Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has signaled that it may be issuing sanctions against one of South Florida’s most outspoken foreclosure defense attorneys.
In a Sept. 26 opinion, the appeals court ordered Bruce Jacobs to show cause within 10 days as to why the court should not levy sanctions against him. The order maintains that there is a “reasonable basis” to surmise that Jacobs violated Florida Bar rules in addition to regulations for procedure in Florida appellate courts.
“The court reserves jurisdiction to impose such sanctions as may be appropriate and to order further response, including the personal appearance of appellant’s counsel, should the written response be deemed insufficient,” the order read.
Read the Third DCA’s show-cause order against Bruce Jacobs:
The order details several of Jacobs’ alleged infractions while serving as attorney to appellant Aquasol Condominium Association before the appeals court. In the underlying case, HSBC v. Aquasol, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael A. Hanzman ruled in favor of the plaintiff and allowed HSBC to proceed with foreclosure on a Miami-Dade property owned by Aquasol in January 2017.
Following an appeal by Aquasol and Jacobs (who served as Aquasol’s attorney in the trial court as well) the appellate court issued an opinion Aug. 15 affirming the lower court’s ruling.
Jacobs responded by filing a motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc. The appeals court’s show-cause order against Jacobs cites his initial and reply briefs as well as his motions for rehearing and rehearing en banc as grounds for sanctions.
“This court finds there is a reasonable basis to conclude Mr. Jacobs violated his duty of candor to the tribunal by failing to disclose to this court controlling adverse law,” the order stated. The court articulated that Jacobs “was obligated to cite and acknowledge” the controlling adverse law in question — the ruling in HSBC v. Buset, a case that Jacobs served as counsel on in both the trial and appellate court — in light of “its binding and adverse nature.”
The order also chastises Jacobs for the content of his motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc. In addition to accusing the attorney of flouting rules prohibiting frivolous motions and statements “impugning the qualifications or integrity of the judges of this court and of the trial court,” the order also describes Jacobs’ motion as a “desultory diatribe, consisting of personal opinions, reflections and experiences, which are completely outside the record and entirely irrelevant to the issues on appeal or the decision of the court.”
Read Bruce Jacobs’ motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc here:
HSBC’s lawyer, Shawn Taylor of Fort Lauderdale firm DeLuca Law Group, declined to comment.
Jacobs said there is “a fundamental flaw” in the show-cause order in a statement to the Daily Business Review.
“The Third DCA said the Aquasol trial judge expressly and affirmatively’ relied on Buset. The Aquasol trial was held in January of 2017. The Buset opinion was filed in February of 2018, over a year later,” Jacobs said. “The transcripts and the dockets in Aquasol will very clearly show this mistake. I honored my ethical obligations to present both the facts and the applicable law accurately and forthrightly”.
Jacobs also cited other complications that have pervaded the case both in trial and appellate courts, including a motion he filed to disqualify the trial judge after they denied Jacobs’ right to raise an “unclean hands” defense.
“The judge denied me the right to raise this defense and announced he had already decided there was standing. I hadn’t even finished cross-examining the first witness. As a defense attorney, I followed my ethical obligations and asked to file a motion to disqualify him for prejudging the case. A fair reading of the Aquasol trial transcript will show clear reversible error,” Jacobs said.
“No lawyer wants to find themselves in the position of having to ask judges to disqualify themselves. I have an obligation to be a zealous advocate for my clients, even at my own personal risk. Over the last decade of doing this work, I’ve had a number of judges find for my clients on this unclean hands defense,” he continued.
According to Jacobs, “there are many foreclosure defense lawyers who openly fear taking appeals to the Third DCA.”
“The arguments I raise to the Third DCA have been successful in other DCAs around the state,” Jacobs said.
The Third District Court of Appeal has frequently attracted controversy for its rulings in foreclosure cases.