people out, they commit another crime, by reselling the home without telling the new homeowner that some day, after the courts act; the homeowner will get their house back. This results in at least two innocent homeowners being the victim of a crime. The Banks have brainwashed law enforcement into becoming criminals and helping them. Instead of arresting the crooks, they arrest the homeowner.
If a client comes to me and says that their car was stolen, the criminal made up phony paper work, and they know where the car is and want my advice. I have an OBLIGATION, to advise them they have the right to get a set of keys, go to the car, get in, and call the police. The same is true with a house. THAT IS ALL I DID. Unfortunately, our legal system is not designed to help with this situation. By the time the legal system deals with the stolen property, the homeowner is “out on the street” (literally in many cases) and the stolen property has been resold.
However, my clients were too afraid to go back to their empty homes. This has resulted in millions of homes sitting empty, and falling into decay, damaging the house and the neighborhood. More importantly it has wrecked our economy and in my opinion, it is, and will, continue to get worse. In fact, a federal judge, in reporting the Bank’s attorneys to the California State Bar in 2009 said: “After 43 years at the bar, the saddest thing about this case is the conduct of the lawyers-all the lawyers. A careful reading of the briefs in this case reveals only a single recognition that counsel did anything amiss in their misrepresentations to the Bankruptcy Court. There’s blame aplenty, of course, each one blaming everyone else-including the hapless bankrupt homeowner.
How is it that our profession, the legal profession-which could have and should have strongly counseled against the self interested excesses that set up the collapse-instead has eagerly aided and abetted those very excesses? How could we (all of us who profess to be lawyers) have fallen so low?”
I was outraged and lost my temper. This is always a mistake. But, I decided to try and accompany my clients to their homes with a locksmith IF THEY decided to do this. We would notify the police and all others involved ahead of time of exactly what we intended to do. (Ever hear of a criminal doing that?) When we arrived at the house, if the police came, I would spend an enormous amount of my time trying to explain the situation about how the house was stolen. The police arrested me and homeowner instead of the thieves. However, no charges have ever been pursued by the District Attorney because they could never prove, especially “beyond a reasonable doubt” that I or my clients did anything wrong and the Banks certainly don’t want more negative attention.
In fact, I also wanted to bring attention to this in the hope it would stop, so engaged in some “drama” and invited the press. THIS IS NOT WHAT ATTORNEYS NORMALLY DO AND I SHOULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS. I did not do this for myself. I don’t get paid for it, and it would not benefit me in any way. I did it for my clients. This is what I have been punished for and will never do it again as I told the judge at the hearing. If my clients aren’t brave enough to take back something stolen from them on their own and call the police, unfortunately, it will have to be their problem. Especially since the State Bar decided to punish me for helping my own clients and the Bar decided to help the Banks steal people’s homes instead.
What the State Bar did is completely illegal for many reasons. I will only mention two. First, they “set me up” by requiring me to file papers after the hearing and then refused to accept them, using this as an excuse to decide the case against me. Second, they were required to file a decision in 10 days and didn’t. The hearing was on April 12 and the decision was filed April 28. More importantly, here is what the law says:
CALIFORNIA STATE BAR CODE OF ETHICSRule 3-210. Advising the Violation of Law. A member shall not advise the violation of any law, rule, or ruling of a tribunal unless the member believes in good faith that such law, rule, or ruling is invalid. A member may take appropriate steps in good faith to test the validity of any law, rule, or ruling of a tribunal.
At worst, that is what I did in advising my clients they had the right to take back stolen property. However, the judge didn’t consider that.
Not all judges are uninformed or dishonest, and some day an honest judge will find I did nothing wrong. In the mean time, I have been told my license is “inactive” for probably at least a few months pending further notice. Interestingly, this is in line with my original plan. I have no desire to take sole responsibility for clients’ cases and never really did. I got out of that a long time ago. What I have been trying to do is get other attorneys who want to do that handle the cases by being “attorney of record”. I can leverage my knowledge by consulting with them and teaching. Like me, they will win. The Bar has expedited this process which will benefit me personally but hurt my clients.
However, it is time for me to be selfish. You will need to find a new attorney to be your “attorney of record”. I can tell them exactly how to win. As a practical matter, I can do everything an attorney can do except go to court. I enjoy court, but it benefits the client and not the attorney since it takes a lot of time that attorneys often don’t get paid fully for. I will do what I always wanted to do which is teach and consult only”
Michael T. Pines April 29, 2011