Homeowner attorney found in contempt for breaking into foreclosed home
The Ventura County Superior Court in California found attorney Michael T. Pines in contempt of court Wednesday for helping his clients Jim and Danielle Earl break back into their home after the foreclosure was ruled legitimate.
In January 2010, Conejo Capital Partners, an investment firm based in California, purchased the home through a foreclosure auction court documents show, but the Earls remained in the property and delayed eviction through bankruptcy filings.
The case went before a judge in June, where Pines requested a jury trial and attempted to introduce claims that the Earls were victims of robo-signing, where bank employees signed foreclosure affidavits unlawfully, and cloudy practices by Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems.
But Conejo obtained a writ of possession from the court on the home, and the Earls were evicted in July. But, according to court documents, Pines and the Earls prevented the foreclosure sale after Conejo spent money to remodel the property. In October, they had a locksmith change the locks on the property, and the Earls moved back in.
Conejo obtained a second writ of possession from the court a week later, but both Pines and the Earls attempted another break in December 2010 but was thwarted by the Sheriff's Office.
Pines was found to be in contempt of court by violating a statute that was enacted in 1862 when, according to court documents "land-grabbing in disrespect of legal rights was rampant" in the Old West. Plaintiffs weren't even required to prove a willful act of contempt because of what Pines said during a hearing in November.
"Regardless of what the court does here today, we're going back to the cycle where we are going back to the property," Pines told the court, according to documents. "We are getting a locksmith and we are moving back in."
The court replied, "I certainly hope not. That is a blatant violation of the court order."
"Well then I think you should hold a contempt hearing, and I welcome that," Pines said, continuing to press for a contempt proceeding because of he wanted to give the case media attention, he said.
Pines was found in contempt on two acts and was found to be acting in bad faith of his clients. He was fined $1,000 for each act of contempt and was ordered to pay Conejo their attorneys fees and court costs it incurred during the litigation. According to court documents, Conejo reported roughly $34,000 in legal fees.
Pines (no relation or affiliation to Michael A. Pines, another attorney in California) did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Write to Jon Prior.
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