Michael T. Pines, 60, Carlsbad, California, an attorney who made national headlines for advising clients to break into their foreclosed homes, may be stripped of his law license.
In her decision and order of inactive enrollment filed June 11, 2012, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz wrote that State Bar rules allow for Pines‘ disbarment because he failed to participate in the disciplinary proceedings against him, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity. Even so, Armendariz wrote that the facts in the case “support the conclusion that respondent is culpable as charged.”
The California State Bar website reflects a disbarment date of November 16, 2012.
As previously reported by Mortgage Fraud Blog, Pines was charged with 18 counts of misconduct stemming from his representation of the former owners of three foreclosed homes – in Carlsbad, Newport Beach and Simi Valley – in late 2010 and early 2011. Pines has been unable to practice law since May 1, 2011, when the State Bar Court placed him on involuntarily inactive status.
According to the Notice of Disciplinary Charges, in February 2011, Pines erroneously told clients Benjamin and Sara Valenzuela that they had a legal right to take back their foreclosed home in Carlsbad, threatened the new owner of the home with violence and repeatedly returned to the property in violation of a temporary restraining order.
In October 2010, Pines went with client Hector Zepeda to Zepeda‘s foreclosed Newport Beach home along with a locksmith in hopes of gaining access to the home. When police arrived, Pines encouraged Zepeda to break a window so police would arrest him and Zepeda could file a lawsuit. Pines also told Zepeda he had a right to re-claim the home, which was untrue.
That same month, Pines accompanied clients Jim and Danielle Earl to break into the couple’s former home in Simi Valley, which had been foreclosed upon. The Earls lived there for several days before the new owner was able to force them out by court order. The home was in escrow at the time but the buyer backed out of the sale after the break-in.
Pines will remain on inactive status until the California Supreme Court acts on the disbarment recommendation.
Deputy Trial Counsel Brooke Schafer said Pines may have presented himself as a strong advocate for his clients but only added to the troubles they faced after losing their homes. “He actually put his clients in danger of civil and criminal penalties by encouraging them and helping them to break the law,” he said.
In the earlier order, State Bar Court Judge Richard A. Honn said Pines viewed himself “as a modern-day Henry David Thoreau, who encouraged civil disobedience to effect universal societal benefits.”
“Respondent sought a few minutes of fame in front of reporters or the television cameras while he violated the law, or encouraged his clients to do so. He used his clients as tools to accomplish these goals. In doing so, he disregarded his duties to his clients and to the public.”
“The issue in the Pines case is not simply his ego and refusal to follow the law, it is his willingness to act in total disregard for public safety and order which makes him a threat to the public,” said Senior Trial Counsel Kevin Taylor.