Corrupt Attorneys

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Judges Slam More and More Plaintiffs’ Attorneys for Corruption

March 13, 2014

Peasants in Leon, Nicaragua, march in 2007 to denounce the use of harmful pesticides at banana plantations

Photograph by Miguel Alvarez/AFP via Getty Images

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-13/judges-slam-more-and-more-plaintiffs-attorneys-for-corruption#p1

Peasants in Leon, Nicaragua, march in 2007 to denounce the use of harmful pesticides at banana plantations

On March 7 a California appellate court upheld a trial judge’s finding that what had been billed as a watershed liability verdict against Dole Food over pesticide use in Nicaragua was actually the product of a conspiracy by corrupt plaintiffs’ lawyers. That decision came only three days after a federal judge in New York ruled that a multibillion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron (CVX) in 2011 was so tainted by bribery and coercion that it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Meanwhile, in Texas, a prominent class-action injury lawyer faces mounting woes because of allegations that he faked thousands of damage claims against BP (BP)related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. When you combine these cases with the criminal convictions several years ago of plaintiffs-bar titans Mel Weiss, Bill Lerach, and Dickie Scruggs—all of whom served time for corrupting the civil justice system—it’s hard to deny that there’s deep dysfunction within a powerful portion of the legal profession that claims to fight corporate abuse on behalf of the little guy.

A look at the Dole ruling illustrates the point. The California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles affirmed dismissal of one of a series of suits filed against Dole, alleging the company’s use of pesticides in Nicaragua left banana workers sterile in the late 1970s. In all, these suits resulted in billions of dollars in judgments against Dole.

The case at issue in the March 7 ruling, known as Tellez, went to trial in 2008 and produced a multimillion-dollar verdict for workers. That verdict was thrown out when Dole’s attorneys proved that many of the plaintiffs never worked for the company and weren’t, in fact, sterile. Witnesses and investigators were intimidated in Nicaragua, and plaintiffs were coached to concoct false stories. One supposed victim testified that he was instructed to memorize and repeat phony evidence “like a parrot.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers and law firms are major political contributors, particularly to Democrats

The California appellate court said the trial judge correctly sent the Tellez plaintiffs packing. The ruling was a win for the Los Angeles firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which has engineered the negation of multiple pesticide verdicts against Dole. That accomplishment prompted Chevron to hire Gibson Dunn to fight back against a $19 billion oil-contamination judgment imposed by an Ecuadorean court in 2011. In the Chevron case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of New York ruled on March 4 that plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger turned his Ecuadorean lawsuit against the oil company into a racketeering scheme, complete with extortion, bribery of judges, and fabrication of evidence. Donziger has denied wrongdoing and vowed to appeal.

Mass-tort and class-action securities-fraud suits reached their apogee in the 1990s, fueled in part by the energy and ingenuity of an elite fraternity of plaintiffs’ firms and individual lawyers, some of whom became phenomenally wealthy as a result of their success. There’s nothing necessarily wrong, of course, with plaintiffs’ attorneys doing well along the path to doing good, just as there’s nothing necessarily improper with corporate-defense lawyers getting richly paid.

But as the plaintiffs’ bar achieved lucrative triumphs in asbestos litigation and the tobacco cases, some of its leaders lost their bearings. Scruggs, who earned a fortune in both of those arenas, pleaded guilty in 2008 to crimes related to a judicial bribery scheme. Weiss and Lerach, impresarios of securities-fraud class actions, went to prison for paying kickbacks to shareholder plaintiffs-for-hire. Last year the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the disbarment of Stanley Chesley, a scourge of the pharmaceuticals and chemicals industries, among others. Chesley allegedly sought “unreasonable” fees in the settlement of a diet drug class action against Wyeth, now part of Pfizer (PFE).

