Carlsbad attorney Michael T. Pines and a client, Danielle Earl, appeared on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan show. The California Bar has suspended Pines’s license.
  • Carlsbad attorney Michael T. Pines and a client, Danielle Earl, appeared on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan show. The California Bar has suspended Pines’s license.
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On April 28, Carlsbad’s Michael T. Pines filed a lawsuit in bankruptcy court boasting that “Michael T. Pines is considered one of the few and earliest experts in the legal issues involved in the foreclosure and real estate crisis. Pines has a law practice.”

That same day, the State Bar of California suspended Pines’s license to practice law. He believes, as he has said in a court filing, that “The vast majority of foreclosures in California are illegal and based on fraud.” So he has counseled clients to break into foreclosed homes and begin living there again. Sometimes Pines has accompanied clients on the break-ins, inviting the media. He has been arrested several times. The state bar judge said Pines doesn’t recognize he is violating the law, legal ethics, and his responsibilities as an officer of the courts.

In his decision, the judge did not refer to Pines’s Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy case. In 2007, Pines got loans totaling $500,000 from California Bank & Trust. He pledged his office at 732 North Coast Highway as collateral. The bank stated that the contract gave it the right to inspect the interior of the property. Pines defaulted but would not let the bank in the door. Pines charged the bank with fraud, and the bank said he was perpetrating a mortgage elimination scam. On January 11 of last year, Pines filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In a recent email exchange, I asked him why he would not let the bank in his office. His reply: “I won’t let any bank on any of my property — ever.”

On May 13 of 2010, the United States Trustee’s office, which oversees the administration of bankruptcy cases, filed a motion to appoint a trustee to Pines’s case. Pines was charged with “grossly mismanaging the estate. He has failed to maintain proper insurance, failed to file reports required by the Bankruptcy Code and Rules, and failed to abide by orders of the court by failing to appear at the continued case status conference, failing to file a statement of financial affairs, failing to employ a property management company, and failing to obtain an order authorizing the payment of insider compensation.” A trustee to manage his bankruptcy was named.

I asked Pines if these charges were true. “The trustees are criminals under criminal investigation,” said he. “The [district attorney] has assigned a special operations investigator — Dan Schmitt.” I sent one email to Schmitt and left two phone messages for him. He did not reply.

As the bankruptcy dragged on, Pines continued to refuse to supply documents such as the statement of financial affairs to the trustee in the case, Leslie Gladstone. On June 17, 2010, the bankruptcy was shifted from a Chapter 11 (reorganization) to a Chapter 7 (liquidation). Why did he not file the statement of financial affairs? “I don’t give criminals information,” he told me.

In court filings, Pines has made a number of charges against Gladstone and her lawyer, Gary Slater. One accusation was that the Region 15 United States Trustee Tiffany Carroll, Gladstone, and Slater were secretly conspiring with illegitimate creditors of the estate. Wrote Pines to me, “All creditors except a few of mine have committed criminal fraud.” In that same filing, he used a technique he has used before. He wrote to Slater, said he was preparing a lawsuit against Gladstone, and said if Slater didn’t get back by 4:30 p.m. that day, he would conclude that Gladstone had no basis for seizing his assets. His explanation: “He never responds. She had no authority.”

In April 2010, the United States Trustee in a court filing questioned “whether [Pines] is improperly depleting estate cash for personal use.” I asked if he were doing so: “Absolutely. It’s my cash and I will do what I want with it,” he replied.

Early this year, Pines tried to disqualify Judge Laura Taylor, who has twice hit him with contempt of court judgments. His main argument was that before going on the bench, she worked for a law firm that had banks as clients. This presented an appearance of impropriety because the banks were a major cause of the foreclosure calamity, he argued. The judge denied his attempt. “The judge’s prior representation of banks in matters wholly unrelated to the matters currently before the court does not create an appearance of impropriety,” she wrote, noting that as a private lawyer she also represented debtors in disputes with banks.

Pines’s statement to me: “She is a liar. (You can quote me.)”

On February 2, Pines wrote the California Commission on Judicial Performance and the chief judge of the Bankruptcy Court in San Diego. Penned Pines, “I am writing to request an investigation of the Honorable Laura S. Taylor. At a minimum she is allowing herself to be manipulated by criminals. At worst she has been involved in a criminal conspiracy herself.” The judge is biased in favor of the United States Trustee, Pines complained. “She has consistently berated me in open court, accusing me of lying, of being unethical, and of malpractice.”

