Future of Home Sales in Central Ohio Looking Bright

The Columbus Board of Realtors released the following article yesterday suggesting the continued bright future for a housing market comeback in Central Ohio.  As most of our readers know, a good portion of our law practice is spent representing real estate brokers, agents, and their clients in transactions, disputes, with complaints, and in litigation.  A good attorney is both easy and important to find!  Here’s the CBR article:

November marks the fifth consecutive month of increased home sales in central Ohio this year after the first half of the year struggled to keep up with increased sales from 2010 due to the home buyer tax credits.  According to the Columbus Board of REALTORS®, 1,406 homes sold in November which is seven percent more than the previous year.

Additionally, the number of residential homes scheduled to close was up over 37 percent, from 1,341 last year to 1,843 last month (November 2011).

“We’re finding that sellers recognize the challenges of today’s market and are realistically pricing their homes to sell,” says Rick Benjamin, 2011 President of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®. “Buyers are responding well to the pricing and, of course, the record low interest rates. It’s still a great time to buy a home.”

Homes in central Ohio this year have sold for an average of $157,032, down 2.5 percent from the average sale price in 2010, but up over five percent from the average sale price in the first quarter of 2011. The average price of a home sold in November was $153,673, up 3.1 percent from the previous month ($149,082).

The number of homes listed for sale last month (1,949) is 20 percent less than listings added to the market in November 2010 (2,439). The total inventory of homes available for sale in central Ohio was 12,675 at the end of November, which is down 27.5 percent from one year ago.

As a result, the month’s supply, a measure of inventory that estimates how many months it would take to sell the entire home inventory, fell 28.5 percent to 7.4, down from 10.3 last year.

“A healthy months supply for our market would be around 6.5. So the decrease in inventory is a positive sign of market recovery,” adds Benjamin. “Plus, based on the concept of supply and demand, when we  have too many homes on the market, homes are more likely to sell for
less.”

We love hearing positive news about the return of the housing market in Central Ohio and across the state.  Kaltenbach Law, LLC is cheering for an even better 2012!

Penn State Commentary: What about McQueary?

See evil, hear evil, but speak no evil.

11/12/2011 UPDATE BELOW. This post is not designed to provide coverage on the horrifying and troubling events that have been revealed at Penn State at the hand of former coach, Jerry Sandusky.  Click here to get coverage from the New York Times.  Instead, this post is presenting a very simple question:  How can it be that the Board of Trustees fired University President Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno, but the current wide receiver’s coach and team recruiting coordinator, Mike McQueary, still has his job?

According to the Grand Jury Presentment against Sandusky, McQueary was the then graduate assistant that went to Penn State’s locker room facilities on a night in 2002 when he heard, and then actually saw, Jerry Sandusky raping a ten-year-old boy in the showers. There’s so much to say, but let’s look at just two aspects:

1.  Mike McQueary is a former Penn State Quarterback, he was 28-years-old when this event occurred, and looks like he runs about 6’3″ and 230 lbs.  So, why McQueary didn’t stomp the 58-year-old naked and distracted Jerry Sandusky into the shower room tile is a mystery.

2.  Next, why didn’t McQueary call the cops?  There is no legal obligation to get involved in a crime in progress, but one would like to think that a call to 911 would be made as a civic responsibility at the least.  People call 911 when they see a drunk driver and even when McDonald’s runs out of Chicken McNuggets.  So why don’t you call the cops when you see the rape of a child in progress?

Instead, McQueary tells his dad what he saw and then he tells Joe Pa what he saw.  Joe Pa then tells Athletic Director, Tim Curley; but the telephone game apparently washes out some details.  Paterno or Curley could have, and should have, called the cops; but neither of them was an eyewitness like McQueary.

University President Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno were fired last night.  McQueary still has a job.  Today.  Should McQueary still have a job this Saturday by the time the Nittany Lions’ game gets underway?  We think not, how about you?

UPDATE: McQueary has been put on leave and will not be at the game today when Penn State hosts Nebraska in Happy Valley.

Cicero called to the carpet over Tressel emails

I wrote this post back on March 10, 2011, the day that Christopher T. Cicero was identified by The Columbus Dispatch as the attorney who sent e-mails to Buckeye football coach Jim Tressel warning that OSU players like Terrelle Pryor were giving away signed memorabilia in exchange for tattoos from Edward Rife, the owner of Fine Line Ink.

Mr. Cicero (Image via ESPN)

My post was not about the developing scandal at Ohio State (There has been plenty of press coverage on that topic.  Too much in the opinion of this Buckeye fan).  Instead, my post took the lawyer’s perspective since the Dispatch’s article suggested that Cicero obtained the information he sent to Tressel from Ed Rife in a meeting regarding Cicero’s potential representation of Rife in a drug trafficking investigation.  The question in a lot of attorneys’ minds was whether Cicero breached his duties to Rife by passing along attorney-client privileged information to Tressel.