Mikal Watts of San Antonio ranks among the nation’s most feared mass-injury lawyers. In the wake of the BP oil spill four years ago, his firm filed some 40,000 claims on behalf of deckhands and others alleging economic harm from the disaster that killed 11 rig workers and sullied the Gulf Coast. Last December, BP hit back, accusing Watts of seeking to shake down the company by filing claims for thousands of “phantom” clients who didn’t fit his description of them or didn’t exist at all. Then, in January, another well-known mass-tort attorney, Danny Becnel of Louisiana, filed a separate suit against Watts on behalf of Vietnamese American fishermen and business owners who say Watts used their names without authorization. Watts last year resigned from the plaintiffs’ steering committee helping to direct the litigation against BP after media reports that federal agents had searched his offices in connection with the phantom-claims scandal. The federal criminal probe is continuing. Watts, a major fundraiser for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, has denied any wrongdoing—civil or criminal. His lawyers have said all his filings against BP were made in good faith.

Despite the egregiousness of the plaintiffs’ bar abuses, there’s little chance that Congress will enact tort reform anytime soon, says Victor Schwartz, a lobbyist for business on the issue and a partner in Washington with law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon. Plaintiffs’ lawyers and law firms are major political contributors, particularly to Democrats, who have fought attempts to cap settlements in big corporate liability cases and class actions. Lawyers spent about $135 million in 2012 helping to elect Democrats, compared with $56 million for Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. “There have been no major business civil justice victories [in Congress] for almost a decade,” Schwartz says. Likewise, President Obama has shown little interest in taking on attorneys who invested $28 million in his reelection effort in 2012, more than twice what they gave Mitt Romney, according to the center. And bar associations and state attorneys general rarely seek to prosecute litigation fraud, which is expensive to pursue and politically fraught. As a result, says Sherman Joyce, president of the corporate-funded American Tort Reform Association, “too many plaintiffs’ lawyers believe there’s not much risk in filing fraudulent suits.”

The bottom line: Dole and Chevron have won major court victories after federal judges ruled that plaintiffs’ lawyers engaged in fraud.

Barrett_190
Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Law of the Jungle, which tells the story of the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador, will be published by Crown in September 2014. His most recent book is GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun.
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LivingLies’ Neil Garfield Post on Fannie and Freddie

New post on Livinglies’s Weblog

 

Fannie and Freddie Demand $6 Billion for Sale of “Faulty Mortgage Bonds”

by Neil Garfield

You read the news on one settlement after another, it sounds like the pound of flesh is being exacted from the culprits again and again. This time the FHFA, as owner of Fannie and Freddie, is going for a settlement with Bank of America for sale of “faulty mortgage bonds.” And most people sit back and think that justice is being done. It isn’t. $6 Billion is window dressing on a liability that is at least 100 times that amount. And stock analysts take comfort that the legal problems for the banks has basically been discounted already. It hasn’t.

For practitioners who defend mortgage foreclosures, you must dig a little deeper. The term “faulty mortgage bonds” is a euphemism. Look at the complaints there filed. When they are filed by agencies it means that after investigation they have arrived at the conclusion that something was. very wrong with the sale of mortgage bonds. That is an administrative finding that concluded there was at least probable cause for finding that the mortgage bonds were defective and potentially were criminal.

So what does “defective” or “faulty” mean? Neither the media nor the press releases from the agencies or the banks tell us what was wrong with the bonds. But if you look at the complaints of the agencies, they tell you what they mean. If you look at the investor lawsuits you see that they are alleging that the notes and mortgages were “unenforceable.” Both the agencies and the investors filed complaints alleging that the mortgage bonds were a farce, sham or in other words, a PONZI Scheme.

Why is that important to foreclosure defense? Digging deeper you will find what I have been reporting on this blog. The investors money was not used to fund the REMIC trusts. The unfunded trusts never had the money to buy or fund the origination of bonds. The notes and mortgages were never sold to the Trusts even though “assignments” were executed and shown in court. The assignments themselves were either backdated or violated the 90 day cutoff that under applicable law (the laws of the State of New York) are VOID and not voidable.