In the case he filed April 28 of this year, Pines named as defendants Gladstone, Slater, the United States Trustee, the United States Marshal, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Carlsbad Police Department, the California State Bar (which he calls “corrupt”), and two individuals for whom he has special animus, Christian McLaughlin and his friend. McLaughlin, an attorney, had once been a tenant in Pines’s office. Pines charged them with a number of sins, such as wrongfully accessing his computers and defaming him.

Then Pines charged that McLaughlin and his friend solicited Gladstone and Slater “to become involved in their conspiracy to harm Pines and they agreed.”

Of the suit, McLaughlin says, “Nobody is really taking it seriously.” McLaughlin once held seminars featuring Pines as a speaker, but McLaughlin got out of the office when he realized what a financial bind Pines was in. He denies the charges, including that of conspiracy.

Even though he does not have a license, Pines says he can still file suits on behalf of himself, and that is true. But if he files suits on behalf of someone else, he faces felony penalties. Pines told me, “I am still telling clients to break in [to homes that have been foreclosed upon] and will continue.”

Michael T. Pines, of Encinitas, is not related to San Diego personal injury lawyer Michael Pines.

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Comments

Javajoe25 May 18, 2011 @ 5:33 p.m.

Surprised you are writing about this guy, Don. Seems like he is lawsuit crazy. He's either nuts or he's on to something? Care to venture an opinion?

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Don Bauder May 18, 2011 @ 7:54 p.m.

I certainly don't approve of his telling people to occupy homes that have been taken over by foreclosure. I feel the State Bar did the right thing in taking his license. I think Pines's words speak for themselves. Best, Don Bauder

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Javajoe25 May 18, 2011 @ 11:21 p.m.

If I read you correctly, it sounds like he is telling people to go back into the homes they were evicted from based on a foreclosure because either the foreclosure was not ligit, or the bank that issued the mortgage failed in their due diligence.

Seems like a long shot, but it sure would be nice to see some of these bankers who knowingly handed out mortgages to people who didn't have a prayer of making the payments, be held accountable. I guess they fall into the "too big to fail" category too. Or maybe it's "too well connected to fail." That works real well too.

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Don Bauder May 19, 2011 @ 6:15 a.m.

I think most people would like to see the bankers and mortgage peddlers who got people to buy homes they couldn't afford, then securitized the mortgages, and raked in loot, brought to justice -- including thrown in jail. But it isn't happening because Wall Street controls Congress. Pines's solution of getting people to break into foreclosed homes is hardly the answer. As the State Bar says, it is breaking the law and encouraging others to do so. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 19, 2011 @ 8:13 p.m.

Pines will be a hero among a small minority of people who have been mistreated in the mortgage scandal. But I think that most people who read his words carefully -- especially people who know something about the law -- will hardly consider him a hero. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 May 19, 2011 @ 10 p.m.

If I read you correctly, it sounds like he is telling people to go back into the homes they were evicted from based on a foreclosure because either the foreclosure was not ligit, or the bank that issued the mortgage failed in their due diligence.

================ "60 Minutes" ran a pice on MASSIVE fraud in the banking foreclosure process last month-and after seeing that and the lack of charges against the banks, the banks not facing any accountability whatsoever for that fraud, well I am throughly convinced we are now a Banana Republic where the system is 100% rigged and biased. A Plutocracy.

Two wrongs never make a right but sooner or later you're going to see widespread violence, anarchy and chaos breakout over this massive fraud perpetrated by Big Business and allowed to flourish by the courts. Pines is certainly a start to this- lets hope the courts get serious about fixing the fraud before the Pines of the world turn out to be a majority-which is not that far off.

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Don Bauder May 20, 2011 @ 7:11 a.m.

Many foreclosures were illegitimate, and the banks are not being punished. Banks' greed led to the mortgage mess, and banks were bailed out, not punished. But that doesn't mean that anybody can take the law into his/her hands, break into homes, denounce BK judges and trustees, along with police officials, as criminals, etc. The revolution has to be non-violent. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard May 19, 2011 @ 4:21 p.m.

Mr. Pines'...basic contention, that banks and their agents often operate illegally is obviously true....

Legal tip: fire any lawyer that calls the judge a criminal, unless he knows how much the judge will charge for a bribe. We hire our lawyers for their USEFUL knowledge.

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Don Bauder May 19, 2011 @ 8:17 p.m.

