Posted on Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010, 6:17pm EDT | Modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010, 8:51am
McCollum foreclosure probe dealt setbackSouth Florida Business Journal - by Paul Brinkmann
Attorney General Bill McCollum suffered a setback in his investigation of foreclosure law firms Monday when a Palm Beach County judge ruled that one of his subpoenas was “overly broad, vague, inconsistent and unduly burdensome.”
McCollum had subpoenaed records from three law firms to investigate whether they concocted false documents in helping lenders foreclose on home loans.
One of the firms, Shapiro & Fishman, fought the subpoena and filed a motion to quash. The firm had even accused McCollum of grandstanding before the primary gubernatorial election this fall that McCollum lost.
Circuit Judge Jack Cox ruled Monday in favor of Shapiro & Fishman.
“It is very troubling to this court that the AG is attempting by way of this subpoena to obtain personal, financial, and business information about the individual partners, the individual employees and others, with giving those individuals notice and an opportunity to protect their Constitutional rights to privacy,” the judge wrote.
According to the judge’s ruling, McCollum’s subpoena had cited the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) and was directed at advertising and market practices, but strayed beyond that focus.
“The courts finds that the conduct alleged is already subject to regulation by the Florida Supreme Court acting through the Florida Bar… As such the Attorney General does not have the constitutional authority to travel under FDUTPA to investigate and/or discipline the Shapiro Firm’s alleged malfeasance in its practice of law,” Cox wrote.
McCollum’s office had limited comment on the ruling. Ryan Wiggans, a spokesman for McCollum’s office, said, “Our attorneys are talking over all options and deciding whether or not to appeal.”
Cox said that McCollum argued in a court hearing that the subpoena seeks to uncover specific information. But Cox wrote that he was confined to the language of the subpoena itself, “which does not have any sort of limiting language.”
Shapiro & Fishman is represented by the Richman Greer law firm in Miami.
They had pointed out that McCollum’s press release announcing the investigation mentioned fabricated mortgage assignments, while his subpoena of the firm’s records mentions only advertising and marketing practices.
McCollum’s office had previously said that the investigation was ongoing for months and “the timing of this had nothing to do with political environment.”
Paul Brinkman SFBJ