Defending Foreclosures in Florida Can be Tough on Attorneys

image001Boot Camper husband and wife team Stuart and Margery Golant recently made headlines when Stuart was forcibly removed from courtroom defending a client’s foreclosure.

From the Daily Business Review:

According to Samantha Joseph, He was arrested Nov. 14 in Palm Beach Circuit Senior Judge Howard Harrison’s courtroom and jailed overnight. The incident came to light June 10 when Golant & Golant alleged in another case that the judge systematically discriminates against the law firm and its clients.

“It’s kind of a crazy mess,” said Golant’s wife and law partner, Margery. “This was an elderly man in a business suit arguing a case in court. There was no reason for anybody to touch him … and no reason for Judge Harrison to tell them to remove him.”

Golant, 70, was arrested after the judge found him in contempt and imposed a $500 fine.

“Mr. Golant continued to yell at the judge,” according to the arrest affidavit alleging the attorney “reached for and grabbed” the arresting officer’s throat.

The Boca Raton lawyer was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. The state attorney’s office dropped the charges Jan. 7, noting the sentence imposed by Harrison.

A transcript from the hearing shows tense exchanges between the Golants and Harrison, with the lawyers accusing the judge of denying a motion “as a sanction” against the firm in GMAC Mortgage v. Philip Joseph Maszak et al.

The hearing erupted when Harrison set a trial date for a case the Golants insisted was not ready for trial. The lawyers claim the judge violated state law by pushing ahead on a rocket docket even though pleadings were still outstanding. Harrison dismissed their protests as “appellate law” and asked to “clear the front of the courtroom.”

“You are refusing to hear us, and you’re not even letting us make a record for appeal,” Golant said.

“Step back,” the judge said. “Step back, or you will be held in contempt of court.”

Cell phone video shot in the courtroom shows the situation escalated from a tense verbal exchange to a scuffle with bailiffs after Golant asked Harrison to recuse himself. The judge responded with a contempt charge and an order for bailiffs to remove the attorney from the courtroom.

“You can file a motion any time you want. I want to know why you acted the way you acted,” Harrison said.

“How did I act, your honor?” Golant asked.

“You acted disrespectful of the court, disrespectful of the people that are here,” the judge answered.

“Specifically, your honor, I don’t understand,” the lawyer said.

“You don’t understand?” Harrison asked. “OK, I find you in contempt. I fine you $500.”

Golant then shouted, “Get your hands off me,” as he and deputies scuffled. Golant was bent over a courtroom rail and handcuffed.

“Gentlemen, he has a heart condition,” his wife shouted off camera. “Stop. Stop it.”

A bailiff ordered the courtroom to be cleared, and the hearing ended.

A photograph of Golant’s arms shows his left arm is swollen nearly twice the size of his right arm and bruises above the elbow.

Court spokeswoman Debra Oats declined comment.

The incident caused ripples that shifted to the appellate court when Golant & Golant clients fled a writ of prohibition to disqualify Harrison from their pending foreclosure case.

Richard Cannon and his wife, Meryl, cited fear of bias after the judge’s confrontation with their attorneys in the unrelated case and asked Harrison to step down from their litigation with U.S. Bank N.A.

“In front of Harrison, we don’t stand a chance, and we know it,” Margery Golant said. “And Cannon knew it.”

Fourth District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Dorian Damoorgian and Judge Jonathan Gerber denied the petition in an unsigned opinion issued June 10. Judge Martha Warner dissented.

“I would grant the writ,” she wrote in her dissent. “Even though the motion and affidavit were based upon hearsay, the petitioners filed the required affidavits establishing the facts and circumstances as well as their fear of bias. Their attorney filed the required certificate of good faith. Thus, the motion was technically sufficient.”

“I also think the facts alleged were legally sufficient to require disqualification,” she continued. “The level of animosity between the judge and the petitioners’ lawyer based upon the facts in the motion, which are not merely based upon adverse rulings, is sufficient to create an objectively reasonable fear by petitioners that the judge is so biased against their attorney as to require his disqualification.”