Neutrality Should Be a Given for Judiciary

Lawyer/reporter Abigail Field analyzes the role of the judiciary in the foreclosure crisis for Fortune, Fighting a Foreclosure?  Hope for the Right Judge:

Not all judges are confronting the issues in the same way. Many are adopting procedures to stop any fraudulent behavior by the banks and are investigating questionable documents submitted in their cases. Other judges are turning a blind eye, at best.

Several state Supreme Courts have adopted procedures to stop fraud statewide, including New York, New Jersey, Florida and Maryland. For example, last October New York’s chief justice started requiring the banks’ attorneys to personally swear they had examined the banks’ claims and verified that they were true. As a result, foreclosure filings plunged in New York, and many have been dismissed for failure to file the required certification.

. . .

 New Jersey took the unusual step of demanding that the six biggest mortgage servicers explain why the court shouldn’t simply shut down all their pending foreclosures and stop them from filing new ones. The banks targeted were Ally Financial, Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), OneWest, and CitiMortgage (C).

In other states, groups of judges or even individual judges have adopted procedures to end the fraud. For example, last November, three Franklin County, Ohio judges, (John Bender, Kimberly Cocroft, and Guy Reece) adopted a New York-style procedure, and ordered attorneys representing foreclosing banks  to verify the accuracy and authenticity of the their documents

Lee County, Florida isn’t the only place where judges aren’t standing up to the banks’ fraud. I’ve talked to various attorneys who say some, even many, of the judges they practice before don’t want to hear about fraudulent documents.

That’s sad, and wrong. The judiciary is the first and perhaps most potent line of defense against the systematic fraud the banks and their foreclosure attorneys have been perpetrating nationwide. At a time when the big banks seem to have undue influence over Congress and the Executive Branch, shaping policy to their own interests, it’s crucial that the Judiciary stands up to bank power.

Or as Rachael Goodman, attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice program put it, “It’s imperative that the courts are not asleep at the wheel. The courts must ensure that the due process rights of homeowners are protected and that they have a fair shot at protecting their homes.”


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