The 58-year-old attorney admits to breaking into homes at least half a dozen times, including one before with the Earls, leaving the clients to squat in their homes while he defends their legal right to possession. His unconventional methods have gotten him fined by a judge in San Diego, arrested in Newport Beach and threatened with contempt — and jail — in Ventura.
More foreclosure cases are headed for court, housing experts and legal analysts say, as troubled homeowners run out of options and lenders pick up the pace of evictions. But they also note that people who want to stay in their homes have limited options in states such as California, where a lender can seize a house without a court order. That has prompted Pines to pursue some radical tactics and might cause others to imitate him — if he ever manages to win.
"Homeowners have the right to seek relief in court," said Boston lawyer Gary Klein, who has sued several banks over lending practices, but Pines' break-in strategy "ups the ante considerably."
Ventura lawyer Doug Michie said, "Most attorneys won't admit it, but they admire his convictions."
"I certainly don't have the courage to do what he's doing," Michie said. "I'm afraid of getting arrested."
Pines' methods are provoking plenty of criticism.
"This attorney violates the canons of professional ethics in advising clients to break the law," said George Lefcoe, a USC real estate law professor. "What [his clients] are doing on his advice is not only going to prove costly to them and completely futile, it could lead to dangerous altercations with the true owners and law enforcement officers."