Legal Ethics

Discipline Case Filed Against Lawyer Who Advised Clients to Break Into Their Foreclosed Homes

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Updated: A California lawyer who advised clients to break into their foreclosed homes while he argued in state court that the foreclosures were illegal faces from the State Bar of California discipline for his remarks, the attorney regulatory agency announced today.

The complaint against Michael T. Pines, filed in the State Bar Court, seeks to lift his law license. According to a press release the state bar issued, Pines in February was arrested for threatening the occupants of a house that used to belong to his clients, and the following day was cited for trespassing on the property. Four days later, according to the release, he was cited for violating a temporary restraining order at the site. According to the state bar, Pines told his clients that he may break into the property again.

And in October, according to the release, Pines notified Newport Beach, Calif., police that he and a client were going to take possession of a house that the client lost in foreclosure.

“To remove a lawyer from active practice on an interim basis before formal charges are filed is a drastic remedy,” James Towery, the state bar’s chief trial counsel, stated in today’s release. “That remedy is justified by the established misconduct of Michael T. Pines. He has shown complete disrespect for the law, the courts and especially the best interests of his clients. Removing Mr. Pines from active practice is an important step in our mission of public protection.”

Pines’ alleged actions have been widely noted. In January, the he told a Ventura County judge he’d hire a locksmith himself to get a husband and wife he represents back into their home. Pines admitted to breaking into homes at least half a dozen times so his clients could live in them while he defended their foreclosure proceedings. Also, the Ventura County judge criticized Pines for skipping a contempt hearing, and filing federal and state court lawsuits that he later abandoned. And it was reported that Pines himself has at least six properties in foreclosure, after working as a real estate broker specializing in distressed investments.

Updated March 15 to correct a reference to Michael T. Pines.

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