EX PARTE COMMUNICATION, TOO
It was just a routine foreclosure case. Nothing special. Just another poor smuck losing his house. The pupose of the hearing was to determine how much the smuck was going to have to pay the bank in addition to giving up his house. In legalese, that’s a deficiency judgement. The smuck appealed to the Third District Court of Appeals— but he lost there, too. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favor of the bank.
Appeals Judge Juan Ramirez Jr was the sole dissenting judge— but, boy, was his dissenting opinion a barn-burner! “In my view, to affirm what happened here requires that we turn a blind eye to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, and the Code of Judicial Conduct, to say nothing of the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Florida,” Judge Ramirez wrote.
“I dissent because I cannot condone the unprofessional and unethical means used by the bank’s counsel, with the trial court’s complicity, to obtain an amended final judgment in this case. Counsel for Centennial Bank admitted at oral argument that the amended final judgment, which more than doubled the amount of the deficiency judgment, was obtained after an ex parte communication with the judge’s chambers.
“Either the judge or her staff then advised counsel on how to proceed,” Judge Ramirez continued. “Not only was it improper for the trial court to give legal advice, but the advice was wrong— directing counsel to send a letter with a proposed amended final judgment, rather than to file a motion seeking appropriate relief. This was then followed by another ex parte communication— a letter from the bank’s counsel to the judge, that then resulted in a new final judgment two and half times larger than the previous final judgment. The bank did not even send a copy of the letter to the appellant.”
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