Florida AG used "wrong tool" in Shapiro & Fishman foreclosure investigation
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum suffered another setback Thursday when a judge denied his motion for rehearing in the Shapiro & Fishman foreclosure investigation. Last week, the law firm of Shapiro & Fishman, which has offices in Tampa and Boca Raton, won a motion to quash a subpoena. The subpoena sought information on the firm's foreclosure practices, alledging the firm manufactured documents to speed up the foreclosure processes. McCollum is investigating four of the largest foreclosure law firms in the state over their foreclosure filing practices. Gerald F. Richman, attorney for Shapiro & Fishman, said he welcomes the judge's decision. "They don't have the right to use the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices as a fishing expedition," he said. Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Jack Cox ruled that the attorney general used the "wrong tool" by relying on the deceptive trade act to get the kind of data the AG was requesting in the subpoena. The deceptive trade act is a state civil statute and was passed as a protection for consumers. Shapiro & Fishman's motion to quash pointed out that the law firm's clients are the lender, not the homeowner. And the act provides for civil remedies, not criminal penalties. Judge Cox also ruled that the act had no application to lawyers or law firms. Ryan Wiggins, communications director for the AG's office, said the attorneys in the office were discussing the ruling and weighing their options. She also said that the Florida AG is a civil agency. The U.S. or state attorney would have to investigate a criminal action. Judge Cox quashed the AG's subpoena last week. In his ruling, he said the Florida Supreme Court was the proper venue for lawyer misconduct. Sarah Mueller is an editorial assistant with HousingWire.