The question has gathered significant steam today.  Catherine Candisky from the Dispatch reported earlier today:

The Columbus lawyer at the center of controversy surrounding former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel may lose his license to practice law.

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel today filed a complaint against Christopher T. Cicero, accusing him of violating attorney-client confidentiality when he sent three e-mails to Tressel telling him that players had been given free tattoos in exchange for signed memorabilia. Continue reading

Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Foreclosure Checks and Balances

They don't call it the burden of proof for nothing...

Back on January 31, 2011, I wrote about a group of foreclosure lawyers who filed a complaint against three Franklin County Common Pleas Judges (John Bender, Kimberly Cocroft, and Guy Reece) over an Order they signed requiring foreclosure lawyers to sign a certification on behalf of their clients – the foreclosing bank.

In a nutshell, the certification requires the foreclosing lawyer to verify certain facts, including that the foreclosing bank is the proper party and that it holds the original note and mortgage before it can obtain a judgment to take away a home.

The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office (the lawyer for all County employees in their official capacity) filed a Motion to dismiss the Complaint and the Ohio Supreme Court granted that motion yesterday without any findings of fact or conclusions of law.  The Court’s decision was unanimous among the seven Ohio Supreme Court Justices:

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, and Justices Paul Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Robert Cupp, and Yvette McGee Brown.

John Futty from The Columbus Dispatch wrote today:

State attorneys general across the nation, including then-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, announced in October that they were investigating fraudulent foreclosure filings. Some law firms and major lenders were using so-called “robo-signers” to complete affidavits on foreclosures without reading the documents or verifying ownership of the mortgage notes.

In late November, the three Franklin County judges began telling all lawyers who file residential foreclosure cases in their courtrooms that they must “personally certify the authenticity and accuracy of all documents” in support of the filings. If a lawyer doesn’t, the judge will not grant a motion for default or summary judgment, but will instead schedule the case for trial.

Setting a foreclosure for trial can delay the case for a year or more. However, in its motion to dismiss the lawyers’ complaint, the prosecutor’s office argued that a trial date provides a “remedy” for those who object to verifying their clients’ documents.

“The fact that the trial will delay matters does not change the fact that it is an adequate remedy,” wrote Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Piccininni. “Any issues of authentication of documents and proof can be settled at that stage.”

Personally, I think the Judges are fully within their discretion to order foreclosure attorneys to verify their cases.  Most foreclosures are pushed through the courts unopposed and as fast as possible.  Mistakes are made and big banks take advantage of the volume of cases and overload on the judges to skirt the rules to their benefit.  Thanks Judges, for watching out for the homeowners in these economic times.

Tressel, the Tattoo guy, and Cicero. The attorney-client perspective.

Due to suspensions, this many Buckeyes will be missing for some games this fall.

The Columbus Dispatch revealed today that Columbus lawyer Christopher T. Cicero was the “unnamed attorney” that sent e-mails to Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel starting in April 2010 warning that some players were giving away signed memorabilia in exchange for tattoos from a parlor owner, Edward Rife, who happened to be the subject of a federal drug trafficking investigation.

The revelation, which was scooped by Yahoo Sports, led to Ohio State’s self-report to the NCAA and a 2-game suspension for Tressel coupled with a $250,000 fine.

Copies of Ohio State’s March 8, 2011, letter to Julie Roe Lach, the Director of Enforcement Services at the NCAA, that includes the emails between Coach Jim Tressel and, apparently, Christopher T. Cicero can be read by clicking here: OSU’s Report including the Tressel emails.

The Dispatch reports that “Cicero, a lawyer with a checkered past [] represented the tattoo-parlor owner, Edward Rife, in 2003 when Rife was a key witness in a murder trial.”

I have no personal knowledge  of any of these facts.  I’m just reading the paper and internet articles, just like you.  However, if the reports are accurate and Cicero did send the emails to Tressel, some of Cicero’s content is troubling from the lawyer’s perspective.  Cicero had an attorney-client relationship with Rife in 2003.  While it is unclear from the emails whether there is a current and formal representation of Rife by Cicero, our rules of professional conduct state that a, “lawyer who has formerly represetend a client in a matter…shall not…use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these rules would permit…or…reveal information relating to the representation except as these rules would permit.”

In one of the emails, Cicero tells Tressel that he had Rife “in my office for an hour and a half last night.”  Then, Cicero goes on to discuss the substance of his meeting with Rife held in his law office.  I have never met Mr. Cicero.  I have never met Mr. Rife.  I have no idea what the substance of the conversations were other than what the email to Jim Tressel recounts, but I do know that our rules of professional conduct state that “a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client, including information protected by the attorney client privilege under applicable law, unless the client gives informed consent….”

I have no idea what motivated Christopher Cicero to send the emails to Tressel, if he did.  But, I do know that the content of the emails from an attorney about his own client is troubling.

