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IBA: Mortgage Foreclosure in Marion County

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By The Hon. Cynthia Ayers

In November 2008, the Indianapolis Bar Association Board of Directors approved a resolution authorizing the formation of a new task force charged with finding ways to confront the explosion in mortgage foreclosures in Marion County. The Indianapolis Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force (IMFTF) was established, comprised of volunteer lawyers, judges, and state agency managers. Members included lawyers from the Indiana Bankers Association, the Attorney General’s Office, Legal Services Organization, United Auto Workers Legal Services, the Indiana Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Network, the Christian Legal Clinic, HUD, debt management agencies, members of the private bar and other concerned citizens.

The initial responsibility of the IMFTF was to determine the magnitude of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and develop an appropriate action plan. The committee developed ideas on how the bar association might help distressed homeowners and lenders and the entire community as a whole. Members quickly realized that in addition to families facing personal financial crisis, banks were being inundated with foreclosed properties. Empty homes were often magnets for criminal activity and consequently, directly related to rapidly falling home values.

Subcommittees were set up to facilitate a diversified approach to critical issues. Three major objectives were identified: court case-management, with the use of Alternate Dispute Resolution methods to promote face-to-face meetings between borrowers and lenders; education and training of lawyers, to facilitate pro bono representation of homeowners; and collaboration with the Indiana Housing Foreclosure Network, to encourage the referral of borrowers to credit counseling and debt management services.

For years, the Indiana foreclosure process followed a general routine. Initially, the lender filed suit after payments were missed, service was obtained on the defendant homeowner, the appropriate pleadings were presented timely to the court, and if done properly, default judgment was entered. Next, the defaulted borrowers either voluntarily left or stayed in possession until evicted after a Sheriff’s Sale. As the economic crisis worsened nationwide, it became increasingly apparent that an opportunity for settlement discussions may be a better approach for all parties. Based upon success in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, and Illinois, the IMFTF drafted a local rule, later approved by the Marion Superior Court in March 2009. The local rule required a settlement conference between borrower and lender in owner-occupied foreclosure cases.

Concurrently, the federal government required banks to offer loan modification programs to eligible borrowers. In July 2009, SB492, modeled in large part after the aforementioned Marion County local rule and sponsored by Senator Karen Tallian of Portage, Indiana, was enacted. (I.C. 32-30-10.5 et seq.). SB492 made settlement conferences available to all homeowners who requested them within certain timelines.

Since the passage of the local rule and SB492, much progress has been made. In Marion Civil Court IV, for example, 197 settlement conferences have occurred; of those, 27% resulted in dismissal of the foreclosure action and 15% are pending with proposed settlements.

In early 2010, the Indiana Supreme Court introduced pilot projects in Marion, Allen, Monroe, and St. Joseph counties which provide logistical coordinators and facilitators who manage the settlement conferences. In Marion County, three courts are part of the pilot program: Circuit Court and Civil Courts IV and X. This program has streamlined the foreclosure process, proving highly beneficial to successful outcomes. In-person facilitation has insured good faith settlement negotiation between borrower and lender.

In addition to these measures, other members of the IMFTF were educating and training volunteer attorneys to represent borrowers pro bono. To date, over 1000 attorneys statewide have received foreclosure training. Members involved with foreclosure prevention at the state level have also continued to work by keeping the crisis statistics current, providing access to twenty-four hour debt counseling services, and affording relief to homeowners through the “Get Hope Get Help Hotline,” (1-800-382-5516).

In sum, the Indianapolis Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force has met many of its goals and continues to move forward. Improvements are needed to encourage and expedite case resolution, such as the linking of homeowners directly to a legal-advice hotline. A better process for the exchange of information between debt counselors and case facilitators may reduce duplicative efforts. Additionally, the establishment of a confidential E-Repository for all settlement-related documents could eliminate cancelled meetings.

The Indianapolis Bar Association can be proud of the accomplishments of the Mortgage ForeclosureTask Force. Desperate times have called for a much needed change in mortgage foreclosure case management and local lawyers and judges have answered the call.•

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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