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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. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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