Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Page 3


Lawyer, Client Charged in Newport Beach Home Break-in


From Staff and Wire Services Reports


An attorney and his client have been charged with vandalism and other misdemeanor counts after officers observed them breaking into a foreclosed Orange County home.

Carlsbad lawyer Michael T. Pines and Newport Beach resident Rene Zepeda pleaded not guilty yesterday after turning themselves in at the Newport Beach courthouse.

Pines is accused of advising the 72-year-old Zepeda that the July 2009 foreclosure of his Newport Coast home was illegal.

Prosecutors say the 59-year-old attorney told reporters and a representative of the bank that seized the home that he and Zepeda planned to take it back on Oct. 13, 2010.

Pines and Zepeda were arrested that day after breaking one of the home’s windows.

Pines is facing separate criminal charges in similar cases in Ventura and San Diego Counties.

In April, a State Bar Court judge placed Pines on involuntary inactive status, saying his headline-grabbing advice that clients break into homes they’ve lost in foreclosure threatens the public, as well as any clients who might follow similar advice.

“Throughout modem time, attorneys have been at the forefront of the war against corruption and injustice,” Judge Richard Honn wrote. “This battle, however, is waged in the courtroom and not in the streets. Attorneys are litigators, not vigilantes.”

Finding that the State Bar was likely to prevail on charges that Pines advised clients to break the law, showed disrespect for courts, performed legal services incompetently, engaged in moral turpitude, and committed several crimes—including contempt of court, violation of a temporary restraining order, trespass, and making criminal threats—Honn barred Pines from practicing law pending further court action.

The judge acted at the request of the bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel, which asked March 11 that Pines be prohibited from practicing. Under the State Bar Act, an attorney who causes substantial harm to clients, or to the public, can be ordered inactive as a matter of public protection.

“The State Bar is very gratified that the court has agreed with us that Pines poses an imminent threat of harm to the public, and therefore has removed him from active practice,” Chief Trial Counsel Jim Towery said in a statement.

Pines, 59, an attorney in California since 1977, has been recently arrested in separate cases in Orange, San Diego, and Ventura counties. In each instance, he has acknowledged, he told his clients that they had a legal right to return to their homes, regardless of writs of possession issued by the courts in favor of subsequent purchasers, because the foreclosures had been illegal.

That was very bad advice, Honn said.


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