What to do? File Freedom of Information Act requests for the findings, allegations and names of investigators for the agency that were involved in the agency action. Take their deposition. Get documents. Find put what mortgages were looked at and which bond series were involved. Get a list of the mortgages and the bonds that were examined. Get the findings on each mortgage and each mortgage bond. Use the the investor allegations as lender admissions admissions in court — that the notes and mortgages are unenforceable.

There is a disconnect between what is going on at the top of the sham securitization chain and what went on in sham mortgage originations and sham sales of loans. They never happened in the real world, no matter how much paper you throw at it.

And that just doesn’t apply to mortgages in default — it applies to all mortgages, which is why all the mortgages that currently exist, and most of the deeds that show ownership of the property have clouded and probably “defective” and “faulty” titles. It’s clear logic that the government and the banks are seeking to avoid, to wit: that if the way in which the money was raised to fund the loans or purchase the loans were defective, then it follows that there are defects in the chain of title and the money trail that were obviously not disclosed, as per the requirements of TILA and Reg Z.

And when you keep digging in discovery you will find out that your client has some clear remedies to collect the profits and compensation paid to undisclosed recipients arising out of the closing of the “loan.” These are offsets to the amount claimed as due. If the loan was not funded by the Trust, then the false paper trail used by the banks in foreclosure is subject to successful attack. If the loans were in fact funded directly by the trust complying with the REMIC provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, then the payee on the note and the mortgagee on the mortgage would be the trust — or if the loan was actually purchased, the Trust would have issued money to the seller (something that never happened).

And lastly, for now, let us look at the capital structure of these banks. A substantial portion of their capital derives from assets in the form of mortgage bonds. This is the most blatant lie of all of them. No underwriter buys the securities issued by the company seeking financing through an offering to investors. It is an oxymoron. The whole purpose of the underwriter was to create securities that would be appealing to investors. The securities are only issued when you have a buyer for them, and then the investor is the owner of the security — in this case mortgage bonds.

The bonds are not issued to the investment bank as an asset of the investment bank. But they ARE issued to the investment bank in “street name.” That is merely to facilitate trading and delivery of certificates which in most cases in the mortgage bond market don’t exist. The issuance in street name does not mean the banks own the mortgage bonds any more than when you a stock and the title is issued in street name mean that you have loaned or gifted the investment to the investment bank.

If you follow the logic of the investment bank then the deposits of money by depository customers could be claimed as assets — without the required entry in the liabilities section of the balance sheet because every dollar on deposit is a liability to pay those monies on demand, which is why checking accounts are referred to as demand deposits.

Hence the “asset” has been entered on the investment bank balance sheet without the corresponding liability on the other side of their balance sheet. And THAT remains that under cover of Federal Reserve purchase of these bonds from the banks, who don’t own the bonds, the value of the bonds is 100 cents on the dollar and the owner is the bank — a living lies fundamental. When the illusion collapses, the banks are coming down with it. You can only go so far lying to the public and the investment community. Eventually the reality is these banks are underfunded, under capitalized and still being propped up by quantitative easing disguised as the purchase of mortgage bonds at the rate of $85 Billion per month.

We need to be preparing for the collapse of the illusion and get the other financial institutions — 7,000 community and regional banks and credit unions — ready to take on the changes caused by the absence of the so-called major banks who are really fictitious entities without a foundation related to economic reality. The backbone is already available — electronic funds transfer is as available to the smallest bank as it is to the largest. It is an outright lie that we need the TBTF banks. They have failed and cannot recover because of the enormity of the lies they told the world. It’s over.

Encounters with Pro Se Litigants

http://www.atlantatrial.com/encounters-pro-se-litigants/

Encounters with pro se litigants

by Daniel DeWoskin

June 1st, 2011

We have all heard that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. Many of us have had occasion to walk into a courtroom, be it in magistrate, state, or even superior court, only to find that the courtroom is packed with pro se parties waiting to have their matters adjudicated. Watching inexperienced people handle their legal matters can at times be entertaining and at other times extremely frustrating. We observe these parties fumbling with rules regarding cross-examination or the admission of evidence. It is almost always apparent that these people are uncomfortable, intimidated, and unaware of how much they do not know about prosecuting or defending a legal action. Out of necessity, desperation, or perhaps stubbornness, many people still choose to represent themselves in court.

