Attorney abuse sanctioned: why not HOA attorneys?

This US district court opinion[1] sanctioned lawyers who

“abused the well-established rules applicable to the litigation process by proffering claims not backed by law; proffering claims not backed by evidence (but instead, speculation, conjecture, and unwarranted suspicion); proffering factual allegations and claims without engaging in the required prefiling inquiry.”

This opinion imposed   

“monetary sanctions on nine Trump attorneys was that it was so long in coming  . . . made outlandish claims of election fraud in Michigan and other key battleground states, all of which were roundly rejected by every court that considered them.”

 What has this case to do with HOA attorney conduct? Plenty!  Just read the judge’s opinion (pages 1 – 5) and see why. The highly relevant opinion that can be applied to the conduct of many HOA attorneys:

“Specifically, attorneys have an obligation to the judiciary, their profession, and the public (i) to conduct some degree of due diligence before presenting allegations as truth; (ii) to advance only tenable claims; and (iii) to proceed with a lawsuit in good faith and based on a proper purpose. Attorneys also have an obligation to dismiss a lawsuit when it becomes clear that the requested relief is unavailable. . . This matter comes before the Court upon allegations that Plaintiffs’ counsel did none of these things.”

Be sure to read the footnotes that further explain the justifications!

Furthermore, in response to intervenor, the City of Detroit’s  charges of violations of Rule 11, civil court procedures, that requires the attorney to certify that the lawsuit was not for “an improper purpose”, was not “well-grounded in law, because the factual allegations could not support Plaintiffs’ claims.”   You may recall my arguments on violations of Rule 11[2] as well as Rules of Professional Conduct, “candor to the tribunal (telling the truth)[3].

This country needs  more cities and towns, like Detroit,  to stand up to attorney abuse of their obligations to the judicial system. We need state bar associations to pursue claims of abuse! We need to stop the attorney claims of “professional courtesy” who fail to raise these issues on behalf of their homeowner clients!

Notes


[1] Timothy King et al. v. Gretchen Whitmer et al.,  No. 2:20-cv-13134  Aug. 25, 2021).

[2] See HOA members fail to invoke their strongest weapon — Rule 11, representations to the court.  

[3] See in general, Is CAI’s ‘lack of candor to the tribunal’ intentional? and Misrepresentation: CAI comes with unclean hands.

 

“Rules of Engagement” apply to CAI

Many may feel from all my criticism that I unjustifiably have it in for CAI.  Well folks, you decide whether the CAI propaganda statements and publications that are PR releases is in conflict with its numerous acts before state legislators and the courts.  These contradictory stances are revealed in CAI’s amicus briefswhat I say I don’t do [1].

Advocates have failed to apply the Rules of Engagement to such Doubletalk[2] from CAI allowing the legislators, the media and the BODs to see no evil, hear no evil speak no evil.  These Rules are a very important weapon to discredit CAI and stop the policymakers from trusting their misleading statements; to start believing in the validity of the positions and arguments for HOA reforms coming from homeowners and homeowner advocates.

As a prime example, and there are many others found in the numerous CAI briefs dealing with constitutional HOA issues, is the NJ Supreme Court case in Dublirer.[3] It involved the free speech rights of a homeowner to equal access the HOA facilities in order to distribute BOD election materials to his neighbors – an exercise of his rights in a democracy. Allow me to repeat my quotes[4] from CAI’s NJ Supreme Court amicus brief in Dublirer.[5]

CAI-NJ’s concern is the attempt to convert private communities into constitutional actors and to open such communities to access not only to speakers from within the community but also to the public, while ignoring contractual agreements and non-constitutional protections.

The relationship between the plaintiff and the defendants here is that of a business corporation and so is similar to that involved in any other business corporation. A shareholder who wishes to run for a position on a corporate board has no right to post campaign signs on the corporation’s property. . . . He has no constitutional right to distribute his campaign materials within the cooperative’s property simply because mailing them to the other tenant/shareholders may cost him money”.

In plain English, this is secessionist and a rejection of the Constitution. CAI’s position says the people in an HOA will decide what laws to follow or not to follow. It is an incredulous statement from the organization that claims to be the one and only voice on HOAs, but apparently does not understand or simply ignores constitutional law. The CAI position is in opposition to the  long-standing legal doctrine on the delegation of legislative (lawmaking) powers to private persons.

In order to win, advocates must muzzle CAI’s lack of “candor to the tribunal.”[6]  Judicial and legislative  doctrines hold that an allegation or argument that goes unanswered is held to be true.  That’s why, it seems, advocates are viewed as unbelievable,  because of their repeated silence resulting from a lack of knowledge on how to respond.  This must change!

 

References

[1] See in general, Will the real CAI standup: its contradictory beliefs, pronouncements and goals.

[2] From George Orwell’s novel, 1984, where a person holds two contradictory statements at the same time.

[3] Dublirer v. 2000 Linwood Avenue,  103 A.3d 249 (NJ 2014).

[4] See my Commentary for additional quotes: CAI: the HOA form of government is independent of the US Constitution.

[5] Dublirer CAI Amicus.pdf.

[6] Attorney Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 42, E.R. 3.3

Is CAI’s ‘lack of candor to the tribunal’ intentional?

