Information is not the same as Evidence. It’s only evidence if the Judge (1) rules it is evidence and (2) admits it into evidence into the court record. Once admitted, the Judge is free to consider the information with as much or as little weight as it chooses.
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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
Nearly all pro se litigants and too many lawyers combine a shotgun approach on legal argument and a single focus on unprovable facts. More than judicial bias, the presentation of information in court lies at the heart of “bad” decisions by the the courts. Combining presentation deficiencies with bad pleading and an utter failure to control the narrative, such litigants and their lawyers are doomed to failure.
This is a summary of the subject of evidence at trial, as I see it. Information, testimony, documents and the public domain are the sources of information from which litigants and their lawyers draw conclusions and develop a narrative of the case. None of these constitute “evidence” and will therefore be ignored or ruled irrelevant by a court of law unless a court rules that the data or information is somehow connected to the case at hand. Even allegations of patterns of conduct are insufficient to support the proffer of such information unless the information is coupled with direct evidence (testimony, documents) connecting the behavior of the bank or servicer with the case at hand.
Nothing is evidence that can be considered by the trier of fact (Judge, jury) unless the judge rules that it is evidence AND that it is admissible in the case at hand. Unless the homeowner can show that the preferred evidence is relevant to a defense or avoidance, the Judge has no choice but to exclude the information from evidence and thus from the Court record.
My observation is that there are four levels of “EVIDENCE:”
- General information not directly related to the case at hand
- Specific information that is relevant to the defenses raised.
- Persuasive evidence supporting either defenses or avoidance
- Conclusory evidence that inescapably leads to a result either by logic or rule of law.
INFORMATION AND BELIEF: Pro se litigants understandably don’t understand the difference between general information and the rules of evidence. They come to court with information from the media or other sources showing what they think is evidence of wrong-doing and they are frequently right. But information about wrong-doing in OTHER cases is not evidence of wrongdoing in your case.
RELEVANT INFORMATION and EVIDENCE: Testimony, such as those cases where the bank or servicer mislead the homeowner by steering them into default through assertions that a workout or modification is only possible if they are 90 days behind is information. It is also evidence that the court will generally allow in evidence. But allowing it into evidence doesn’t mean that the trier of fact will give it any weight when coming to a decision. The well-versed lawyer will ask for the recordings of the conversations in which such misleading representations were made. More often than not the recordings are said not to exist. Their alleged nonexistence can be challenged by information, ruled as evidence by the court, that all other conversations had been recorded. The absence of conversations regarding the modification MIGHT be used as evidence of concealment and corroboration of the homeowner’s testimony that he/she was mislead into stopping payments and thus going into default.
PERSUASIVE EVIDENCE: Just because information is allowed into the record as evidence doesn’t mean the trier of fact will use it in making a decision. As related in the preceding paragraph you can see how raw information becomes relevant evidence and then evolves into persuasive evidence. You are always working against the beginning supposition that no bank would want a loan to become non-performing. And you probably can’t prove that policy, although there have been occasions where testimony or recordings were admitted into evidence showing that the purpose of the alleged servicing company was to obtain a foreclosure judgment and foreclosure sale. Even then, the Judge is left wondering why such a policy would exist, using the reasonable man foundation for believing that the rational thing to do as a lender is to collect on a debt, not to waste the collateral or the debt. Thus the level of persuasion in order to win is much higher in that context.
CONCLUSORY EVIDENCE: This falls into two categories — legal presumptions that are outside the judge’s scope of discretion and “weight of the evidence”that remains within the scope of the judge’s discretion. It is rare that you can introduce anything that requires the judge to rule in favor of the homeowner. But the reason why “greater weight of the evidence” is the rule is that the trier of fact is receiving evidence that cumulatively leads inescapably to the conclusion that the foreclosure is defective. Evidence does not rise to this level unless the robo-witness on the witness stand acts or says irrational things. I call this the “Perry Mason moment.” This is eminently possible in a proper cross examination because the robo-witness’ knowledge is intentionally limited and usually nonexistent as to the workings of the REMIC Trust, the distribution of income from servicer to the “creditor”, and the agreements in which servicing has been created or changed.
Actual Example from My Recent Trial in Orlando:
Q: Here is the Power of Attorney you introduced as evidence that is signed by Chase. And here is the Pooling and Servicing Agreement. Can you show me where Chase is mentioned as being in the chain of ownership or authority?
Q: Don’t you want to look?
At that moment the court was left with the inescapable conclusion that Chase had no authority to execute the POA and that the Plaintiff’s case had failed.
Filed under: foreclosure | Tagged: evidence, information, persuasive evidence, relevance |