Learning the rules of civil procedure and the rules of appellate procedure is crucial in winning a case. The rules of appellate procedure can be very tricky if not clearly understood. In a recent opinion from Florida 1st District Court of Appeals, a pro se litigant made a fatal mistake in calculating the time to file her notice of appeal. She failed to timely file her motion for reconsideration; which is ten days from the entry of the order or judgment. She thought that the motion for reconsideration would toll the time for appeal. Her assumption is correct had she timely filed her motion. However, since the motion for reconsideration was not timely, it had no effect in tolling the time for appeal. Since the appeal time was not tolled her filing of the notice of appeal was done more than thirty days from the final judgment and deemed untimely. The appeal court has no jurisdiction to hear her case. The mistake cost her her appeal. If you're planning to file an appeal ensure that you are familiar with appellate practice.
Every judge in Florida is required to file an annual financial disclosure with Florida Commission on Ethics. Any citizen can obtain a copy of that disclosure report via a public record request. A litigant should request a copy for the judge assigned to his/her case in order to determine if there is a conflict of interest. If the judge has financial interest in a bank that is suing you, you may want to consider recusing the judge.
To obtain a copy, send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org with the judge name and the report year you're interested in.
Florida Second District Court of Appeal released an interesting new opinion a few days ago (Barrunn v. Talmer Bank & Trust). The opinion can be found at: http://www.2dca.org/opinions/Opinion_Pages/Opinion_Pages_2013/February/February%2001,%202013/2D12-446.pdf.
Section 702.10(1) of Florida Statute allows a plaintiff to invoke an expedited foreclosure procedure. If the defendant does not show cause why a judgment should not be entered, the judge will have to grant the judgment to the plaintiff. The defendant can defeat this expedited procedure by filing an opposition to the motion with his affirmative defenses. It is quiet possible that this new tactic will start to be used more frequently by plaintiffs. If the foreclosure is uncontested, which is about 90% of most foreclosure suits, the plaintiff can obtain a judgment rather rapidly. It is becoming more difficult for plaintiffs to get summary judgment nowadays; there are too many case laws in favor of homeowners. The new tactic that they are using now is to bypass the summary judgment stage and directly go to trial. Most pro se cannot properly defend themselves at trial, and most defense attorneys are not experienced in trial advocacy. One defense the homeowner has, is to file a counterclaim with a demand for jury trial; this will bring the case to a grinding halt.
I recently went to court to observe some foreclosure proceedings. At the end, the judge stood up to leave the courtroom. She started chatting with another attorney from a foreclosure mill law firm. The judge was bragging about her vacation plan. She even went as far as inviting the foreclosure mill attorney and his family to join her in her vacation escapade. Don’t you think this attorney will be treated differently the next time he appears before the judge? This kind of judge-attorney social networking exists everywhere in the legal profession; however that does not mean it is ethical. I just happened to be there at the right time and the right place to catch it. This is another bias, a pro se has to content with in the world of foreclosure litigation.