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Goldbeck, McCafferty & McKeever PC is a law firm that has handled thousands of mortgage foreclosures throughout the State, especially in the Philadelphia area. Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that Chief Judge Agresti of the US Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania sanctioned Attorney Leslie A. Puida and her firm, Goldbeck, McCafferty and McKeever (GMM), for the falsification of documents by Countrywide Mortgage relating to a foreclosure against Sharon D. Hill, a debtor in a bankruptcy. Agresti determined that Puida and her firm filed fraudulent documents, lied about the fabrication to both opposing counsel and the court, and then refused to take responsibility. Judge Agresti, according to press reports, gave Puida and GMM until Friday December 3 to self-report to the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Attorney Patrick J. Loughren has filed a cause of action against 33 non-lawyer employees of GMM and the firm itself in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County at GD 10-021437. Loughren alleges that: “These non-lawyers prepare complaints, sign lawyers’ names to those complaints, and file those complaints in county courts across this Commonwealth without an attorney ever having read the document. ” [Emphasis in original]. Further, according to the Complaint, the non-lawyers prosecute the actions by filing other documents purported to be signed by lawyers, but are signed by non-lawyers, frequently before notaries who improperly state that the documents were signed by the lawyers. Attorneys fees are improperly claimed for this unsupervised work by non-lawyers, usually paid by the foreclosing lender unless the loan is reinstated. According to the Complaint, all three named partners of GMM have admitted the main allegations of the Complaint in sworn testimony. Gary McCafferty testified in a deposition taken on September 21, 2010 in the ongoing US District Court case of Kimberley A. Robinson v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. et al. No. 08-cv-01563 in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
“Q: Was it the practice in 2006 that Complaints could be filed without an attorney reviewing the Complaint?
A: It could be, yes.
Q: Did the firm authorize its administrative staff, which I’ll just describe as non-lawyers, so inclusive of secretaries, paralegals, legal assistants, to sign attorneys’ names and file them, knowingly that the attorney had not read the document?
A: Yes.” [Emphasis in complaint.]
Joseph Goldbeck, former shareholder and of counsel to GMM, was, according to the Complaint stated:
“Q: Back in 2006, you were an active practicing lawyer at the firm?
A: Yes.
Q: And did you authorize individuals who were employed at the firm who were not lawyers to write up Complaints and sign your name to them and file them without you reviewing them?
A: Yes I did.” [Emphasis in Complaint.]
In another Western District bankruptcy case, DeAngelis v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., the Complaint states that Michael McKeever, the third name partner at GMM, testified at a hearing on December 8, 2009 that it was a standard practice at GMM in 2007 and up to the date of his testimony for non-lawyer staff to sign lawyers’ names to pleadings without the lawyers reviewing the document.
The Complaint further alleges that (1) the firm filed suits without investigation by attorneys of the underlying facts in FHA cases, which violates FHA Regulations; (2) the non-lawyers also prepared and filed pleadings in Bankruptcy Court without attorney supervision, which the Complaint states, is also the unauthorized practice of law; (3) “Every foreclosure action pending in every Court of Common Pleas in this Commonwealth that has been prepared by and filed by the Non-Lawyer Defendants, without attorney review, should be dismissed on the basis that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the lawsuit.” In addition, according to the Complaint, GMM should not be permitted to collect and retain attorneys fees for work performed by paraprofessionals without attorney supervision – especially useful in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
In his prayer for relief, Loughren requests that the Court (1) declare that the conduct of non-lawyers at GMM constitutes the unauthorized practice of law, (2) grant an injunction barring non-lawyers at GMM from engaging in practice of law in Pennsylvania, (3) enjoin continued prosecution of cases filed by non-lawyers in violation of Pennsylvania law (4) issue a rule to show cause why all pending foreclosure actions filed by GMM should not be dismissed, (5) issue a rule to show cause why attorneys fees should not be accounted for and returned to homeowners, (6) issue a rule to show cause why every judgment entered in favor of defendant clients should not be opened or vacated, (7) enjoin defendants from supporting claims with false affidavits, (8) enjoining the notaries from notarizing documents in violation of statutory requirements, (9) enjoining all non-lawyers at GMM from signing their names to affidavits.

The suit is still in its early stages. Further, it may be difficult to prove in individual cases. However, the allegations in the Complaint involve so many cases that its potential impact could be sweeping. Moreover, the activities of other firms involved in the prosecution of mortgage foreclosure actions in bulk, like Udren and Phelan Hallinan will undoubtedly receive increased scrutiny going forward. You must remember to fight to save your home. Stop listening to the banks and their attorneys and see a bankruptcy attorney early, preferably before you receive the Act 91 notice. If you have already received your notice, come in as soon as possible.