In a move that is sure to stun the legal community, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Victor Tobin has notified Governor Rick Scott of his intent to resign as a Judge of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit effective June 30, 2011.
In an after-hours e-mail sent to all judges, judicial assistants, and the court administrator, Judge Tobin stated:
Late this afternoon, I notified Governor Scott that I would be resigning as a Circuit Court Judge effective June 30, 2011. Effective July 1,2011, I will return to private practice with the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson. I wish to express my sincere thanks to each judge for permitting me the honor of being your Chief Judge during the last four years. I appreciate the confidence you placed in me.
On March 25th, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a settlement against attorney Marshall C. Watson and his law firm for alleged improprieties in the prosecution of foreclosure cases throughout Florida. The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson is one of the largest foreclosure firms in Florida.
The settlement is a first of its kind and stems from an investigation into the alleged deceptive practices of Florida foreclosure mills. It calls for a $2 million payment and imposition of certain requirements to conduct business. $1 million of that payment will be contributed to the Florida Bar Foundation to continue the Florida Attorney General Mortgage Foreclosure Grant Program.
The Foreclosure Grant Program provides for the funding of Legal Aid attorney positions throughout the state that are specifically devoted to the representation of low-income Floridians facing foreclosure.
“We are aggressively investigating these law firms in order to protect the interests of everyone involved in foreclosure proceedings. Homeowners, lending institutions and the courts deserve to know that the law is being followed and all documentation is true and accurate,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Anything short of total assurance of complete accuracy during such serious situations is unacceptable.”
Florida has led the nation with an investigation into law firms allegedly engaged in the improper production and filing of foreclosure documents. The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson fully cooperated with the investigation with the Florida Attorney General.
Although a settlement is being negotiated with other alleged foreclosure mills, the investigation into the practices of several other Florida law firms is continuing.
Hiring Judge Vic Tobin seems to be another move in the right direction.