The Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar is seeking disciplinary action against three lawyers it contends willfully misled courts by allowing a practice that became known as “robo-signing” during the nation’s mortgage foreclosure crisis.
The allegations against the lawyers, who represented GMAC Mortgage, resulted from a case that had national repercussions, including the temporary suspension of foreclosures by GMAC and other big mortgage lenders. The case also led to congressional hearings and prompted all 50 states to enter a joint investigation into the mortgage industry.
The three lawyers, who worked for the Portland law firm Drummond and Drummond, are scheduled to appear Monday before a three-person grievance panel at the Board of Overseers of the Bar in Augusta. The hearing is expected to continue into Tuesday with witness testimony.
The three – Philip Mancini of Portland, Paul Peck of Portland and Alexander Saksen of Pittsburgh, Pa. – have denied the allegations in documents filed by their attorneys and have requested that the disciplinary petition be dismissed.
The foreclosure case that led to the allegations involved Nicolle Bradbury of Denmark. It gained national attention when her attorney found that GMAC Mortgage and other banks engaged in a pattern of “robo-signing” sworn court documents – processing them quickly for use in foreclosures without reviewing records to verify the information.
Bradbury’s attorney, Thomas Cox, who represented her for free through Pine Tree Legal Assistance, is first on a list of witnesses the Board of Overseers of the Bar intends to call at the disciplinary hearing. He filed a formal complaint against Mancini, Peck and Saksen on March 7, 2011.
“Cox’s complaint alleged that Saksen and Peck improperly prepared affidavits in foreclosure cases. Cox further complained that after a June 2010 deposition, all three attorneys learned that numerous affidavits the firm had prepared and filed contained misstatements of facts, which rendered them inherently unreliable,” according to the disciplinary petition filed by Aria Eee, assistant bar counsel to the Board of Overseers of the Bar.
Cox brought the Bradbury case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2011 seeking to have sanctions imposed against GMAC or the Federal National Mortgage Association – Fannie Mae – or to find either in contempt. But in a 5-1 decision, the court upheld a lower court’s ruling against Bradbury, though Justice Ellen Gorman wrote in the majority opinion that the foreclosure filing in Bradbury’s case is “a disturbing example of a reprehensible practice.”
“That such fraudulent evidentiary filings are being submitted to courts is both violative of the rules of court and ethically indefensible,” Gorman wrote.
Maine ultimately received a $21 million share of a $25 billion settlement reached in 2012 by 49 states and the five largest mortgage lenders.
Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at: