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Honorable Michelle D. Sisco Circuit Court Judge 800 East Twiggs Street, Room 506 Tampa, FL 33602 RE:
Mark P. Stopa, Esq. September 14, 2011
Bank of America. N.A. v. Rodriguez; Hillsborough County Case No. 10-CA-2713
Your Honor: I am in receipt of your September 9, 2011 Order, wherein you granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Extension of Time to file an Amended Complaint, ex parte and without hearing. Lest there be no misunderstanding, I have no qualms about this Order being entered ex parte and without hearing, as an extension of time is a ministerial act that did not need a hearing. However, with all due respect, I am troubled at how you hand-wrote on the Order that Plaintiff “has sixty (60) days from the date of this Order to file an Amended Complaint.” An extension of time is reasonable. But sixty days? Here’s what troubles me. In recent months, i.e. since the senior judge system ended, circuit judges in Hillsborough have been very assertive about their desires to move cases along, often adjudicating motions without hearings, sometimes even threatening sanctions against defense lawyers and homeowners. By way of example, it is not uncommon for me, when a motion to dismiss is denied, to see a judge curtly say I have ten days to answer, acting as if I’m somehow delaying, even though the motion had arguments that have been granted dozens of times in similar cases. I’m not saying you’ve done that, or that this happened in this case, but, as a general matter, this is the dynamic now in place in the Hillsborough courts, and in light of recent judges’ meetings, I trust you realize what I mean. As such, and given the dynamics here, I am, respectfully, troubled at how cavalier the Court was in granting a 60-day extension of time to file an Amended Complaint. Let’s put it this way – I’m confident that if the Motion to Dismiss were denied, then this Court would never have given me 60 days to file an Answer. Heck, I wouldn’t even have asked for 60 days. Respectfully, if I’m not being given 60 days to file an Answer (which is far more timeconsuming than drafting an amendment to a complaint that has already been drafted), then why should a Plaintiff be given 60 days to file an Amended Complaint?
TAMPA 2202 N. Westshore Blvd. Suite 200 Tampa, FL 33607
ORLANDO 4700 Millenia Blvd. Suite 175 Orlando, FL 32839
Telephone: (727) 667-3413
JACKSONVILLE 10151 Deerwood Park Blvd. Building 200, Suite 25 Jacksonville, FL 32256
FORT LAUDERDALE 1560 Sawgrass Corporate Pkwy 4th Floor Sawgrass, FL 33323
My point, I guess, is this. Respectfully, it is unfair for judges to be so vocal about delays, creating circuit-wide procedures of adjudicating motions without hearings and being so assertive and confrontational with defense attorneys and homeowners, while being so lenient with issues like this for plaintiffs. In other words, if judges are going to be strict about delays in foreclosure cases, then do it for both sides. With all due respect, it’s simply not fair for judges to be so lenient about delays on the plaintiffs’ side but so confrontational about it on the defense side. To put it differently, if the Court is so willing to give a 60-day extension to file an Amended Complaint (without notice and without hearing), there should, in my view, almost never be a circumstance where a judge curtly tells me to file an Answer within ten days or makes any broad-sweeping statements to defense lawyers or homeowners about sanctions for delays (certainly in my cases, anyway, as I know I don’t delay). My purpose in writing this letter is not to create an argument or pick a fight with you. In the grand scheme of things, a 60-day extension of time in this case is not a big deal. Rather, I hoped you would realize that all I’m doing is asking for a level playing field in foreclosure cases. Also, I sincerely hope you’ll realize that the circuit-wide perception among judges that foreclosure defense lawyers are delaying is simply not true. As you’ve seen with a situation like this, the issue isn’t delay on the defense side; the issue is that plaintiffs are choosing not to prosecute cases, as seen by this 60-day extension 1 (and countless other acts, e.g. repeatedly cancelling foreclosure sales, which are outside the scope of this letter). I appreciate your sincere attention to this matter.
Sincerely, STOPA LAW FIRM
Mark P. Stopa, Esq. cc: Florida Default Law Group Hon. Manuel Menendez
I’m sure you’d agree that a 60-day extension would never happen by a plaintiff except in the foreclosure context.
TAMPA 2202 N. Westshore Blvd. Suite 200 Tampa, FL 33607 ORLANDO 4700 Millenia Blvd. Suite 175 Orlando, FL 32839 JACKSONVILLE 10151 Deerwood Park Blvd. Building 200, Suite 25 Jacksonville, FL 32256 FORT LAUDERDALE 1560 Sawgrass Corporate Pkwy 4th Floor Sawgrass, FL 33323
Telephone: (727) 667-3413