On July 19, 2010, foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa defended a homeowner at trial in a foreclosure case in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Every case is different, and there is no way to know whether other foreclosure cases will play out the same way. That said, my experience at trial reinforced two of my long-standing beliefs about the foreclosure process. Specifically:
1. If you’re facing foreclosure, don’t give up. If you give up, and don’t defend the case, the bank can obtain a foreclosure against you by default, often in just a matter of months. Conversely, if you have an attorney defend your case, you may induce the bank to enter a settlement it otherwise would have been unwilling to enter. To illustrate, as I was in trial yesterday, I found myself telling the bank’s attorney that they should settle the case because there was a real risk the bank would lose the trial or, even if it won, a real risk that the appellate court would reverse that decision on appeal. If you fight, and defend your foreclosure case, you give yourself leverage to settle. If you give up, you lose all leverage, enabling the bank to foreclose without opposition. Admittedly, defending your foreclosure case does not guarantee a settlement, but at least you give yourself a chance.
2. When hiring a lawyer to defend your foreclosure lawsuit, it’s important that you retain someone with experience in court. As a result of the struggling economy, lots of Florida attorneys have begun representing homeowners facing foreclosure. Before retaining a lawyer, make sure you question that lawyer’s experience, and not just as a lawyer, but his/her experience in court. How many foreclosure cases has he/she handled? How many trial has he/she conducted? How many appeals has he/she handled? The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar prohibit lawyers from discussing the results of their prior cases, but lawyers are permitted to discuss their experience. Choosing a lawyer to defend your foreclosure case is a critically important decision – gather as much information as possible so as to make an informed decision.