Michael Theodore Pines, Disgraced Foreclosure Attorney or "Banksters" Foe and Occupy Hero?
Remember Michael Theodore Pines, the Carlsbad attorney who advised an old coot to break into his foreclosed Newport Coast home in front of cops and the news media because, the legal eagle asserted, foreclosures are illegal? For getting himself and his client arrested that October 2010 day, as well as similar stunts throughout Southern California, Pines was properly disbarred, a judge just ruled.
But in another corner of our dark planet, Pines is hailed as a hero.
State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz wrote in a decision and order released to the public Thursday that Michael T. Pines--not to be confused with San Diego personal injury attorney Michael Pines--should be stripped of his license to practice law.
The judge faults Carlsbad's Pines for failing to participate in the disciplinary proceedings against him, despite receiving adequate notice and opportunity. If Pines had shown, Armendariz added, the facts in the case "support the conclusion that respondent is culpable as charged."
Portraying himself as a strong advocate for those who were foreclosed or facing the same, Pines actually made matters worse by exposing clients to civil and criminal penalties by openly breaking the law. One case that made national headlines involved 73-year-old Rene Hector Zepeda, who on Pines' advice broke into a five-bedroom, 4,400-square-foot home in Newport Coast that had been lost to foreclosure 16 months earlier.
Pines gave similar advice to clients in Simi Valley and Carlsbad, where the 60-year-old lawyer even threatened a home's new occupant with violence and repeatedly broke a restraining order forbidding him from stepping foot on the property.
His antics led to 18 counts of misconduct before the State Bar. Meanwhile, Pines was found guilty in Orange County Superior Court of misdemeanor vandalism, attempted second degree burglary, the attempted unauthorized entry of a dwelling and obstructing a police officer. Zepeda, who had pleaded no contest to misdemeanor trespassing, testified against Pines, who was released from jail three months ago.
As Pines' license to practice law is currently under suspension pending a decision by the California Supreme Court, Carolyn Zellander, a MoveOn.org council organizer and member of San Diego Foreclosure Strategist Group, just got published in San Diego Free Press her interview with "foreclosure fighter" Pines, who is portrayed as having advised clients to "occupy" their former homes.
"Although he has been scorned by the legal profession, he is a hero to many activists fighting to save homeowners from the perils of the foreclosure crisis," writes Zellander, who goes on to name check Gloria Steinem, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. before their peer Pines is quoted uttering his first, "I have never broken the law, it's the law that's broken."
He goes on to say he is only standing up for all the victims in illegal foreclosure cases: those who were illegally bounced from their homes and the new owners who will be bounced after he gets the foreclosures nullified. Pines recalls seeing such cases in the news. Pines does have one mea culpa moment: "I got so angry and upset at the injustice that I lost some self control. Although what I did was legal, attorneys should stay in their office and in court."
Then the lawyer moves beyond the civil rights leaders whose company Zellander had put Pines in to align himself with the Occupy movement.
"Over 7,000 'Occupiers' have been arrested to date. There are thousands of little guys who were in the real estate industry that are being wrongfully prosecuted because of what the 'Banksters' did, and are still doing, with the full support of our government," Pines says.
To make ends meet, Carlsbad's Guy Fawkes reports he is giving seminars, consulting with other attorneys on foreclosure cases, working with real estate brokers "who want to perform transactions legally" and doing charitable work surrounding "foreclosure fraud." More than anything, he wants people to know what he did was morally and legally right and that he "paid an enormous personal price."
Another huge bill is likely coming.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts