The Stigma About Lawyers

While waiting for my client’s case to be called today in Bankruptcy Court, a woman’s case was called where she appeared pro-se (representing herself). Opposing her bankruptcy discharge was a government attorney (US DOJ) objecting to the discharge of her student loans. (Government attorney was very professional, by the way, so no issue there.) Student loans have special and very strict standards applicable to discharge, and they are rarely discharged in bankruptcy (which, in my personal opinion, is correct public policy). This woman’s situation is all-too-common – young daughter with medical issues, ugly divorce pending, husband avoiding his support obligations, husband is a lawyer who is gaming the system in family court, limited ability to work due to caring for her child. I left the courtroom, found her in the hallway after, and gave her my card. We take a limited number of pro-bono (no fee) cases each year and this one has the kind of social issues we look for. My law partner, Sally Keenan, would actually be the one handling this – she’s the bankruptcy expert. It’s not likely that the loans will be discharged but we can give her some good advice on options and restructuring, and maybe we can get her to a family court attorney to chase the delinquent husband. I hear plenty of negative lawyer comments every day, some quite venomous, including plenty on dive boats. I don’t mind – some of it is certainly deserved by the profession, and hearing it from all walks of life on dive boats is a good reality check. But when you criticize lawyers, please try to keep some perspective. We are hardly the only lawyers out there trying to do some good – I know plenty of others. There ...


A Legal Victory Against Citimortgage

A very nice legal victory today. Late last year Citimortgage proceeded with a foreclosure sale at the very same time the owners' HAMP mortgage modification was in the final stages of review. Fannie Mae bought the house at the foreclosure sale and the family was facing eviction. Enter our firm. Remarkably, Citi claimed it had every right to proceed on "dual tracks" - both foreclosure and modification evaluation - at the same time with no duty to coordinate between the separate departments. Yes, the owner was on the phone with Citi almost daily alerting them to the conflict and the impending train wreck for her family, which included kids in the local high school. This family was exactly who the HAMP and other modification programs were designed to help. Long time owners who got slammed in the Great Recession and were now back on their feet and qualified for a mortgage modification. Back in January we made a motion to vacate the sale and convinced a judge to stay the eviction proceeding while this mess would be reviewed. The judge scheduled a hearing on the issue of vacating the sale. Citi's attorneys then adjourned the hearing multiple times. Well earlier today, Citi's attorneys conceded. They called us and agreed that they can't defend our motion and would voluntarily vacate the sale (as soon as they and the Fannie lawyers figure out how to do that). I take special pride in taking on banks when they behave poorly. I don't know why, but bankers often think they are the smartest person in the room. They are not. My partner and I like being the only thing that stands between a person or family or small business and an injustice being committed by a behemoth that ...


Failure to Pay Taxes Results in Loss of Driver’s License

So here's something noteworthy for New York State business owners and NYS attorneys. My firm has now been consulted recently by two small business owners whose driver licenses have been restricted to driving to and from work only because they are behind in remitting sales tax they have collected in doing business. Now admittedly, they owe the sales tax and should have remitted it, but this license restriction as an enforcement device is new.  It is by governor executive order within the last year and just starting to be used. It applies to ALL taxes due over $10,000. How far will DMV take this program? That remains to be seen. NYS Tax has always been aggressive, but this is a whole new level. With computer networks and databases today talking to each other, things like this will become more and more common.