JPMorgan Faces Texas Sheriff in Showdown Over Eviction Case Fees

A JPMorgan Chase & Co. branch in El Paso, Texas, may have furniture and computers seized by the sheriff unless the bank complies with a judge’s order to pay the legal bills of a single mother whose eviction case he dismissed.

The manager of the Chase branch was served on Jan. 26 with court papers that instructed the New York-based company to pay attorney Richard A. Roman’s $5,000 in fees, according to Detective Hector Lara, an El Paso County sheriff’s officer. The manager, Jose Gomez, told Lara that the branch’s gear is protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and that he would contact the bank’s security staff and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lara said today in a telephone interview.

Lara said he’s waiting for an opinion from the county attorney on whether the bank’s property can be seized.

“They don’t have a problem putting my client out in the street,” Roman said. “But when somebody prevails against a bank, they pull every string in the book to avoid paying.”

Roman, a former judge, is representing borrower Judith French, whose home was sold in a foreclosure auction on Sept. 7 even though the lawyer had obtained a temporary restraining order the same day. Roman said he’s seeking the legal fees from JPMorgan because he believes the bank was French’s mortgage servicer.

Judge Bruce King dismissed French’s eviction case in county justice court on Dec. 15, saying the restraining was in effect at the time of the foreclosure sale.

Unusual Strategy

Greg Hassell, a JPMorgan spokesman, said the company was unaware of King’s judgment because it wasn’t named as the plaintiff.

“Now that we are aware, we are taking steps to pay,” Hassell said.

Roman’s strategy of going after the bank’s property is unusual, according to April Charney, a senior attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid in Jacksonville, Florida, who said she has instructed thousands of lawyers on representing consumers in foreclosure and bankruptcy cases.

“If it was me I wouldn’t go for a desk or chair, I would execute on their business license,” Charney said. “When you go into court and a judge orders you to do something and you don’t do it, that’s the last step before lawlessness”

Lara said he’s never faced a situation like this.

“Right now our concern is whether we can go ahead and seize any equipment in a bank,” Lara said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Prashant Gopal in New York at pgopal2@bloomberg.net; Thom Weidlich in New York at tweidlich@bloomberg.net

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