Is it hubris that causes these people, these “fools,” to represent themselves? The fact is that many parties are representing themselves because they could neither find, nor afford, counsel in a particular matter. These situations can be simply tragic. Many times, these persons are out-maneuvered by an attorney because they fail to acknowledge procedure or to understand the application of law to a particular issue. These people may lose their cases solely because their temperament or demeanor has overshadowed the presentation of evidence in their cases. There is not much of a fix to this problem, as the courts cannot take it upon themselves to advise pro se parties lest they cease to be impartial to some extent.

As attorneys, it can be like watching a train wreck. And yet, even watching the least capable pro se parties, I have to give them credit for having the nerve to walk into court, to stand before a group of strangers, and to engage in public speaking for which the outcome may have dire consequences. It is refreshing and impressive when some of these individuals have taken the time to conduct research into their legal issues and patiently wait for certain cues from the court as they advocate for their position. We have all seen these cues ignored at times by the most experienced and knowledgeable attorneys.

I myself have dealt with pro se parties and can say that I have always found it to be troublesome. When dealing with a pro se party, I am always cautious to avoid ever giving legal advice to the other party. I have a duty to my client and my responsibility to zealously represent his or her interests cannot be compromised. I also have a duty to deal fairly and honestly with my opponent. In these situations, it can be challenging to set the right tone so that I do not inadvertently escalate any hostility that may already be present in the litigation. Even by making very deliberate choices as to how I speak with my opponent can backfire, causing more work and headache for everyone involved, including the court.

Any lawyer who has dealt with pro se parties is likely to say that there is some measure of comfort when dealing with represented parties. Pro se parties are always personally involved in the matter at hand and can often have difficulty taking a step back so that they might see their opponents’ arguments for what they are. If these people were not personally involved, they would not deem the matter worth their time or attention in the first place. When both parties are represented by experienced and professional counsel, knowledge of law and courtesy generally help govern the course of litigation. This is quite the contrast between the emotion and intimidation that can be in play in pro se litigation.

There are also times where we as attorneys sit down in a crowded court and have the person seated beside us turn and ask, “Are you an attorney?” This usually means that we are about to be asked if we can answer a quick question that is never quick and never isolated. When I find myself in this position, I usually resort to recommending that the person ask for a continuance and seek counsel, but I am always professional and polite so that I do not seem to be turning my back on them. As opposed to explaining that I need to be paid for my services, which is true, I have found that people respond better when I explain that without a thorough review of the particular facts of both parties and their assertions, I am not able to provide them with a reliable answer.

It is extremely important in our justice system for people to have access to the courts, even when they cannot afford counsel. Our judges do a good job demonstrating patience and appreciation for the rights of pro se parties, and yet I am continually perplexed by how many people will try to handle a complex litigation matter without doing any homework. While I doubt these same people would handle their own dental work, sometimes I just have to wonder.

I am disappointed when I see pro se parties get intimidated by attorneys in court. There are those rare moments when one of these parties, outgunned and out of their element, has done the legwork and prevails in court. If you have never seen this in action, it is something to behold. Recently, I spoke to a young woman who succeeded in defending herself in a civil action. It was rather remarkable. I was impressed by the quality of her research and preparation, and she was impressed by how ignorant and unprepared her attorney counterpart was.

I suppose the takeaway from this encounter was that we should never take our opponents for granted. So, while a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, there is no substitute for preparation, knowledge of the law and facts, and humility in a court of law. As lawyers, we should try to find the balance between stressing the value of qualified counsel and understanding why people may still choose to represent themselves. Instead of dismissing all these people as foolhardy, perhaps we should first caution them, then suggest where they might find the resources to empower them in their decision. In the end, if they do follow through with the research, it should demonstrate that what we do is unique, precise, and specialized.

