Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Long Island Judge Smacks Upstate NY Foreclosure Mill w/ $5K In Fines, Order To Pay $15K+ Legal Fees To Lawyer For Foreclosed-Upon Homeowner

In Hempstead, New York, a recent court ruling by Nassau County District Court Judge Scott Fairgrieve hammered the notorious foreclosure mill law office of Steven J. Baum, P.C. for filing what he (Fairgrieve) said were a number of sworn allegations that were false.

The following excerpts from Judge Fairgrieve's opinion reflect some of what went on in this action, an attempt to boot a local foreclosed homeowner (bold text is my emphasis, not in the original text):
  • At the hearing, the attorney for Baum repeatedly attempted to excuse the firm's past conduct on the basis that it is sometimes acceptable to swear to false statements if the statements are immaterial.

    Further, counsel exacerbated the situation by trying to evade questions concerning whether false statements had been made, apparently trying to appeal to a substantive difference between the terms "incorrect" and "false." Conversely, every statement in the petition was material to a determination by this court in this case.

    The misrepresentation of the material statements here was outrageous. If not for the false statements, this case could have been dismissed more easily for lack of standing. Baum has not convinced this court that they have acted professionally responsible either in submitting truthful documents or accepting accountability for their mistakes.

    ***************************** ***

    While it may be possible to overlook an error in one paragraph of a petition, despite thorough proofreading, overlooking falsities in five paragraphs is repugnant and will not be tolerated in this court. This is especially the case when falsities were contained in five paragraphs out of only ten paragraphs in the entire petition, one of the truthful paragraphs being that the petitioner's attorney correctly swore to counsel's own name. A brief proofreading of the petition before submission should have led to the production of a petition that was more than half correct.

    Willful carelessness of this sort will not be accepted. Also, substituting reasoned and considered statements for computer generated ones displaces the verifying attorney's responsibility to make even a cursory investigation into the truthfulness of the statements to which he swears.


    The attention and time of the Volunteer Lawyers Project have been unnecessarily diverted in dealing with the underlying case and Baum's behavior. Mr. de Winter appeared in the sincere interest of and commitment to justice. In this regard, this court finds it appropriate to award attorney's fees and costs of $14,532.50 to go to the benefit of the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

    Specifically, this represents attorney's fees at $250.00 per hour for 57.75 hours and $95.00 in costs. This court also imposes monetary sanctions on Steven J. Baum, P.C. in the amount of $5,000.00. This amount is appropriate for the foregoing reasons.

    Further, it has come to this court's attention that this is not the first time Baum has been unethical. In Ameriquest Mortg. Co., Baum fought the imposition of sanctions on substantially similar facts only three years ago. [Ameriquest Mortg. Co. v. Basevich, 16 Misc 3d 1104(A), 841 NYS2d 825 (2007).] Analogous to the facts here, in Ameriquest Mortg. Co. Baum faced sanctions concerning Baum's submission of incorrect documents in an attempt to bypass lack of standing. There the court declined to sanction Baum. The relief granted to Baum therein stood as a reminder to be more cautious in the future, especially concerning standing issues. It is apparent from this case, such a short time later, that Baum has failed to heed this command.
For Judge Fairgrieve's ruling, see Federal Home Loan Mtge. Corp. v Raia, 2010 NY Slip Op 52003 (Dist. Ct. Nassau Cty, 1st Dist., November 23, 2010).

(1) See also NY Trial Judge: Buffalo-Based Foreclosure Mill Law Firm's Actions "A Dereliction Of Professional Responsibility!" for additional evidence that Baum has ostensibly failed to heed this command, and in which is reported that Suffolk County, New York State Supreme Court Justice Melvyn Tanenbaum has recently issued these short form copies of 30 recent orders excoriating the Baum firm over court filings in which "The court deems plaintiff's counsel's actions to be an intentional failure to comply with the directions of the court and a dereliction of professional responsibility").