Flag-flying ex-Marine saved from foreclosure

Article Courtesy of Sun Sentinel
By Peter Franceschina 
Posted May 24, 2003 

JUPITER - A Palm Beach County circuit judge on Friday canceled the foreclosure sale of the Jupiter home of George Andres, who has been battling his homeowners association over his 12-foot flagpole.

Andres was scheduled to lose his home on Thursday until Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist intervened and one of his deputies appeared at a Tuesday court hearing in a last-ditch effort to persuade Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Edward Fine to reconsider his order allowing the foreclosure.
"I'm elated. Everybody here is jumping for joy," Andres said.

Andres, 66, a former Marine, got his second visit from a high-ranking government official on Friday. Crist went by his home to share in the good news. Last year, Gov. Jeb Bush went to Andres' home on Flag Day to present him with a flag that had flown over the state Capitol.

Crist was visiting Merritt Island when he heard of the ruling. "I decided I wanted to come down here and celebrate with George," said Crist as Andres' flag waved in the wet breeze.

Fine didn't reverse his order, which allows for the foreclosure, but he determined that a legal issue -- whether Andres' homestead exemption precludes the foreclosure of his home to collect a legal debt -- has to be decided by a trial. He also encouraged Andres and his homeowners association to make an attempt at mediation.

Both sides appear too far apart for mediation to be successful, though.

"Mediation carries the possibility of not only avoiding a trial, but also avoiding future appellate expenses," Fine cautioned.

Andres says he wants the homeowners association to pay his legal fees, which he estimates at $90,000. West Palm Beach attorney Steven Selz, who represents the homeowners association, said any settlement would have to include a schedule for Andres to pay the association's legal fees. The association filed a $21,000 lien against Andres' home to collect the legal fees.

One of Crist's deputies argued to Fine on Tuesday that the homestead exemption protects Andres and his wife, Ann, from losing their home.

"The homestead law is so important it's embedded in our constitution," Crist said Friday. "Imagine, an ex-Marine, just before Memorial Day, about to lose his home. ... This is a time for us to cherish our freedom."

Boca Raton attorney Barry Silver, who represents Andres, said he hopes to prevail in a trial on the homestead-exemption issue. He also vowed to appeal all the way to the Florida Supreme Court if necessary. There have been several court cases involving Andres' flag controversy.

Andres lost the main case in the dispute, and Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Catherine Brunson ruled in October 2000 that he had to remove the pole. An appeals court agreed with Brunson. 

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill designed to alleviate Andres' legal troubles, and Bush signed it into law. It allows people to fly a removable American flag "in a respectful manner" regardless of homeowners association rules, but Fine determined it could not be applied retroactively to Andres. Still, Andres has won a judge's temporary permission to continue flying his flag.

Flag-flying ex-Marine has a chance to keep his home
Article Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel
By Jill Barton | The Associated Press 
Posted May 24, 2003 

WEST PALM BEACH -- A former Marine who has fought with his homeowners' association since he raised an American flag on a 12-foot flagpole three years ago will have another chance to keep his flag and his home.

A judge ordered George Andres and the association to try and resolve their dispute or go to trial. The ruling on Friday came just days before Andres' home was set for a foreclosure sale to allow the association to collect more than $20,000 in legal fees.

Andres, 66, has drawn considerable support during his fight to fly the flag from the pole, instead of from brackets attached to his home as association rules dictate.

The Legislature passed a law allowing people to fly the American flag regardless of homeowner association rules. On Flag Day last year, Gov. Jeb Bush brought him a flag that had flown over the state Capitol and helped him raise it on the flagpole. Attorney General Charlie Crist has provided legal help for Andres in his fight to keep his home.

Crist said he thinks Andres will ultimately prevail.

"We're there with him any inch of the way," said Crist, who visited with Andres and his wife, Anne, Friday afternoon at the home in Jupiter, which is about 15 miles north of West Palm Beach.

The state has argued that Florida's homestead exemption establishes a constitutional protection against the sale of a home to collect a debt.

"The notion that an ex-Marine would come within an eyelash of losing his home for flying an American flag is astounding," Crist said.

A circuit judge ruled in 2000 that Andres had to remove the pole and fined him $7,400 when he violated her order. The order was upheld by an appeals court. The homeowners association later filed a lien against Andres' house for the legal fees it said he owned them.

Circuit Judge Edward Fine ruled in March that the homeowners association could go on with foreclosure to collect $21,000 in legal fees. Fine also handed down the ruling Friday that requires mediation in the next 30 days.

Steven Selz, an attorney for the Indian Creek Phase 3B Homeowners Association, said settling the case would be difficult because Andres has been unwilling to reimburse the association for any of the fees he's been ordered to pay.

"There's still an outstanding judgment for $21,000 plus interest, and that's not going to go away," Selz said. 

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