As lawyers, we are aware of the dangers of pro se litigation. We know the troubles that lurk in handling matters without knowing the facts, the law, and the applicable procedure. For those who do not know these dangers, we must act as stewards. We may benefit these people and the system in general without giving out free legal advice, but also without treating what we do as beyond the reach of a dedicated individual with something to prove. Once again, many of these individuals do not have a choice, and nobody in our community benefits from a system that breeds intimidation and contempt.

Article appears in the DeKalb Bar Association Newsletter

See Original Article>>

Daily Report: Robin Hood lawyer fights foreclosures with a passion

 

http://www.dailyreportonline.com/PubArticleFriendlyDRO.jsp?id=1202559725985

‘Robin Hood’ lawyer fights foreclosures with a passion

Katheryn Hayes Tucker

Daily Report

06-18-2012

For 34 years, Robert Thompson Jr. had been a business and labor lawyer — as was his father before him — defending corporations and financial institutions and even serving on several banks’ boards of directors.

But something happened to him two and half years ago that changed his entire practice. Now, he challenges banks and financial institutions in court, accusing them of wrongful foreclosure and outright fraud on behalf of individuals who are a step away from losing their homes.

The turning point for Thompson came at Christmas time, 2009. His mortgage servicer — with whom he had been embroiled in disputes over what he said were misapplied or lost checks, late fees for payments that had been made on time, unnecessary insurance costs and double billings for taxes — moved to foreclose on his home.

“I was a single father with three young children living with me in that house,” the silver-haired Thompson said during an interview in his Buckhead Thompson Law Group office filled with books about the financial industry and the economic crisis. “It was very upsetting.”

But, he added, “I was the wrong person to pick on about injunctions and bank law.”

On Dec. 28, 2009, he went before Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger, asking for an order enjoining the mortgage company from proceeding with the foreclosure. The judge’s first question was, “How much do you owe?” Thompson recalled.

“I told him I didn’t owe anything, that my payments had all been made on time, and that in fact they owed me more than $50,000 in overpayments and mystery fees,” Thompson recalled.

“Can you prove it?” the judge asked.

Thompson recalled he pointed the judge to canceled checks and FedEx receipts, and the judge granted Thompson’s injunction. Thompson filed a lawsuit against his loan servicer for mortgage fraud and abuse, wrongful foreclosure, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, conversion, misrepresentation, defamation, libel and deceit.

“People started talking about it,” Thompson said. “I thought it was just me, but then people started calling saying they had the same problem and wanting to know if I could help them.”

Now, Thompson is a man obsessed. And he said he’s had success halting foreclosures — but acknowledged securing such an injunction for a client is only the first step.

Thompson said he still has new clients coming to his office daily. Most don’t have the exact situation as his, where the payments were current but not applied to the account. The biggest percentage, he said, are struggling because of a loss of income and are seeking loan modifications to make payments more manageable, but were told by their mortgage holder they weren’t eligible either because they weren’t behind or far enough behind.

Thompson said being behind on mortgage payments isn’t a requirement of federally funded modification programs. But, on the assumption that it was, he said, his clients missed payments in hopes of qualifying for modifications, then found themselves in foreclosure with their lender refusing to accept more payments. Thompson calls that being “lured into default.”

Out of hundreds of cases he’s reviewed in the past two and a half years, he said, there wasn’t a single one where he didn’t find fraud or at least errors in the records. So far, he said, he has not yet been able to say to a homeowner, “I can’t help you because the bank did everything right.”

Bank representatives say it’s absurd to suggest banks want to foreclose if there are other options. They admit some paperwork mistakes happen but suggest it’s not right to make those a basis for loan forgiveness.

Meanwhile, Thompson is ordering up forensic audits — at a minimum of $1,000 each — to ferret out problems so that he can go to court to block foreclosures. A forensic auditing company analyzes the loan activity and tracks the transfers of deed and title as the loan has been sold by one financial company to another — and sometimes to several others.

