Legal Ethics

Fla. AG Can't Probe Law Firms in 'Foreclosure Mill' Investigation, Judge Says

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A probe of four “foreclosure mill” law firms by the Florida attorney general’s office suffered a setback today.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jack Cox not only quashed a subpoena against one of the firms as overbroad and unduly burdensome but suggested in his ruling that the AG lacks power to investigate a law firm, reports the Tampa Tribune.

Only the Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court regulate lawyers and law firms, Cox said in his order. “The idea that the attorney general has authority to regulate, discipline or otherwise control attorneys under consumer protection legislation … is a constitutional absurdity,” the order said.

A lawyer for the victorious Shapiro & Fishman firm called the AG’s probe an “abuse of power,” and a spokesman for the state said it is evaluating its options, including a possible appeal.

The AG’s subpoena was issued under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, wrote Cox, but “[t]he court finds that the conduct alleged is already subject to regulation by the Florida Supreme Court acting through the Florida Bar,” reports the South Florida Business Journal.

Hence, “the attorney general does not have the constitutional authority to travel under FDUTPA to investigate and/or discipline the Shapiro firm’s alleged malfeasance in its practice of law,” the judge writes.

Related coverage: “Shapiro & Fishman Squares Off with Fla. AG, Calls Law Firm Foreclosure Probe an Abuse of Gov’t Power” “‘Foreclosure Mill’ Law Firms Under Pressure from Lawmakers”

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