Monday, March 14, 2011
State Bar Charges Carlsbad Lawyer Who Urged Clients To Break Into Their Foreclosed Homes
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar on Friday announced that it has initiated proceedings to revoke the license of a Carlsbad attorney who made national headlines by advising clients to break into their foreclosed homes and start living there again.
Chief Trial Counsel James Towery called the move “a drastic remedy,” but insisted it was “justified by the established misconduct of Michael T. Pines.”
Pines, 59, “has shown complete disrespect for the law, the courts and especially the best interests of his clients,” which necessitated his removal from active practice, Towrey said.
The State Bar Act empowers the agency to remove an attorney from practice when he or she is causing substantial harm to clients or the public, when the evidence suggests the harmful behavior is likely to continue, and when it is likely the State Bar will prevail on the merits of the case.
Pines has been unapologetic about encouraging—and often physically helping— clients hire a locksmith to get into their foreclosed homes despite warnings from the court and police to stop the illegal activity, according to the State Bar release. He has argued that the foreclosures themselves are illegal, so his clients have a right to repossession since they are still the legal owners of the homes.
In the application for inactive enrollment, Deputy Trial Counsel Brooke Schafer said that in none of the cases in which Pines advised his clients to re-enter their homes in Carlsbad, Newport Beach and Simi Valley did they have a legal right to do so.
Pines “acts with calculated purpose,” Schafer wrote in the petition. “He is harming both his clients and the public by advising clients to take the law into their own hands, and he uses his law license as a weapon. By his behavior, actions and freely offered statements he is a clear—and ongoing—danger both to his clients and to the public.”
The petition notes that Pines has been cited for contempt as well as criminally cited three times in less than a week, and refers to three serious incidents involving break-ins and other criminal acts between October 2010 and February 2011.
Pines was arrested for making threats against occupants of a house that used to be owned by one of his clients on February 18., was cited for trespassing on the property the following day and cited for violating a temporary restraining order at the site four days after that. He told a court his clients may break into the property again.
In October, Pines gave Newport Beach police advance notice that he and a client were going to take possession of a house the client had lost in foreclosure. Pines had claimed the foreclosure was illegal even though his client had not prevailed in court. For five hours, Pines “kept approximately seven police officers and an assistant city attorney wrapped up in his media circus” until Pines and his client were arrested, Schafer wrote in the petition
Also in October, Schafer wrote, Pines accompanied his clients to their foreclosed Simi Valley home and advised them to break in despite a court ruling forbidding such an action. The family remained in the house for several days until the new owner got another writ of possession.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company