COLUMBUS - Ex-Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is scheduled Wednesday to argue his first case before the Ohio Supreme Court since he was forced from office during a sexual harassment scandal, convicted of misdemeanor ethics violations and temporarily stripped of his license to practice law.
Dann, a Democrat who now runs a foreclosure-focused practice in the Cleveland area, is representing George and Bridget Kuchta, who are fighting Bank of America over the foreclosure of their home. A federal appeals court sided with the Kuchtas, but the bank has appealed that judgment to the state's high court.
The legal question is whether Bank of America could legally foreclose on the Kuchtas' home since the bank did not hold Kuchtas' mortgage loan and repayment note at the time of the action.
It's the type of case Dann relished during his 16-month tenure as Ohio's top lawyer. He initially was lauded nationally for taking on big U.S. financial institutions.
Dann, a former state senator who previously practiced as a local attorney and was a member of the Liberty Board of Education, won attorney general in 2006, but soon into his term, allegations of sexual harassment by two female employees led to a series of revelations of inappropriate activities among top staff in and outside the office.
Several aides were fired, and Dann publicly acknowledged an extramarital affair with an employee. He ultimately resigned under pressure in May 2008 and in May 2010, he was convicted of ethics violations that led to his license being suspended for six months. He regained his license in June.
Dann wrote in an email that many people can speak about the quality of the work he's done since leaving politics and establishing a private practice. He continues to pursue foreclosure, consumer protection and banking cases.
"Winning this case will have a tremendous impact on the ability of homeowners to protect themselves from unwarranted and often unlawful foreclosure," he said . "That's what's important, and that's why I look forward to arguing this case."
He added, "This isn't about partisan politics. It's about helping exploited consumers take on big banks."
Bank of America argues that the Kuchtas didn't raise objections to the foreclosure as it was taking place. The bank contends that the couple began fighting much later, after retaining Dann for representation.
Bank lawyers told justices that ruling against Bank of America could have significant consequences - allowing defendants to withhold their legal objections from the court until it's convenient for them.
"If the law were otherwise, a defendant could enter an appearance in a case, raise standing as a defense, and then 'test the waters' to see if there are other viable defenses," bank lawyers wrote in a legal document.
"Even worse, the defendant could deliberately keep the defense in their 'back pocket,' and never raise the issue at all" - until it was needed, the lawyers wrote.
"No judgment would ever be final," the bank argues. "This is not and should never be the law."
Dann argues that the Kuchtas' foreclosure moved too quickly.
"This is more than a question of paperwork. By rushing to foreclose before filing the necessary paperwork, a bank is foregoing opportunities to work with the homeowner to prevent the foreclosure," he states in a news release.
"It's imperative that lower courts follow the Ohio Supreme Court ruling that protects homeowners from entities rushing foreclosures, causing unnecessary harm and expense to the homeowner as well as the community, which suffers from decreased safety, property values and a lower quality of life with each new foreclosure."