Supporters of Detroit Atty. Vanessa Fluker outside the Michigan Appeals Court in the aftermath of a hearing to overturn sanctions leveled against the anti-foreclosure lawyer. Abayomi Azikiwe is second from right behind Fluker and Atty. Jerome Goldberg., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Defender of evicted homeowners appeals sanction
Published Sun, Jun 10, 2012
By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Foreclosure attorney Vanessa Fluker appeared before the Michigan Court of Appeals June 5 to contest sanctions handed down against her while defending a home owner from eviction. Fluker and her attorney, Jerry Goldberg, have vowed to fight the decision, which Goldberg says could affect future legal defense of underserved homeowners.
The $12,000 sanction against Fluker was levied by Third District Court Judge Robert J. Colombo in March 1, 2011 after she appealed the eviction of Asha Tyson. Fluker’s original appeal was based on a pending discrimination lawsuit against Charter One Bank.
Colombo previously ruled against Tyson, saying that Charter One Bank rightfully evicted her. He proceeded to sanction Fluker, saying the legal basis and filing were frivolous.
Goldberg, a colleague of Fluker and longtime advocate for victims of home foreclosure, says sanctions are normally handed down only in the most egregious cases. Fluker’s defense of Tyson was diligent and comprehensive, according to Goldberg.
“There is certainly no basis for the imposition of sanctions, especially in this case where you’re putting sanctions against a solo practitioner, arguing against a bank,” Goldberg told the Michigan Citizen. “We know what’s going on — it’s a way for Colombo to send a message: Don’t bother me with these cases.”
During the March 1 sanction hearing, Goldberg revealed that Colombo had received loan modifications from Charter One Bank and asked the judge to recuse himself. Judge Colombo denied that request.
Fluker’s June 5 hearing was held in front of Michigan Court of Appeals Judges Deborah Cervito, Patrick Meader and Karen Ford-Hood on the 14th floor of the State of Michigan Building, also known as the Cadillac Building.
Organizer Abayomi Azikiwe was one of over 25 people who filled the small courtroom on Fluker’s behalf. In a March 6 Michigan Citizen article, Azikiwe said of Fluker: “She’s a tireless and committed advocate on behalf of people that have been victimized by the banking interests — she deserves the respect of the legal community.”
A fundraiser was held at the Central United Methodist Church March 25 for Fluker following Colombo’s sanctions. Fluker’s supporters continue to collect donations for the court sanctions and court costs.
“The bank spends tens of thousands of dollars to litigate cases that throw people out of their homes that are worth $5,000, just to show their power,” Goldberg said after the June 5 proceedings. “It’s hard enough to find an attorney like Vanessa, who will work 80 hours a week for almost no money to fight for people. And then she’s going to have to pay the bank, for representing clients? It’s an outrage.”
Goldberg says a ruling by the Court of Appeals on Fluker’s sanction can be expected in 30 to 60 days.
Contact Eric T. Campbell at email@example.com