Attorney James Kowalski, Jr. saw his first “robo-signing” case ten years ago, and it’s fair to say he’s been a pioneer in the fight to save thousands of Americans from illegal lawsuits launched by the mortgage and debt service industry. Much of that work Kowalski has done on his own time.
In 2002, Kowalski was handling a foreclosure case for client. The bank had rejected his client’s cashier’s check—and claimed he was in arrears.
Kowalski was surprised when he solicited a routine affidavit from a GMAC bank employee who was supposed to have firsthand knowledge of the client’s case. “She had not reviewed any of the documents,” he says.
As it turns out, Kowalski had found one of the first known cases of “robo-signing”.
“What typically happens in a robo perjury case is that the witness reviews a computer screen that is usually populated by some other department—and the numbers on the screen match the documents they will sign,” says Kowalski. “And in many cases they actually don’t look at the screen, they just look to see their name is printed correctly.”
Two years ago, Kowalski was asked to address the House Judiciary Committee in Washington. As he waited for his turn, Kowalski sat dumb-founded as he listened to a panel of regulators testify.
“Every one of them said that they were not aware of the practices,” says Kowalski. “We were there to talk about things we had been living with for most of a decade—as just a normal part of any litigation in foreclosures in particular. So it was odd to hear these government regulators that are charged with supervising the servicing industry and compare that with those of us that actually litigate against the servicing industry—I just thought that was interesting.”
Kowalski was recently named as the winner of a Florida Bar Association Pro Bono service award. He was also named as the Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year in 2011.
“I don’t track my hours,” says a very modest Kowalski. “I do a mix of cases involving foreclosures, credit card collection defense and some other legal aid someone may ask me to look at.”
“Especially with the foreclosures it is nice to make a change in those cases—because it is an enormous amount of stress that these people go through,” Kowalski adds.
Despite Kowalski’s efforts, and the efforts of others, robo-signing still continues. “It will take change by the regulators to end the practice,” Kowalski says.
James Kowalski is a former death penalty prosecutor now in private practice in Jacksonville, Florida. He handles serious personal injury cases, consumer litigation (including mortgage foreclosure defense cases, credit card and other debt collection defense cases), class actions, and business-to-business issues.