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Judge Schack Rips Into “Debt Collector” Steven J. Baum P.C., Cancels Notice of Pendency WELLS FARGO v. ZELOUF

Judge Schack Rips Into “Debt Collector” Steven J. Baum P.C., Cancels Notice of Pendency WELLS FARGO v. ZELOUF


Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Plaintiff,

against

David Zelouf, et. al., Defendants.

17524/09

Plaintiff

Michael Joblonski, Esq.

Steven J. Baum, PC

Buffalo, NY

Defendant

The defendant did not answer.

Arthur M. Schack, J.

In this foreclosure action, plaintiff, WELLS FARGO, N.A. (WELLS FARGO), moved for summary judgment and an order of reference and related relief for the premises located at 14 Stockholm Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3253, Lot 13, County of Kings). The Court received a notice of withdrawal of the instant motion, dated February 18, 2010, from plaintiff’s counsel. There was no valid explanation or reason given by plaintiff’s counsel for his request to withdraw the motion.

Further, plaintiff’s counsel states in his notice of withdrawal, “[t]he Plaintiff will not be discontinuing the above referenced action.” Moreover, in his cover letter to myself, plaintiff’s counsel states that “[t]he law firm of Steven J. Baum, P.C. and the attorneys whom it employs are debt collectors who are attempting to collect a debt. Any information obtained by them will be used for that purpose.” Since this statement was in a cover letter to me and does not appear to be preprinted on the letterhead of the Baum firm, the Court would like to know what debt it [*2]personally owes to the Baum firm or its clients? This statement borders upon frivolous conduct, in violation of 22 NYCRR § 130-1.1. Was it made to cause annoyance or alarm to the Court? Was it made to waste judicial resources? Rather than answer the above rhetorical questions, counsel for plaintiff is directed never to place such a foolish statement in a cover letter to this Court. If this occurs again, the firm of Steven J. Baum, P.C. is on notice that this Court will have the firm and the attorney who wrote this nonsensical statement appear to explain why the firm and the individual attorney should not be sanctioned for frivolous conduct.

With respect to the request of plaintiff’s counsel to withdraw the instant motion for summary judgment and an order of reference, the Court grants the request to withdraw the motion. However, since plaintiff is not discontinuing the instant foreclosure action, the Court, to prevent the waste of judicial resources, dismisses the instant foreclosure action without prejudice. If plaintiff’s counsel chooses to renew the instant motion and restore the instant case, plaintiff’s counsel must comply with the new Rule, promulgated by the Chief Administrative Judge on October 20, 2010, requiring an affirmation by plaintiff’s counsel that he communicated on a specific date with a named representative of plaintiff WELLS FARGO who informed him that he or she:

(a) has personally reviewed plaintiff’s documents and records relating

to this case for factual accuracy; and (b) confirmed the factual

accuracy of the allegations set forth in the Complaint and any

supporting affirmations filed with the Court as well as the accuracy

of the notarizations contained in the supporting documents filed

therewith.

Further, plaintiff’s counsel, based upon his or her communication with plaintiff’s representative or representatives, “as well as upon my own inspection and reasonable inquiry under the circumstances, . . . affirm that, to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief, the Summons, Complaint and other papers filed or submitted to the Court in this matter contain no false statements of fact or law.”

Counsel is reminded that the new standard Court affirmation form states that “I am aware of my obligations under New York Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 1200) and 22 NYCRR Part 130.” These Parts deal with disciplinary standards and sanctions for frivolous conduct.

Discussion

Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) § 1321 allows the Court in a foreclosure action, upon the default of the defendant or defendant’s admission of mortgage payment arrears, to appoint a referee “to compute the amount due to the plaintiff.” In the instant action, plaintiff WELLS FARGO’s application for an order of reference is a preliminary step to obtaining a default judgment of foreclosure and sale against defendant ZELOUF. (Home Sav. of Am., F.A. v Gkanios, 230 AD2d 770 [2d Dept 1996]). Plaintiff’s request to withdraw its motion is granted. However, to allow this action to continue without seeking the ultimate purpose of a foreclosure action, to obtain a judgment of foreclosure and sale, makes a mockery of and wastes judicial resources. Continuing the instant action without moving for a judgment of foreclosure and sale is the judicial equivalent of a “timeout,” and granting a “timeout” to plaintiff WELLS FARGO is a waste of judicial resources. Therefore, the instant action is dismissed without [*3]prejudice.

