Florida judge invokes classic movie in bank beat down

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Kimberly Miller 

Published April 29, 2015


JPGA Florida appeals court judge invoked the classic Christmas movie "It’s a Wonderful Life" in a foreclosure ruling this week that sent the bank packing.

In the two-page judgment issued Wednesday, 4th District Court of Appeal Judge Robert Gross says in It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey makes loans to his neighbors in Bedford Falls.

“No doubt, he took the notes and mortgages and put them in the safe in the back room, where the only risk was Uncle Billy and his failing memory. When George faces a monetary crisis, his neighbors step up with Christmas Eve donations to save George and his building and loan.

“Those days are long gone,” the judge writes.

The case Gross ruled on, Patricia Salmon vs. Foreclosed Asset Sales and Transfer Partnership, involved an issue of whether the plaintiff had a right to sue for foreclosure when it filed to repossess the home -- called standing. Salmon’s home was in Royal Palm Beach.

Gross says that Salmon’s mortgage was “bundled, securitized, and indorsed to a series of holders with inscrutable acronyms like LSF6 Mercury REO Investments” until it finally ended up with U.S. Bank Trust, which filed the foreclosure.

But after the foreclosure was filed, another group claimed it owned the mortgage via a transfer that occurred in 2012. That meant no standing.

“I think the judges are getting frustrated because of the ridiculousness of the situations they keep seeing,” said attorney Brian Korte, who represents Salmon. “The rulings are getting funnier and funnier.”

In a January ruling out of the 4th DCA, Judge Melanie May actually draws a map to show how the case falls short in proving standing. According to her illustration, which is attached as an appendix to the ruling, a key transfer of the mortgage from the originator is not proven.

“In this foreclosure puzzle,” May wrote “one of the pieces is missing.”

The case was Donna Murray and Marc Murray vs. HSBC Bank USA, National Association as Trustee for ACE Securities Corp Home Equity Loan Trust, Series 2006-OPI. The Murray’s home was in an unincorporated area west of Lantana. It was sold at a foreclosure auction in August.

Korte said he’s never received a ruling as unique as Wednesday’s and had to smile at the movie reference.

“I chuckled a little bit, but don’t want to belie the seriousness of what is below,” he said, referring to the judge’s ruling.

Although Gross ruled in Salmon’s favor, it doesn’t mean she’s free and clear. The case will go back to circuit court where the bank will likely dismiss and refile under the appropriate entity.

Salmon lost the home to foreclosure in 2013. Korte said the bank bought it back at a foreclosure auction, but Palm Beach County property records still have it listed in her name. Korte said she no longer lives at the home.