Sometimes, Thompson said, he finds the foreclosing lender has already sold the note and collected the balance, and thus doesn’t have the legal right to foreclose. Often Thompson finds what he calls a “break in the chain of title” because the deed and the note have not been kept together in the transactions, which he said is illegal.

He can’t charge the homeowners the hourly rates he used to bill his corporate clients. Some can hardly pay anything. Occasionally, he said, he just offers free advice on how to fight a foreclosure pro se. Most of the time he negotiates a flat fee varying in amounts according to the work that needs to be done and the client’s ability to pay. “I have to make it affordable or they can’t do it,” he said. “But I can’t do it for free.”

He is especially busy the week before the first Tuesday of every month, when crowds gather on the courthouse steps for the auctioning of foreclosed homes. This month alone, he went to court for 25 injunctions to stop foreclosures.

Asked how many he won, he said, “All of them. But the injunction is only the first step.”

The next step varies, but often includes lawsuits against the lenders or servicers who initiated the foreclosure.

Lender representatives said Thompson’s charges about banks’ motivations don’t make sense.

“Do you really think the lender wants that house back?” asked Mo Thrash, a lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia and McCalla Raymer, a law firm with offices in Georgia that represents lenders. “It is absolutely ridiculous to think the lender would want the home back.”

Thrash said the conventional wisdom — that the best outcome for the lender is for the homeowner to make all their payments until the loan is paid in full — is still true, maybe more so now because of falling real estate prices and difficulty in selling homes. “I admit mistakes do happen, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority of these cases are a two-way street,” he said. “It takes two to tango.”

The majority of mortgage banks — 99 percent — are ethical and honest, Thrash added. To suggest otherwise, he said, is “absolutely crazy.”

If the personal foreclosure experiences of Thompson and some of his clients are as they described them, “It was a mistake,” said J.D. Crowe, senior vice president of Southeast Mortgage of Georgia Inc. and a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia Board of Governors.

“If that’s the case, that’s why he won an injunction and will probably win his lawsuit. With the number of foreclosures in the last few years, there’s a lot of paper going back and forth,” Crowe said.

But like Thrash, Crowe said it’s “ridiculous” to suggest that a lender would want to foreclose if there were an alternative. “Lenders want to work with borrowers. They don’t want to foreclose,” he said.

Crowe also suggested that when homeowners win their foreclosure fights, they usually win on a technicality — a mistake in the paperwork or the separation of the deed and note in the selling of the loan by one financial institution to another. In such cases, if homeowners win damages or loan forgiveness, allowing them to walk away from their mortgage payments, said Crowe, “I think it is unconscionable.”

Disbelief, said Thompson, is the biggest challenge he faces in fighting foreclosure fraud. “People who have never suffered through it cannot believe it. It challenges the fundamentals of everything you want to believe about the banks being honest and the government protecting you.”

He cited the case of client LaVonda DeWitt, a patent lawyer whose income was reduced because her firm’s revenue dropped. In an interview, she said she contacted her mortgage company to discuss a loan modification so she could lower her payments.

“They said I wasn’t eligible because I still had a job,” she said.

Then she was laid off. She called her lender again about the modification and was told she wasn’t eligible because didn’t have a job. She said she was also told she wasn’t eligible unless she was three months behind. She stopped making payments in December 2010. She also filed a complaint with the U.S. Treasury Department over being denied a loan modification. The lender responded with a document she had never seen saying she had been offered a modification and rejected it, but later admitted that claim was a mistake, according to DeWitt. She still wasn’t offered a modification. She received a foreclosure notice in March of this year.

She met with Thompson, who went to court with her to block the sale on the first Tuesday in April. She won the injunction but still wasn’t able to negotiate a loan modification. So, on Thompson’s advice, she filed a lawsuit in federal court.

DeWitt said Thompson reminds her of the fictional Atticus Finch, taking on jobs that other lawyers don’t want.

Another client of Thompson’s, Patricia Sibley, won an injunction a year ago, then filed a lawsuit against the lender for wrongful foreclosure. The suit is pending in the Northern District of Georgia. Sibley and her husband are still in their home — “because of Bob Thompson,” she said.

