Thursday, June 19, 2014

Robo Lawyers Reprimanded

The Maryland Court of Appeals has reprimanded two lawyers in connection with the robo-signing of a large number of foreclosure-related documents.

One lawyer failed to properly supervise the other as managing partner of the law firm

Here, clear and convincing evidence supports the hearing judge’s conclusion that Burson had violated MLRPC 5.1(a). Prior to Burson’s discovery of McDowell’s and Savage’s conduct, two other lawyers at the Shapiro Firm signed each other’s names on foreclosure-related documents and were the subjects of show cause orders in various circuit courts as a result of the practice. As the Shapiro Firm’s managing partner, Burson was aware that circuit courts issued show cause orders regarding the two lawyers’ signing of documents. The hearing judge found that, despite being aware of the "prior incident," before learning that McDowell had signed trustee’s deeds and affidavits on Savage’s behalf, Burson made no efforts to ensure that the Shapiro Firm had in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that lawyers did not robo-sign documents. McDowell signed Savage’s name in approximately 900 cases. The existence of the show cause orders involving allegedly improper signing of documents, coupled with the number of cases in which McDowell signed Savage’s name, leads to the conclusion that clear and convincing evidence supports the hearing judge’s determination that Burson made no efforts to ensure that the Shapiro Firm had in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that lawyers did not robo-sign documents.

As to the junior lawyer

Although McDowell signed trustee’s deeds and affidavits on Savage’s behalf, McDowell had a relatively blameless mental state in doing so, as McDowell did so at Savage’s direction and believed that doing so was not improper. Although McDowell’s misconduct is aggravated by a pattern of misconduct and multiple violations of the MLRPC, McDowell’s misconduct is mitigated by the absence of prior attorney discipline, the absence of a dishonest or selfish motive, a cooperative attitude toward this attorney discipline proceeding, and sincere remorse.

And a note of warning to Maryland supervising attorneys

To be clear, we caution partners—and lawyers who "possess[] comparable managerial authority[,]" MLRPC 5.1(a); MLRPC 5.3(a)—that our decision to reprimand Burson is based on this attorney discipline proceeding’s unique circumstances. Under other circumstances, this Court would suspend a lawyer who violates MLRPC 5.1(a)...

(Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2014/06/robo-lawyer-reprimanded.html

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Comments

So what does this mean for people like me who had a foreclosure initiated by Burson and Savage? We have gone through all of our savings defending our property. What is our recourse, if any?

Posted by: Elaine Williams | Jun 20, 2014 7:32:49 AM

Burson is lying in court: The following is part of a letter sent to Elijah Cummings from Alfred Pollard, General Counsel at Federal Housing Finance Agency:

May 13, 2011
The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings
United States House of Representatives
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6143
Re: Request for Information and Documents with Respect to Shapiro & Burson LLP

In March 2011, Freddie Mac removed S&B from the Maryland DCP after confirming that firm had for an extended period of time engaged in unacceptable and improper practices in foreclosure actions. In November 2010, attorneys from Freddie Mac’s Legal Division led a review of apparently inappropriate practices at S&B. Mr. John Burson, a principal of the firm, alerted Freddie Mac that an audit at the firm revealed problems in the firm’s practices with respect the execution of documents in foreclosure cases.

Freddie Mac’s review revealed that Mr. Burson was aware of unacceptable document execution practices as early as 2007.

Posted by: WhistleBlwr | Jun 27, 2014 7:15:03 PM

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