By Carolyn Zellander
Following is an interview Michael T. Pines, a Carlsbad attorney who made national headlines for advising clients to “occupy” foreclosed homes. Back in 2011 he was charged with 18 counts of misconduct stemming from his representation of the former owners of three foreclosed homes — in Carlsbad, Newport Beach and Simi Valley. He was released from jail three months ago and will probably be booted out of the legal profession according to a decision by a State Bar Court judge public Thursday. 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.
Gloria Steinem said “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”. Michael T. Pines was one of the first few attorneys with in-depth knowledge of the truth surrounding the near collapse of our economy caused by Wall Street. Michael has been painted (in some circles) as that crazy, foreclosure lawyer who needs to be in a mental institution, or worse, jail, especially by those in powerful positions. I personally believe Michael T. Pines is a true humanitarian who is now coming into his own. As a student of activism, I am learning that anger is potent, but yes, we have to use it wisely.
If we have (and keep) the moral high ground, it is compelling and people will join, and if we don’t we will look like a cranky wing nut. What follows is a quote by Malcolm X and is fitting to describe the space of Michael T. Pines: “Integrity gives deep meaning and moral force to anger. We should never come off as mad-for-the-sake-of- being-mad, but rather reluctantly, genuinely angry in the face of outrageous circumstances”. Of course less informed persons would view this as “crazy“.
As a member of the San Diego Foreclosure Strategists Group (SDFSG), I first met Michael at a planning meeting on March 1st, 2012. The primary objectives of SDFSG include educating stressed homeowners and finding solutions and/or alternatives to foreclosure. Michael was an invited guest of a planning session for an action directed toward District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Several homeowners with documented incidences of fraud, which when presented to the District Attorney‘s office, had fallen on deaf ears. We did carry out that action at a public function. The action was effective, but Michael paid a price, two days later, he was in jail again. Violation of bail, I believe was the reason given.
I researched and read the colorful, conflicting articles, blogs and other stories on the Internet. I believe he has been googled as much as President Obama and is just as controversial (at least initially). As I read …I got it! Michael T. Pines is unique in that he has an intelligent grasp on the broken laws, Fraud and the Wall Street players involved in the Financial Rape of our Country. He is equally passionate about getting justice for the countless victims of this financial terrorism.
After three months of incarceration, Michael was recently released from jail. We had posted petitions, wrote letters and called the District Attorney’s office pleading for Michael’s release. Some were reluctant to sign the petition in light of the negative propaganda; admittedly, no one is perfect or without faults, however there is a preponderance of evidence pointing to the overall good intentions of the man we know as Michael T. Pines.
I asked Michael if he would sit down for a no holds barred interview with me…I wanted to understand what drives this man, who could be enjoying a totally different lifestyle. Also, I wanted him to share what he wants people to know about him and his work. This what happened:
Carolyn: Michael, you have been accused of breaking the law by directing foreclosed owners to re-enter their homes. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, said “An individual who breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.” What are your feelings about this?
Michael: I have never broken the law, it’s the law that’s broken. Analogy: A client comes to me as an attorney and tells me her car has been stolen and forged documents are going to be used to resell it. As an attorney my advice to her must be to call the police, get a locksmith, and go get the car. It is no different with a house except that the police arrest the true owner because they have been brainwashed by the banks into believing the homeowners are the criminals for not paying their mortgages. If the client does not try to retake the home while the legal case is pending it will be sold to another innocent victim. When the homeowner eventually wins in court, they will have to evict the new owner and the cycle of fraud continues. There have already been many cases of homeowners winning in court after years of litigation and then having to go back and evict an innocent new homeowner to get their house back. I recall several in the news because it was a military family that bought the house.
Carolyn: I read your law license has been suspended. How do you plan to sustain yourself in the immediate future?
Michael: Three things: 1) Give seminars. I can do this because it is general legal information and not case specific so it is not practicing law. 2) Consult with attorneys on cases as an expert. 3) Work with real estate brokers who want to perform transactions legally. 4) Do as much charitable work in the area of foreclosure fraud as I can.
Carolyn: Michael, you know I am a big fan and want to see you continue this fight for justice, but honestly, after all the arrests, jail time and bad press, what motivates you to continue?
Michael: It is a wonderful thing when you like your work and are doing good. I of course need to make a living and enjoy fighting for justice.
Carolyn: What happened initially? How did you get so emotionally involved as to risk your financial welfare and safety, for others?
Michael: 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. Over 7000 “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.
Carolyn: Michael, I sent you an email in jail stating that I believe you will be vindicated and recognized as the true humanitarian you are. What do you want the history books to reflect about you?
Michael: I am flattered and a little embarrassed as the suggestion that I am important enough for someone to even suggest I might be in the history books. I would like them to say I did what was morally right and legal, but it took a long time for people to realize this and I paid an enormous personal price.
Carolyn: What is the one thing you most want people to understand about you?
Michael: That I would never do anything illegal, unethical, or unjust, and never have.
Carolyn: I understand you cannot and do not provide legal advice in your role as Mortgage/Real Estate Consultant. However, for those wanting to contact you for a consult, I would like to provide an email address for you. Will you provide that?
Michael: Yes. Michaeltpines@gmail.com. However, I only work directly with attorneys. If people don’t have an attorney I can refer them to several I work with.
Carolyn Zellander is a Council Organizer for MoveOn.Org, Member of San Diego Foreclosure Strategists Group and Retired IT Professional.