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Appellate Court Imposes Sanctions Against Outspoken Foreclosure Attorney

Bruce Jacobs, with Jacobs Legal. Photo by J. Albert Diaz/ALM

A South Florida appellate court has issued an order imposing sanctions against one of Miami's most vocal foreclosure lawyers.

The Third District Court of Appeal sanctioned Bruce Jacobs in a motion issued Wednesday for violating the Florida Bar rule prohibiting "impugning the qualifications or integrity of the judges of this court and of the trial court."

"That rule provides in relevant part that a lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge,'" the order read. The opinion also held that "Mr. Jacobs’ conduct in the instant case violated ... the most elementary norms of civility and professionalism."

Read the order: falcon-embed src="embed_1"

"While judges and attorneys over the course of their career are subjected to isolated instances of incivility, the instant misconduct is beyond the pale, different not simply in degree but in kind," it continued.

Judge Barbara Lagoa offered the lone dissent, writing that Jacobs had articulated the remedial actions he is pursuing to right his apparent wrong.

"These measures are not insubstantial, and they indicate his understanding of the nature of his conduct," she said. "Because I find that Mr. Jacobs showed good cause in his verified response, I would discharge the order."

The court's filing follows a Sept. 26 order demanding Jacobs to show cause for his purported infractions of Florida Bar regulations as well as rules regarding procedure in Florida appellate courts.

As noted in the Third DCA's show cause order, Jacobs drew the court's ire after submitting a motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc in light of their ruling against his client, Aquasol Condominium Association, in HSBC v. Aquasol. The appellate court's opinion affirmed a lower court's ruling that allowed HSBC to move forward with foreclosure proceedings on a Miami-Dade property owned by Aquasol.

The show cause order referred to Jacobs' motion — which opined that the Third DCA's opinion "misstates the facts underlying the legal issues and ignores controlling Florida Supreme Court precedent" — in no uncertain language. It is described in part as "a desultory diatribe, consisting of personal opinions, reflections and experiences which are completely outside the record and entirely irrelevant to the issues on appeal or the decision of the court."

Benedict "Ben" Kuehne of Kuehne Davis Law. Courtesy photo

In a statement to the Daily Business Review, Benedict "Ben" Kuehne of Kuehne Davis Law in Miami referred to Jacobs as a "dedicated lawyer" who is "truly apologetic and remorseful for his intemperate appellate submission to the appellate court."

"As Bruce fights for the rights of homeowners defending against questionable tactics by financial institutions, he knows that his battle is not with the appellate courts," he said. "He is grateful the Third District has given him the opportunity to explain his lapse of judgment to The Florida Bar. Bruce is resolute in assuring the Bar that his conduct will not be repeated."

Kuehne, along with his law partner Michael Davis and appellate attorney Roy Wasson, assisted Jacobs' response to the order to show cause. According to Kuehne, himself and Davis were contacted by Jacobs in light of their prior experience working together as well as Kuehne's "substantial practice in representing lawyers in Florida Bar matters."

"Bruce remains confident he will be able to continue his foreclosure defense litigation at the highest levels of professionalism," he continued. "He is pursuing several decisional conflict cases to the Florida Supreme Court while he works to bring justice to homeowners."

Wasson did not respond to requests for comment by press time. DeLuca Law Group attorney Shawn Taylor, who represented HSBC in HSBC v. Aquasol, declined to speak on the sanctions against Jacobs.

Jacobs told the Daily Business Review he is appreciatve the Third DCA has given him an opportunity to contextualize his actions before the Florida Bar. He called his comments "intemperate and rash" as well as inconsistent with his "professional obligations as an advocate."

"I have long embraced my responsibilities to advance the interests of justice when representing homeowners in litigation against financial institutions. In this instance, I allowed my frustration to get the best of me," he said. "I earnestly believe the public needs good and responsible lawyers who will champion their causes against powerful corporations."

Jacobs said moving forward he "cannot succumb to the stresses of difficult litigation against difficult adversaries."

"This wake-up call will make me a better advocate as I battle for the integrity of the process for my client," he added.

The appeals court's friction with Jacobs is far from their first clash involving foreclosure cases. Several attorneys have spoken out and claimed the Third DCA rules disproportionately in favor of lenders when compared to other Florida appellate courts.

Related stories:

Third DCA Issues Show Cause Order to Prominent Foreclosure Defense Attorney

Can He Say That? Frustrated Attorney Asks, 'What's Wrong With the Third DCA?'

Miami Court Wipes Ruling That Found HSBC Forged Mortgage Documents