Berks County PA Recorder of Deeds Ellie Antoine Found in Contempt of Court for Continued Failure to Comply With Mandamus Order
October 3, 2007
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa., -- Nearly a year after the issuance of a Mandamus Order requiring her office to comply with Pennsylvania law, a Perry County judge has found Berks County Recorder of Deeds Ellie Antoine in contempt of court and ordered her to pay the attorney's fees of the organization which brought suit against her. In his Contempt Order of September 26, 2007, Judge Quigley found Antoine's conduct to be "contemptuous in nature" as a result of her failure to record documents in order and for rejecting otherwise acceptable documents simply because the filers failed to provide a return envelope with the filing.
For several years, the Pennsylvania Land Title Association has fought to compel Antoine to timely record deeds, mortgages and other documents in the order they are presented to her office, as prescribed by Pennsylvania law, and to cease creating other arbitrary requirements which denied filers the right to put their documents on record. After a meeting with Antoine in which the PLTA expressed its need for the law to be complied with, Antoine indicated that she would not change her practices, and the Association filed suit against her in 2005, resulting in the issuance of a Mandamus Order in October 2006.
According to Edward Hayes of Fox Rothschild LLP in Philadelphia, who represented PLTA in the matter, "Ms. Antoine not only refused to comply with the mandamus order by continuing to record documents out of order, she continued to employ additional and arbitrary standards of her own. Her actions presented our members and other document filers with substantial practical burdens, and more important, with a real risk of material loss during the lag between presentation and recording of documents."
"We are pleased with the Contempt Order entered by Judge Quigley," said Dallys Novarina, President of PLTA. "Ms. Antoine's continued violation of the Mandamus Order she had agreed to, and her continued refusal to address our demands that the Order be followed left us no choice but to file the Contempt action. It is essential that documents be recorded in order, since that order determines the priority of interests in real estate," Novarina added, "A Recorder of Deeds is obligated to record a document which complies with Pennsylvania recording statutes, and she simply was not doing so."
Senior Judge Keith B. Quigley of Perry County issued the finding last week after holding a 2 1/2 hour hearing, but did not impose a sentence or determine the amount of attorneys' fees Antoine will have to pay PLTA. Those matters will be decided at a hearing this month.
Source: The Pennsylvania Land Title Association