Law Suits & Courts

Lawyer loses license for advising clients to break into foreclosed homes

Posted on Sunday, March 20, 2011

The State Bar of California has removed the law license of Michael T. Pines, a lawyer who garnered substantial media coverage for advising clients to break into their foreclosed homes.

The state bar advised Pines, of Pines & Associates in Encinitas, Calif., on March 11 that the it was placing him on inactive status, citing "substantial harm to clients or the public."

"To remove a lawyer from active practice on an interim basis before formal charges are filed is a drastic remedy," Chief Trial Counsel James Towery said in a prepared statement. "That remedy is justified by the established misconduct of Michael T. Pines. He has shown complete disrespect for the law, the courts and especially the best interests of his clients. Removing Mr. Pines from active practice is an important step in our mission of public protection."

Pines did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. A phone number listed for his law office was disconnected.

Since the mortgage meltdown, Pines has been advising clients to break into their foreclosed homes. According to the state bar, Pines, who has law offices in Carlsbad, Calif., often helped clients hire locksmiths to get into their homes, despite warnings by the courts and the police. Although Pines asserted that his clients were illegally foreclosed upon, the state bar maintains that they had no legal right to break into the houses, which were located in Carlsbad, Newport Beach and Simi Valley, Calif.

"Respondent acts with calculated purpose," Deputy Trial Counsel Brooke Schafer wrote in a petition that the state bar filed in State Bar Court on March 11. "He is harming both his clients and the public by advising clients to take the law into their own hands, and he uses his law license as a weapon."

From October 2010 to February 2011, Pines has been cited several times for contempt and arrested. On Feb. 18, he was arrested for making threats against the occupants of a house once owned by one of his clients, according to the state bar petition. His clients lost their home in a trustee sale in December 2010. On Feb. 19, Pines was cited for trespassing at the property, and on Feb. 23 he was cited for violating a temporary restraining order by being at the site.

On Oct. 13, he told police in Newport Beach that he and a client were planning to re-possess a house lost in foreclosure in July 2009, according to the state bar petition. For five hours, Pines "kept approximately seven police officers and an assistant city attorney wrapped up in his media circus" until he and his client were arrested, Schafer wrote.

That same month, Pines helped his clients go to their foreclosed home in S imi Valley and advised them to break in, despite a court ruling forbidding them from doing so, the petition said. The house had been foreclosed upon in January 2010.

Pines was admitted to practice in California in 1977 and had no prior record of discipline.

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