As with DeWitt, Sibley’s suit is based on what Thompson calls “luring into default.” When the recession hit and slashed revenue for her advertising company, Sibley said she had to close her business. She and her husband had paid down by half their $950,000 15-year mortgage on their north Atlanta home near the Chattahoochee River, and their payments were current, she said in an interview.

She contacted the lender to ask about changing the terms to lower the payments. Since they still had some income, they felt they could afford the loan if they could spread it back to 30 years. They were told they weren’t eligible for a modification because they weren’t behind. They skipped one payment and called again, but were told they were not far enough behind to be eligible, according to Sibley and the lawsuit. After the third missed payment, they received a foreclosure notice. They tried to talk to the lender’s customer service department many times and offered to pay the loan current and cover fees in return for restructuring, she said, but heard no response.

The house was advertised for foreclosure. The weekend before the first Tuesday in June 2011, cars were driving by the house and stopping to take pictures, Sibley said. It was an experience she said she wouldn’t wish on anyone.

A friend called and said she had a friend who knew someone who might be able to help — Thompson. The friend said, “I have somebody who’s like Robin Hood. He takes from the banks and gives to the poor.”

“Not that we’re the poor,” Sibley added. But, she said, “I never would have dreamed I’d be in this position.”

Sibley’s case is unresolved, but Thompson was able to get an injunction to prevent foreclosure while it’s pending.

McCurdy & Candler, which has offices in Decatur and Atlanta, handled Sibley’s foreclosure for PNC Mortgage, as well as DeWitt’s foreclosure for Chase. Managing partner Sidney Gelernter said the firm couldn’t comment on any pending case or even discuss foreclosures generally. Sibley’s suit is being defended by Ballard Spahr. One of the lawyers working on the case in Atlanta, Christopher Willis, said the firm couldn’t comment on any matter involving any of its clients.

Sibley’s lawsuit is against National City Mortgage Company, National City Bank, PNC Mortgage, Bank of America and unidentified investors. Sibley said she tried repeatedly to find out the identity of the investors who now own the loan — in order to work out payment terms — but PNC, the servicer, wouldn’t tell her.

A spokeswoman for PNC said the company couldn’t comment on any lawsuit. “We do work with customers,” said Amy Vargo, noting modification programs described on the PNC website.

In his own personal case, Thompson sued BAC Home Loans Servicing, which is a subsidiary of Bank of America, and Bank of New York Mellon, formerly known as Bank of New York, successor in interest to JP Morgan Chase Bank. Bank of America acquired Countrywide Mortgage Company, which was Thompson’s loan servicer. Thompson’s lawsuit names four companies that owned his note successively. Thompson’s case — which he has withdrawn for now — was defended by Monica Gilroy of Alpharetta’s Dickenson Gilroy, who said she couldn’t discuss it.

The foreclosing firm in Thompson’s case was Shuping, Morse & Ross, based in Riverdale. Neither the managing partner, Sheltan Andrew Shuping Jr., nor the lawyer who handled the foreclosure, Kevin Duda, could be reached for comment.

Thompson’s lawsuit — moved from Fulton Superior Court to federal district court in Atlanta — seeks damages for overpayments and unauthorized fees, harassment and injury to his credit and reputation, naming a figure of $5 million.

Thompson said he has stopped making mortgage payments, and BAC has stopped trying to foreclose. He moved to withdraw his complaint, while keeping the door open to refiling it later, and the judge agreed. He said he believes the courts are evolving in their understanding of foreclosure fraud, and he plans to reinitiate the suit at a time that will be advantageous. For now, he said, “It’s an armed truce.”

Thompson’s case in federal court is Thompson v. BAC Home Loans, No. 1:10-CV-3205-TCB.

Sibley’s case in federal court is Sibley v. National City Mortgage Co., No. 1:12-cv-00305-SCJ-JFK.

Daily Report: Robin Hood lawyer fights foreclosures with a passion