One of my biggest pet peeves is reading commentary, stories, facebook status updates, or hearing coffee shop talk from people with sharp opinions when they are barely informed of all of the facts to arrive at their conclusions.  With that in mind, I reiterate that the Columbus Dispatch article this morning contains no admission by Cicero that he authored the emails.  Also, I have no personal knowledge of what transpired in the meeting between “the lawyer” and Rife discussed in the emails, or whether the two were meeting as friends or if it was a client meeting with his lawyer to discuss a problem.  I simply have a hunch, perhaps an educated hunch, that this issue is long from over for any lawyer that was in this position.

Foreclosure filings, lawyers ordered to cross T’s, dot I’s.

Receiving foreclosure notices and cannot afford an attorney? Contact the Save the Dream Ohio Foreclosure Prevention Effort: 888-404-4674

I read John Futty‘s article in The Dispatch this morning about the Order of three Franklin County judges requiring lawyers to verify that all of the documents in residential foreclosure actions are valid.  This comes in response to a national outcry over fraudulent foreclosure filings.  Futty writes: “Six of the lawyers affected by the order are fighting back. They have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to prohibit the judges from requiring them to sign “certifications” on behalf of their clients.”

Common Pleas Judges John F. Bender, Kimberly Cocroft and Guy Reece have issued this Order and are the subject of the suit.  Apparently, Judges Laurel Beatty and David Fais were ready to issue the same Order, but are waiting to see the outcome of the suit.

Cleveland attorney John C. Greiner is representing the six lawyers that filed the lawsuit that, according to Futty’s article, claims the Order will require them to divulge confidential attorney-client privileged information.

What I find interesting is that a Cleveland lawyer, Greiner, is bringing this suit when his home County of Cuyahoga has required foreclosing attorneys to sign a “Certificate of Readiness” since at least 2004.

And, really, what’s the problem with the Certificate of Readiness?  I’m not sure what the Franklin County Judges are ordering, but I imagine it is something similar to Cuyahoga County’s Certificate of Readiness.  If it is, no privileged information is sought and, instead, it is more like having to turn in your High School algebra homework where you have to “show you work” – proving that you applied the correct equations to reach your answer.

If you haven’t gathered this already, I have not read the Franklin County Judge’s Order.  This post is simply a reacton to John Futty’s article from the perspective of a lawyer who knows this system well.

At the end of the day, there are two lessons to be learned.  (1)  Lawyers should check their work and the current economic climate and “factory produced foreclosures” give credence to the Order and, (2) Administrative Judge Charles C. Schneider is right that the Order is redundant because Civil Rule 11 already requires lawyers to check their work.  The fact that the two lessons oppose one another begs the question: if all foreclosure attorneys are checking their work, then why does Cuyahoga County have the Certificate of Readiness and why are Franklin County Judges creating their own Orders on this topic?

You can read John Futty’s article, here, and you can consider whether the foreclosure process is spinning out of control.

Supreme Court OK’s Judge’s use of facebook / twitter

You can "like" me now!

On December 3, 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline issued an advisory opinion saying that Ohio Judges can have facebook friends and twitter followers that are also attorneys appearing before them in Court.  The Supreme Court’s website issued this release:

In one of the most comprehensive and detailed examinations in the nation, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s disciplinary board has issued an advisory opinion examining the ethical implications of judges using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The opinion from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline advises judges that social media use is permitted but must be done with caution, and it offers wide ranging, specific guidance to judges on how to navigate the new waters of social media without violating judicial canons that require judges to avoid even the appearance of bias or impropriety.

“This is a topic of great interest to the legal community because, like the rest of the nation, more judges are experimenting with social media in both their personal and professional lives,” said Jon Marshall, the board’s secretary. “For those judges who choose to use this technology, we hope this opinion gives them practical guidance on how to do so and maintain their obligations under the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

A recent national study found that 40 percent of judges report using social media profile sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, a proportion roughly equal to that in the general U.S. adult population. Smaller numbers reported using microblogging sites like Twitter and other less popular social media, but the numbers are expected to grow.

Opinion 2010-7 finds that a judge may be a “friend” on a social networking site with a lawyer who appears as counsel in a case before the judge, but cautions: “As with any other action a judge takes, a judge’s participation on a social networking site must be done carefully in order to comply with the ethical rules in the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

Some very logical restrictions include that (1) a  judge may not give anyone legal advice through social media sites, (2) judges may not comment on matters pending before the judge, and (3) judges cannot communicate with an attorney appearing before the judge about the matter.  The advisory opinion goes on to say that a judge should disqualify herself from a proceeding if her social media relationship with a lawyer on that case creates bias or prejudice.  All very fair rules and it demonstrates the pervasive qualities of social media and that, like it or not, it is here to stay.

You can find the entire advisory opinion here.