ex-Marine saved from foreclosure
Article Courtesy of Sun Sentinel
By Peter Franceschina
Posted May 24, 2003
JUPITER - A Palm Beach County circuit
judge on Friday canceled the foreclosure sale of the Jupiter home of George
Andres, who has been battling his homeowners association over his 12-foot
Andres was scheduled to lose his home on
Thursday until Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist intervened and one
of his deputies appeared at a Tuesday court hearing in a last-ditch effort
to persuade Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Edward Fine to reconsider
his order allowing the foreclosure.
"I'm elated. Everybody here is jumping
for joy," Andres said.
Andres, 66, a former Marine, got his second
visit from a high-ranking government official on Friday. Crist went by
his home to share in the good news. Last year, Gov. Jeb Bush went to Andres'
home on Flag Day to present him with a flag that had flown over the state
Crist was visiting Merritt Island when
he heard of the ruling. "I decided I wanted to come down here and celebrate
with George," said Crist as Andres' flag waved in the wet breeze.
Fine didn't reverse his order, which allows
for the foreclosure, but he determined that a legal issue -- whether Andres'
homestead exemption precludes the foreclosure of his home to collect a
legal debt -- has to be decided by a trial. He also encouraged Andres and
his homeowners association to make an attempt at mediation.
Both sides appear too far apart for mediation
to be successful, though.
"Mediation carries the possibility of not
only avoiding a trial, but also avoiding future appellate expenses," Fine
Andres says he wants the homeowners association
to pay his legal fees, which he estimates at $90,000. West Palm Beach attorney
Steven Selz, who represents the homeowners association, said any settlement
would have to include a schedule for Andres to pay the association's legal
fees. The association filed a $21,000 lien against Andres' home to collect
the legal fees.
One of Crist's deputies argued to Fine
on Tuesday that the homestead exemption protects Andres and his wife, Ann,
from losing their home.
"The homestead law is so important it's
embedded in our constitution," Crist said Friday. "Imagine, an ex-Marine,
just before Memorial Day, about to lose his home. ... This is a time for
us to cherish our freedom."
Boca Raton attorney Barry Silver, who represents
Andres, said he hopes to prevail in a trial on the homestead-exemption
issue. He also vowed to appeal all the way to the Florida Supreme Court
if necessary. There have been several court cases involving Andres' flag
Andres lost the main case in the dispute,
and Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Catherine Brunson ruled in October
2000 that he had to remove the pole. An appeals court agreed with Brunson.
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill
designed to alleviate Andres' legal troubles, and Bush signed it into law.
It allows people to fly a removable American flag "in a respectful manner"
regardless of homeowners association rules, but Fine determined it could
not be applied retroactively to Andres. Still, Andres has won a judge's
temporary permission to continue flying his flag.