A Camden, New Jersey, federal judge imposed $59,668 in sanctions on a lawyer who was found to have filed a frivolous complaint in a mortgage foreclosure case.
The latest sanction, imposed Friday, is the second in eight days that Senior U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman entered against Joshua Thomas, a Pennsylvania attorney who represents homeowners facing foreclosure.
On Jan. 5, Hillman sanctioned Thomas $5,000 in another foreclosure case where a lawsuit was deemed baseless.
Hillman wrote that Thomas’ actions in the present case “may be even more obviously deserving of sanction” than his previously sanctioned actions because he was “specifically warned and sanctioned for the exact misconduct he has again engaged in here.”
Thomas was found to have filed “a frivolous motion” filled with “unmeritorious, repetitive argumentation (to the extent that the majority of the brief was almost entirely copied and pasted from a previous brief filed in the same action),” the judge wrote.
Thomas, who is based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, declined to comment about the latest sanction when reached by phone. He is already serving a two-year suspension from the practice of law imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In the latest case, Hillman ordered Thomas to pay $59,668 within 30 days in Keyes v. Nationstar Mortgage, a suit on behalf of a client whose home went into foreclosure. When the defendants moved to dismiss, Thomas filed opposition papers that offered “no plausible arguments to defend against dismissal, citing only to inapplicable, inapposite, and irrelevant case law that does not rise to the level of presenting reasonable argument,” Hillman wrote.
Defendants U.S. Bank Trust N.A. and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems put in a request for $45,761 in fees in 2020, and sought an additional $13,906 in costs in 2021. Those firms were represented by attorneys from Day Pitney.
Thomas said in a brief in November 2020 that the sanctions were not warranted and disproportionate to the circumstances, and that new evidence would be presented soon that would result in the sanctions order being overturned.
Thomas also wrote that the sanctions would cause him “incredible hardship” as a solo practitioner. But Thomas provided no further support for his inability to pay, and the Day Pitney lawyers responded that he was seeking to reargue a motion that was already decided against him.
‘Simple Reprimands’ Not Enough
Hillman added that Thomas’ actions in the present case were serious “not only for his repeated, sanctionable conduct in this matter, but that it reflects his consistent pattern of similar misbehavior in a significant number of separate cases over the past few years, which did factor into this court’s consideration of what sanction is appropriate to impose.
“It is abundantly clear [to this court] at this stage that simple reprimands, nonfinancial punishments like mandating attendance at ethics trainings, and small financial penalties are insufficient to deter [Joshua Thomas] from engaging in the exact same misconduct over and over again,” the judge said.
And Hillman said he warned Thomas that “if he [chooses] once again to not take this Court’s generous invitation and to reject the opportunity to potentially limit the amount he will be ordered to pay, the court will not hesitate to impose a sanction in the amount of MRS and U.S. Bank’s full fees and costs incurred in this action,”
Attorneys from Day Pitney, who sought the sanctions, did not comment.