Yes, banks have acted illegally in the mortgage debacle, and have escaped punishment. But that doesn't justify using the word "criminal" to apply to a judge, the trustee in your bankruptcy, and others. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 May 19, 2011 @ 10:29 p.m.

He sounds like he may have gone off the deep end.

I feel sorry for him in a sense, and also think he is a little koo-koo.

I can see how his ramblings may scare some, but they are just that-ramblings, not threats in any manner whatsoever.

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Don Bauder May 20, 2011 @ 7:15 a.m.

Pines has talked publicly of possible violence, and people being killed, but he is always careful to say that he won't be engaging in the violence -- somebody else will. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard May 20, 2011 @ 9:20 a.m.

My remarks above have been censored, note the "...". Naturally I must repeat and expand on the deleted remarks. [EDITED FOR LIBELOUS ALLEGATIONS...AGAIN] This condition does not mean that he has no grievance. only that all involved should urge him to seek help.....

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Don Bauder May 20, 2011 @ 11:54 a.m.

Others have suggested that Pines seek help. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard May 21, 2011 @ 2:29 a.m.

Mr. Censor,

I libeled no one, alleged nothing. Where I come from, San Diego, suggesting someone seek a doctors help for unsound thoughts is not even an insult, but an offer to join the club. Psychiatric medication is pervasive, open discussion is needed, and should not be censored. I take the handle Psycholizard partly to provoke discussion, and partly to promote my rock band, which is concerned with understanding mental illness. All good rock bands are.

Now libel is defined as deliberate untruth with malicious intent. I wish Mr. Pines well, my statements were a legal defense that doesn't work well in this state. Don't accuse me of libel without even specifying the deliberate untruth. I tell the truth.

Mr. Censor, explain or apologize, you have my Email.

Steve Merrill AKA Psycholizard, Psycho, Technolizard, Electrolizard, or just Lizard.

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Don Bauder May 21, 2011 @ 7:05 a.m.

I do not know what was taken out of your comments because I am not involved in the monitoring process, but I have confidence in our monitors' judgment. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister May 21, 2011 @ 6:25 p.m.

Please pardon me if I missed something, but it seems that half the story is missing--what about the charges he is making? Which are and are not valid?

Just because you're goofy doesn't make you wrong about everything.

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Don Bauder May 22, 2011 @ 7:09 a.m.

To cut the column down to its allotted space, I only focused on his behavior during his bankruptcy. A lot more has been written -- by the Reader and numerous other publications -- about the philosophy behind his activities. He basically believes that foreclosures are illegal because of robo-signings, securitization and the like. Thus, he tells clients to break into their homes after foreclosure, and resume living there. On occasion he helps with the break-in, calling in the press to witness it. He has filed lawsuit after lawsuit against those he believes are thwarting him. He has been arrested several times and responds by suing the police. He calls the officials handling his bankruptcy "criminals." He believes there are numerous criminal conspiracies against him. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 May 23, 2011 @ 1:12 p.m.

Please pardon me if I missed something, but it seems that half the story is missing--what about the charges he is making? Which are and are not valid?

We know from the "60 Mnutes" expose 3 weeks ago that there was HUGE fraud going on n the foreclosure run buy ALL major banks.

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Don Bauder May 23, 2011 @ 9:19 p.m.

Yes, there was huge fraud among bankers and other mortgage peddlers, along with those securitizing the mortgages. This doesn't mean that anybody who is foreclosed upon can, on the dubious advice of a lawyer, break into the home and continue living there. Lawyers shouldn't give such advice. Best, Don Bauder

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ligonlaw Feb. 27, 2013 @ 2:07 p.m.

The mortgage crisis did not affect a small group of people. It was the basis of the meltdown of the American economy and the primary cause of the Great Recession. Wall Street investment banks demanded more and more mortgages so that they could be "securitized" and turned into bonds, which were toxic investments. The big banks, like Bank of America, where I once worked, were in such a hurry to turn bad mortgages into securities that they stopped recording mortgage transactions at the Country Recorders' offices. The big banks and the investment banks began to manufacture fraudulent title documents. These were the documents they brought into court in order to evict people from their homes. The courts became involved in the fraud when they accepted bank documents which were fraudulent. The process was repeated all over the United States. The title to much of the real estate was in limbo as a result of the banks' failure to perfect title. The American people bailed out the banks, the perpetrators of the fraud. Mr. Pines was one of a few lawyers who represented the little people.

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