U.S. Supreme Court to Consider CA Consumer Fraud by Landlord UDR, the CA State Bar & DRE
September 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
On September 24, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court Will Consider a CA Journalist’s Petition for Relief from Injunctions That Prevented Her From Warning CA Tenants and Consumers About Fraud Against Them; Thousands Deprived of Warnings Were Defrauded
On September 24, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court will meet to consider matters raised in the July 14, 2012 Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (and subsequent Supplemental Brief) of Journalist, Consumer Advocate, and Pro Se Litigant, Erin Baldwin.
The Court will consider two state court injunctions issued against Baldwin in 2009 to prevent her from publishing reports and organizing unified petitions for redress on behalf of:
1. California consumers in foreclosure vulnerable to unlawful loan modification business practices of attorney members of the State Bar; realtor/mortgage members of the DRE; and officials from both who failed to intervene to prevent said fraud by its members; and
2. California tenants unaware of the illegal clauses contained in the California residential lease agreements of UDR, Inc.
The Court will also consider Baldwin’s plea for restitution to consumers and tenants defrauded because the state court injunctions deprived them of her warnings.
Baldwin’s Petition asked the Supreme Court to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Order denying her request for a ruling on whether these two permanent injunctions were void and as such, unenforceable. Baldwin based her request on the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Tory, et al. v. Cochran (544 U.S. 734) that states: “In California law, a person cannot definitively know whether an injunction is legally void until a court has ruled that it is.”
Baldwin requested this ruling because the “status” of the injunctions determined the direction of her Section 1983 Case filed in the Central District Court of California on August 16, 2011. These injunctions were the authority behind fifty-one (51) separate acts of civil and criminal retaliatory prosecution against Baldwin over the past three years. And the 51 acts form the causes of action in Baldwin’s Section 1983 Complaint. The objective of the acts against Baldwin were to keep her quiet and sufficiently distracted, to disable her ability to take action in her own defense, and prevent her from coming to the defense of others.
Finally, these injunctions were issued without: (a) establishing jurisdiction over Baldwin; (b) isolating a compelling state interest; (c) conducting a hearing on the merits; (d) identifying what Baldwin published that was defamatory; and (e) stating the terms of the injunctions.
Notwithstanding this compelling evidence to support her request, Ninth Circuit Judges Mary Schroeder, Edward Leavy and Richard Clifton denied Baldwin’s request for a ruling stating her petition did not “warrant the intervention of the court by means of the extraordinary remedy of mandamus.” So Baldwin appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to her reports, Baldwin also took action in the form of unified petitions for redress on behalf of consumers and tenants. Baldwin announced her intent to spearhead a petition to the California Supreme Court for redress on behalf of California consumers in foreclosure harmed by State Bar and DRE members and officials.
The goal of this petition was to request that a writ issue mandating the State Bar and DRE to make restitution through their already-existing consumer protection divisions set up for this specific purpose, i.e., the Client Security Fund and Consumer Recovery Account, respectively.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. Baldwin did not have to “sell the idea”; it was the answer to many consumers’ prayers. They inherently understood the power behind assembling with others similarly situated to form a united petition for redress. Sadly, the project was not completed because the State Bar and DRE intervened.
The second petition for redress championed by Baldwin was on behalf of the California tenants of UDR, Inc. Baldwin announced her intention to spearhead a unified petition for redress in the form of a class action lawsuit against UDR, Inc. This lawsuit was to include intentional fraud by UDR against its tenants since UDR entered the California marketplace in 2004.
The violations of California law that formed the causes of action against UDR included:
a. early lease termination penalties as liquidated damages in violation of California Civil Code §1671;
b. excessive late fees in violation of California Civil Code §3302, §1671, and California Court of Appeal precedent;
c. illegal profits from a ratio utility billing system in violation of California Public Utilities Commission regulations prohibiting non-utilities from “selling” energy and water; and
d. illegally defers on-premises injury liability to its tenants via “hold harmless” clauses in violation of California Civil Code §1668.
e. … among many others.
UDR earns thirty-two percent (32%) of its revenue from its California portfolio as a direct result of the aforementioned fraud. It then uses this revenue to its advantage to (a) fund the growth of the balance of its national portfolio; (b) meet its obligation as a REIT to
distribute 90% of its taxable income back to investors; and (c) directly benefits though a significant reduction in corporate taxes.
After Baldwin announced these unified petitions for redress, parties involved began to deliberately interfere in her ability to associate, communicate, assemble with others similarly situated, and organize these petitions.
This led to unlawful search and seizure of Baldwin’s personal property three times in two years including the entire contents of her apartment three days after UDR performed a retaliatory eviction; the entire contents of her storage unit (with the assistance of former Public Storage board member and UDR associate, Robert J. Abernethy); and all her property from Big Bear including her two beloved rescue dogs whom she never saw again.
Items seized included:
a. nearly 400 files containing confidential information of tenants interested in participating in the class action lawsuit against UDR;
b. Baldwin’s computers, data storage devices, and boxes of research, files and corroborating evidence to support her petition for a writ of mandate against the State Bar and DRE;
c. thousands of printed emails; blog articles and research for same; and documentary evidence supplied by experts;
d. all the pleadings from all the cases filed against Baldwin as well as her appeal pleadings and evidence of same; and
e. records of Baldwin’s passwords to efficiently delete blogs, emails, websites, document storage accounts, press release accounts, and business related marketing and social media accounts.
However, the seizure and destruction of property cannot conceal the fact that hundreds of thousands of Californians lost their homes to foreclosure due to the intentional fraud of state agencies like the State Bar and DRE, established to protect the people they defrauded.
And it cannot hide the fact that the consumers that lost their homes were forced into the residential rental markets where landlords like UDR continued the fraud and proliferated the abuse.
According to an April 24, 2012 article from statistics company, DataQuick, “Over the past five years, 835,000 California homes have been lost to foreclosure. In 2009: 236,231 and in 2010: 190,360.”
These statistics demonstrate the level of crisis California was under during the time Baldwin attempted to reach consumers and tenants and the extraordinary harm caused by those that interfered.
Baldwin’s message was of great public concern and as such, was protected by the First Amendment. If you are interested in learning more about Baldwin’s case, read the below links to her Petition and Supplemental Brief:
Supplemental Brief: http://en.calameo.com/read/001447105652fe828f7c2
Petition for a Writ of Certiorari: http://en.calameo.com/read/001447105f711b1f50546
If you are a victim of any of the above, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.