Further, the dismissal of the instant foreclosure action requires the cancellation of the notice of pendency. CPLR § 6501 provides that the filing of a notice of pendency against a property is to give constructive notice to any purchaser of real property or encumbrancer against real property of an action that “would affect the title to, or the possession, use or enjoyment of real property, except in a summary proceeding brought to recover the possession of real property.” The Court of Appeals, in 5308 Realty Corp. v O & Y Equity Corp. (64 NY2d 313, 319 [1984]), commented that “[t]he purpose of the doctrine was to assure that a court retained its ability to effect justice by preserving its power over the property, regardless of whether a purchaser had any notice of the pending suit,” and, at 320, that “the statutory scheme permits a party to effectively retard the alienability of real property without any prior judicial review.”

CPLR § 6514 (a) provides for the mandatory cancellation of a notice of pendency by:

The Court,upon motion of any person aggrieved and upon such

notice as it may require, shall direct any county clerk to cancel

a notice of pendency, if service of a summons has not been completed

within the time limited by section 6512; or if the action has been

settled, discontinued or abated; or if the time to appeal from a final

judgment against the plaintiff has expired; or if enforcement of a

final judgment against the plaintiff has not been stayed pursuant

to section 551. [emphasis added]

The plain meaning of the word “abated,” as used in CPLR § 6514 (a) is the ending of an action. “Abatement” is defined as “the act of eliminating or nullifying.” (Black’s Law Dictionary 3 [7th ed 1999]). “An action which has been abated is dead, and any further enforcement of the cause of action requires the bringing of a new action, provided that a cause of action remains (2A Carmody-Wait 2d § 11.1).” (Nastasi v Nastasi, 26 AD3d 32, 40 [2d Dept 2005]). Further, Nastasi at 36, held that the “[c]ancellation of a notice of pendency can be granted in the exercise of the inherent power of the court where its filing fails to comply with CPLR § 6501 (see 5303 Realty Corp. v O & Y Equity Corp., supra at 320-321; Rose v Montt Assets, 250 AD2d 451, 451-452 [1d Dept 1998]; Siegel, NY Prac § 336 [4th ed]).” Thus, the dismissal of the instant complaint must result in the mandatory cancellation of plaintiff WELLS FARGO’s notice of pendency against the subject property “in the exercise of the inherent power of the court.”

Last, if plaintiff WELLS FARGO’s counsel moves to restore the instant action and motion, plaintiff’s counsel must comply with the new filing requirement to submit, under penalties of perjury, an affirmation that he or she has taken reasonable steps, including inquiring of plaintiff WELLS FARGO and reviewing all papers, to verify the accuracy of the submitted documents in support of the instant foreclosure action. According to the October 20, 2010 Office of Court Administration press release about the new filing requirement, Chief Judge Lippman said:

We cannot allow the courts in New York State to stand by idly and

be party to what we now know is a deeply flawed process, especially

when that process involves basic human needs — such as a family home — [*4]

during this period of economic crisis. This new filing requirement will

play a vital role in ensuring that the documents judges rely on will be

thoroughly examined, accurate, and error-free before any judge is asked

to take the drastic step of foreclosure.

(See Gretchen Morgenson and Andrew Martin, Big Legal Clash on Foreclosure is Taking Shape, New York Times, Oct. 21, 2010; Andrew Keshner, New Court Rules Says Attorneys Must Verify Foreclosure Papers, NYLJ, Oct. 21, 2010).

Conclusion

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, that the request of plaintiff, WELLS FARGO BANK, N. A., to withdraw its motion for an order of reference, for the premises located at 14 Stockholm Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3253, Lot 13, County of Kings), is granted; and it is further

ORDERED, that the instant action, Index Number 17524/09, is dismissed without prejudice; and it is further

ORDERED, that the notice of pendency in the instant action, filed with the Kings County Clerk on July 14, 2009, by plaintiff, WELLS FARGO BANK, N. A., to foreclose a mortgage for real property located at 14 Stockholm Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3253, Lot 13, County of Kings), is cancelled; and it is further

ORDERED, that if plaintiff, WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., moves to restore the instant foreclosure action and motion for an order of reference for real property located at 14 Stockholm Street, Brooklyn, New York (Block 3253, Lot 13, County of Kings, counsel for plaintiff must comply with the new Court filing requirement, announced by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on October 20, 2010, and ordered by Chief Administrative Judge Ann T. Pfau on October 20, 2010, by submitting an affirmation, using the new standard Court form, pursuant to CPLR Rule 2106 and under the penalties of perjury, that counsel for plaintiff, WELLS FARGO BANK, N. A.: has personally reviewed plaintiff’s documents and records in the instant action; confirms the factual accuracy of plaintiff’s court filings; and, confirms the accuracy of the notarizations in plaintiff’s documents.

This constitutes the Decision and Order of the Court.

ENTER

________________________________
HON. ARTHUR M. SCHACK

J. S. C.

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