A very complicated case. From the Orange Register:
But interviews, court documents and court testimony this week show that the case is much more complicated than it first appeared.
What everyone can agree on is that Wells Fargo, accompanied by sheriff’s deputies, evicted Black from her home on Oct. 10. Also clear is that Black at one point had received a stay from U.S. Bankruptcy Court, which the bank and the deputies ignored.
Wells Fargo and the sheriff were called into bankruptcy court on Tuesday to explain why they shouldn’t be sanctioned for ignoring the federal court’s order.
Just prior to that hearing, Wells Fargo filed documents with the court that showed a much longer and more complicated history than Black and her lawyers had at first revealed. According to those documents, Black had defaulted on her loan more than three years ago, in 2009 and was foreclosed by the bank and the loan servicer in December 2011. She had also agreed to vacate the home as of July.
Black says the entire dispute began in 2006 when she refused to make payments on a refinancing loan she says she never approved or signed.
But Rick Sharga of Carrington Mortgage Services, says Black refinanced roughly five times, and was $14,751 behind in her payments when the first default notice was filed in 2009. At the time of the foreclosure, in 2011, Black owed $549,275.
Black filed a federal bankruptcy petition in April 2012. That would normally stay any eviction process but the case was dismissed automatically by the court because Black failed to file the required information about her debts and assets within 72 hours.
She then filed a second bankruptcy petition on May 21.
That same month, in Orange County Superior Court, Black’s then-attorney signed a stipulation in Superior Court, in the original foreclosure case, agreeing that she would vacate her home by July 15, 2012. But she didn’t leave, so the servicer on her loan, Carrington Mortgage Services, began the eviction process.
Here’s where it gets even more complicated: After seeing Black’s second bankruptcy filing, Wells Fargo filed a motion asking the federal court to set aside the automatic stay that accompanies such a filing–but then failed to show up for the court hearing on their own motion.
Lisa Woolery, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said the bank dropped its effort to obtain a relief of the stay, since the automatic stay had already run its 30 day course and the bank could now move forward.
At a hearing Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Jason Burris, the lawyer for the bank, apologized to Judge Theodor Albert for not showing up at that July hearing.
“The debtor and her counsel have focused in on this one loose screw in the whole process, that we didn’t show up for the hearing,” Burris said. “We intended to withdraw the motion because we knew the automatic stay had terminated.”
The judge said the bank’s failure to show up at that hearing created enormous confusion.
“That caused Miss Black to somehow think she still has a stay, a rash assumption on her part,” Albert said. But Albert said that he could not find evidence that the bank violated due process or court rules, as he had originally assumed.
“So everyone missed it here a little bit and I’m not particularly proud of it but it doesn’t necessarily mean that anybody gets damages or a sanction,” Albert added.
Black was present in court with her attorneys Thomas Friedman and Stephen Golden. Despite pleas from Golden for the judge to sanction Wells Fargo and the sheriff and grant Black a writ of possession to her home Judge Albert did neither.
“I’m not without sympathy for her (Black) but this is a court of law,” Albert said. “I am perhaps not as stone-hearted as I appear but just because I’m a judge it doesn’t mean I can do whatever I want. A sanction for violation of stay has no basis.”
Albert went on to say he could not and would not place Black back into her home and asserted that, based on the court documents, she didn’t have the right to be in it.
“We plan on pursuing the matter in state court,” said David Browning, a spokesman for Stephen R. Golden and Associates, Black’s lawyers. “We have already filed a notice to overturn the unlawful detainer on Black’s eviction….This entire mess is a disaster and to a very successful foreclosure defense law firm makes no sense and has far too many errors to be real.”
The judge strongly suggested to Wells Fargo and Carrington Mortgage Services that they work with Black’s attorneys to let her into her former home to retrieve her medical equipment within the next 72 hours.