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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. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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