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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bondi to appeal court ruling that shields attorneys from foreclosure fraud investigations

30

December

Plagued by accusations that she hasn't done enough to combat foreclosure fraud, Attorney General Pam Bondi's office announced today that she will fight a court decision that prohibits her from going after attorneys.

In April, the state's 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that Bondi does not have the authority to investigate a law firm for alleged fraud under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act because attorneys' work on behalf of lenders did not constitute trade or commerce. The attorney general chose not to appeal.

Two weeks ago, that same court issued a similar opinion in a second case, this time involving the now-defunct Law Offices of David Stern, P.A. Bondi filed a motion today that will allow her to appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court.

In the months between the two rulings, Bondi faced a heap of criticism concerning her office's approach to foreclosure fraud.

She was skewered in July for forcing the resignations of two attorneys leading foreclosure fraud investigations. At the height of the controversy, Bondi agreed to appoint an independent inspector general to look into the matter and two Democratic legislators asked the federal government to open an inquiry.

A few weeks later, assistant attorney general Andrew Spark released a long, critical essay accusing the office of failing to aggressively pursue foreclosure and consumer protection cases, then he quit the next day.

Bondi attributed much of the criticism to politics and disgruntled ex-employees, and said her office has increased the number of staff assigned to investigating foreclosure-related cases compared to former Attorney General Bill McCollum. Her office said today that there are six pending investigations into law firms for potential misconduct in foreclosure cases.

State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, has been one of Bondi's most vocal critics this year. But she welcomed the news that the attorney general is taking new steps to go after attorneys.

"I think she's seen the light," Sobel said. "It's about time."

To read Bondi's motion, click here.

[Last modified: Friday, December 30, 2011 12:27pm]

    

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