An Interview with Foreclosure Fighter Michael T. Pines

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.

Michael T. Pines being arrested

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. 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. 


  1. avatarCarl collicott says

    There can only be one form of foreclosure in the state of California concerning property that does not belong to the State. Civil Code sect. 2924 ect. was re-enacted in 1933 and revised in 1935 under the provision of section 580 Code of Civil Procedure, its intent was to clarify procedures in Probate. ( code Section 580a is amended to correct terminol¬ogy. See Prob.Code §§ 400-453 (probate referees).
    Section 2953 of the Civil Code (listed below) was added in 1937, to clarify the distintion, and any Mortgage Contract that attempts to waive a court of Law is void and non enforceable


    § 2953. Waiver by borrower of statutory rights; validity; exceptions
    Any express agreement made or entered into by a borrower at the time of or in connection with the making of or renewing of any loan secured by a deed of trust, mortgage or other instrument creating a lien on real property, whereby the borrower agrees to waive the rights, or privileges conferred upon him by Sections 2924, 2924b, 2924c of the Civil Code or by Sections 580a or 726 of the Code of Civil Procedure, shall be void and of no effect. The provisions of this section shall’ not apply to any deed of trust, mortgage or other liens given to secure the payment of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness authorized or permitted to be issued by the Commissioner of Corporations, or is made by a public utility subject to the provisions of the Public Utilities Act. (Added by Stats.1937, c. 564, p. 1605, § 1. Amended by Stats.1939, c. 585, p. 1991, § 1; Stats.1941, c. 599, p. 1983, § 1.)

    § 726. Form of action; procedure
    Form of action; judgment.
    There can be but one form of action for the recovery of any debt, or the enforcement of any right secured by mortgage upon real property, which action must be in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. In such action the court may, by its judgment, direct the sale of the encumbered property (or so much thereof as may be necessary), and the application of the proceeds of the sale to the pay-ment of the costs of court, ……
    The court may, by its judgment, or at any time after judgment, appoint a commissioner to sell the encumbered property. It must re¬quire of him an undertaking in an amount fixed by the court, with sufficient sureties,- to be approved by the judge, to the effect that the commissioner will faithfully perform the duties of his office accord¬ing to law. Before entering upon the discharge of his duties he must file such undertaking, so approved, together with his oath that he will faithfully perform the duties of his office.
    Decree; deficiencies; referees.
    The decree for the foreclosure of a mortgage or deed of trust se¬cured by real property or any interest therein shall declare the amount of the indebtedness or right so secured and, unless judgment for any deficiency there may be between the sale price and the amount due with costs is waived by the judgment creditor or a defi¬ciency judgment is prohibited by Section 580b, shall determine the personal liability of any defendant for the payment of the debt se¬cured by such mortgage or deed of trust and shall name such defend¬ants against whom a deficiency judgment may be ordered following the proceedings hereinafter prescribed. In the event of such waiver, or if the prohibition of Section 580b is applicable the decree shall so declare and there shall be no judgment for a deficiency. In the event that a deficiency is not waived or prohibited and it is decreed that any defendant is personally liable for such debt, then upon application of the plaintiff filed at any time within three months of the date of the foreclosure sale and after a hearing thereon at which the court shall take evidence and at which hearing either party may present owners or their trus¬tees.

  2. avatarDoug Porter says

    I’m posting this note about Mr. Pines from Terry Graham of Mill Valley, Ca:

    RE Carolyn Zellendar’s interview/article (6/23/12) featuring foreclosure attorney Michael T. Pines, I want SDFP to be aware that after many attempts to collect on a small amount Mr. Pines owed me for services he asked me verbally and in writing to provide him in July 2011, I had to file a lawsuit in Marin Superior Court in an effort (so far unsuccessful) to be paid by him.

    On 2/10/12, a judgment requiring Mr. Pines to pay me $377.59 was entered (Case #1110932) by the Court in San Rafael. Following that judgment, I waited for 60 days for payment and then contacted the State Bar to make them aware of the Court’s ruling against Mr. Pines and his failure to pay me, which constitutes a violation of the Code of Professional Ethics governing attorneys licensed to practice in California.

    Anything the San Diego Free Press can do to help me collect from Mr. Pines would be appreciated. Maybe he will return your calls and/or emails.

    In the meantime, please be aware that Mr. Pines’ quote from your article, “I have never broken the law; the law is broken…”, fails to pass the sniff test.

    Terry Graham, Mill Valley, CA

  3. avatarDoug Porter says

    I feel like the messenger boy today. Here’s another Mike Pines wanting to clear up any confusion
    … just read your article about “Michael T. Pines.” Know that there are 2 attorneys, both in San Diego county, named Michael Pines. I have no middle name. As this is a story which has garnered national attention, publishers, editors, news organizations have been kind enough to point out that there are 2 of us. I’m a personal injury attorney and have never met the other Michael T. Pines. Is it possible to amend your story or at least point this fact out in future articles? This whole thing has caused me great expense and economic harm, and it’d be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • avatarCarolyn Zellander says

      I am aware of the other Michael Pines, which is why I am careful to refer to this Attorney as Michael T. Pines. I will certainly make clearer that distinction in any further articles relating to Mr. Pines.

  4. avatar says

    If we had more people willing to stand up and uphold the law this would be exactly what Dr. King was saying. ” An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. ” Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s ashamed all the rhetoic the bank has put out about deadbeat homeowners, buying too much property, living beyond their means, but it’s okay for the banks to steal homes, and rob the country blind and live in lavish lifestyles from stealing from every day Americans, Kudos to Michael Pine and Carol Zellander for exposing these crooks .

  5. avatarMatthew Anderson says

    I admit my bias. Having met and now working with Michael, I’ve known him as a caring individual who is committed to the betterment of the human condition. But that said, I would add, as objectively as can be done, the knowledge that Michael is a caring “human being” beyond his individual self who sees and values a society abundant with fairness and access for all. A noble model indeed, we might all take a look around to see if the shadows of our own humanity are following us.

  6. avatarBon Scott says

    It should be noted that Micheal T Pines charged an upfront fee of 5,000 and an hourly fee of 650. His failure in Marin is well documented. A group in Marin County, California, working to save homes from foreclosure, knows of at least four families that have lost their homes due to Michael T. Pines’s machinations. Several others paid fees and never received services. Michael T. Pines misses filing dates and court dates; he was sanctioned by a judge in Marin County for NOT appearing as scheduled. He has stated in eMails that he “forgot” to file papers on time.

    Not sure why he is considered to be such a saint.