Balancing the Scales of Justice for Pro Se Homeowners

Attorney Verification Matters!

Posted by on Jun 12, 2012

Today we received word that a homeowner won her Demurrer.  The homeowner argued in the Demurrer that JP Morgan Chase is a large corporation with 240,000 employees, and therefore it made no sense that JP Morgan Chase did not verify the Complaint.  The Judge agreed!  The Judge stated he “could not comprehend how a corporation the size of JP Morgan Chase did not have one single employee available to sign” – the Demurrer was granted and JP Morgan Chase was given 10 days to re-file the complaint with the correct verification.

Couple of key things –  the homeowner included 4 exhibits to be judicially notice – the website of JP Morgan demonstrating the number of employees and a corporate address in Los Angeles County; a Press Release on Senior Vice President, Peter Barker, who has resided in Los Angeles County for years; and two judicially notice articles on LInkedin Profiles showing how many VP’s are in Los Angeles County, with their names.  NONE of these were granted, but the effort was not lost on the Judge; he recognized that JP Morgan is too big to not have someone available.

The second key winning ingredient was the homeowner hired a limited scope attorney to represent her in Court.  The Homeowner recognized that she was not positioned to argue the Demurrer so she hired an attorney to argue the Demurrer on her behalf – a winning decision!  It also helped that the Attorney understood the attorney verification issue and AGREED with the Demurrer.

Key wording (which we discuss in our California Homeowners Fighting Unlawful Detainer):

The Complaint is to be a verified complaint upon which the Plaintiff seeks to establish a prima facie case with the rebuttable presumption that CCC § 2924 was followed and title has been duly perfected.  The Complaint must be verified by the Plaintiff unless absent from the County.  As per the Judicial Notice, JP Morgan has multiple offices in Los Angeles County upon which officers of the Corporation are present and available to verify the complaint.  The attorney is not being forthright and truthful with the Court.

An attorney should not verify the Complaint, as per CCC § 446, unless the client is absent from the County or the facts are within the attorney’s personal knowledge.  For the attorney to act as a witness to the Complaint based on their “information and belief” the attorney is stepping into the shoes of the Plaintiff and can be called upon as a witness.  The Complaint must contain a written authorization by the Plaintiff authorizing the attorney to act as “his witness” –without such authorization an Attorney verifying the complaint is in violation of the California Rules of Professional Conduct 5-210(c).

For these reasons, pursuant CCCP § 1166(a) this is an improperly verified complaint and this demurrer should be sustained with leave to amend.

 Under Argument:

B.  VERIFICATION IS REQUIRED

  1. The Plaintiff must plead with standing and sufficiency.  As our Supreme Court has said in Silcox v. Lang, (1889) 78 Cal. 118, 122: “The Practice of attorneys verifying for their client should be discouraged, and to that end, the provision of the code should receive a strict construction.
  2. Civil Code of Procedure § 446 does not authorize  attorney verification where absence of the party creates no inability on his part to verify.  An unlawful detainer is a drastic measure upon which the lives of the Defendant are impacted as they are faced with possible dispossession of their home.  This is not a matter that should be treated with a cavalier attitude in which the Plaintiff can escape their legal responsibility to verify by affidavit or declaration of the facts by pretending they are not available.  The Plaintiff seeks to leverage several documents that are based on “information and belief” rather than personal knowledge of ANYONE involved – this includes the recitals of the Trustee Deed Upon Sale and this Complaint.

C.            JP MORGAN CHASE IS IN THE COUNTY

  1. The Summons and Complaint both indicate that the Plaintiff is one JP Morgan Chase and the attorney verification indicates the Plaintiff was “not in the county this day”.  JP Morgan Chase is a multi-national corporation which according to their website operates in over 60 Countries with 240,000 employees, including officers in California.(See JN#1).   Peter Barker, the California Chairman has resided in Los Angeles since 1978, is just one of many executives who are available for verification of the Complaint. (See JN#2 and #4)  According to Linkedin, an online database of profiles of business professionals, over 342 JP Morgan Chase employees identify themselves as being in Los Angeles, including over 56 profiles claiming an executive role of Vice President or higher. (JN#3)  The attorney is not being truthful with the Court.

D.  ATTORNEY CAN NOT ACT AS A WITNESS WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION

  1. The only time the plaintiff’s attorney may verify the complaint is when the plaintiff is absent  from the county where the attorney has his or her office or is otherwise unable  to verify the complaint; or the facts are within the personal knowledge of  the attorney verifying the complaint. CCP § 446; League of Women      Voters v. Eu (1992) 7 CA4th 649, 656.

                 Furthermore, California Professional Codes  5-210 holds that attorneys will not act as witnesses without written authorization of their clientThe Complaint holds no written acknowledgement from Plaintiff as required by California Rules of Professional Conduct 5-210(c) The member has the informed and written consent of the client  to allow an attorney to act as a “witness”.

E.  JP MORGAN NEEDS TO VERIFY REGARDLESS

  1. In DeCamp      v. Kensington Corp. (1978) 83 Cal. App.3d 268, 275 the Court  recognized that attorney verification should only be permitted where the   client’s absence from the county makes it impractical or impossible.  The Court found, If the client can be reached by mail, no such impossibly exist…and the      attorney verification is not allowed”.   NOT ALLOWED.  This cannot be any more direct or plain in its language.  Plaintiff’s attorneys know this, or should know this.  Clearly the Court recognizes this matter not to be taken lightly and that all the parties involved need be accountable in following the strict construction of the law.

Again, we are very happy and PROUD of Eden standing up for her rights!   Attorney verification is an unethical practice in my book…if the bank is going to take your house then they damn well should sign the complaint.  We will keep you apprised to how she does in the follow up litigation…so stay tuned!

 KEEP UP THE FIGHT!

 

Simonee

One Comment

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  1. Los Angeles County California Business Law Lawyer

    It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that you simply shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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