In my recent complaint letter to the NJ Supreme Court (Complaint filed with NJ Supreme Court for CAI lack of “candor to the tribunal) arguing that CAI lacked “candor to the tribunal” — a violation of attorney professional conduct, RPC 3.3 —  I also charged that the misrepresentation was not accidental or simply an oversight, but was intentional.  “This failure is intentional as evidenced that both the CAI-NJ and CAI ‘Central’ websites do not refer to 501(c)6 status at all.”   

Evidence was provided from several web pages from both CAI-NJ and CAI “Central” that clearly show a co-mingling of representations, an implication that CAI is an educational organization with HOA membership,  and a failure to clearly state that CAI is a 501(c)6 trade organization.

Furthermore, the very fact that CAI-NJ found it necessary to prepare a standard form to justify the validity for HOAs to pay CAI membership fees shows an awareness by CAI of a possible conflict of interest.  It shows CAI advocating for its own agenda and for its HOA clients to breach their fiduciary duties to their members under the law and governing documents.

Further evidence of intentional misrepresentation and a complete disregard of the truth can be found in a 2008 amicus curiae brief to the Colorado appellate court in Booth Creek Townhouse v. Bassick (No. 07 CA 2531)[1].   Here, 3 years after dropping HOA membership in 2005 and 16 years after becoming a business trade group, CAI repeats its boilerplate certification of interest and justification to assist the court.

CAI is a national educational organization . . . . Nationally, members include . . . homeowners associations and condominium associations . . . .” and “CAI is uniquely situated to provide information to this court because all parties within this industry are represented by this organization. 

It would have been entirely acceptable if CAI had just indicated that it promoted and supported the Colorado version of UCIOA, CCIOA (effective 1992) and its subsequent amendments, and let the statutes speak for themselves.  But, this alone would indicate a bias toward protecting HOAs.

No, the evidence is quite clear and convincing that CAI’s repeated misrepresentations were not just a slip of the mind.  These persons are not just Joe Schmoes, but self-proclaimed community associations experts and who provide seminars to the uninformed public.


[1] While a search of Colorado court cases fails to show a record of this case, CAI nevertheless did prepare and file this brief.  “CAI Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Homeowner in $550,000 Judgment (10/08)”  (Link found on http://www.caionline.org/govt/news/Pages/CAIHeads-UpArchive.aspx June 21, 2012).  (The homeowner charged HOA for failing to perform its maintenance duties. CAI believed that the HOA’s failure to maintain the property was “egregious,” and the “association was so blatantly . . . and unwilling to perform its required duties.”)

 

Complaint filed with NJ Supreme Court for CAI lack of “candor to the tribunal”

A complaint was filed with the NJ Supreme Court against CAI for a lack of “candor to the tribunal” with respect to statements made in CAI-NJ’s amicus curiae brief in Mazdabrook v. Khan.  Excerpts from the complaint letter follow.

________________________________________________________

Two attorneys for the Community Associations Institute (CAI) NJ Chapter, Karpoff and Macysyn, sought and received permission to file an amicus brief and to make oral arguments. They signed certifications as to the truth of the statements made and content of their brief. 

I submit that the arguments to file a brief and to make oral arguments contained misrepresentations and false and misleading statements as to the true nature and purpose of CAI.  These misrepresentations lead the Court, and amicus readers, to believe that CAI is not in a conflict of interest position as its true interests, which oppose the interests of the homeowners associations and the of HOA member homeowners. 

The Macysin certification says the brief is brought on behalf of CAI itself, as a friend of the court to help it in its decision. Yet, throughout the certification one is confused as for whom CAI is representing: CAI itself, the HOAs, or the homeowners.  These are conflicting representations.

 In the 24 paragraph certification, Macysin fails to inform the Court of the legal tax exempt status of CAI as a 501(c)6 tax-exempt organization  as of 1992. CAI chose the vendors and became a trade group so it could avoid the limitations of an educational organization and become actively involved in lobbying in all the states. (The usual course of action is for the consumer group, which is seeking assistance, to set up its own nonprofit educational organization. It then would invite the vendors as affiliate or associate, second-class, members).

 It should be clearly understood that the production of harmonious and vibrant communities is juxtaposed to the true interests of the CAI members.  Rather, the best interest of its true members is to keep the HOA heavily dependent upon the services of its attorney and management members, to foster adversarial relations, hostility and divisiveness, and to deny democratic reforms under the state and US Constitutions.  The CAI record before state legislators and in the courts, including here in New Jersey, speaks for itself. 

The CAI-NJ prepared HOA board resolution (Appendix B, page 6), gives the impression that the HOA board’s decision to join CAI is a valid act.  What this resolution accomplishes is to allow the HOA board to address homeowner concerns about a conflict of interest.  It provides the board with a reasonable justification for joining CAI — education for the benefit of the HOA.

However, the basis for a board to sign-off is that CAI is the “Great Educator” and that CAI has no conflict of interest as a business trade group whose tax-exempt grant is to help its members, not consumer HOAs. The resolution does not state that CAI is a 501(c)6 trade group or that since it was created in 1973 to solve problems with HOAs it has failed to do so for the past 39 years, or that it has repeatedly opposed constitutional protections for homeowners. 

Sanctions were sought against these CAI attorneys.