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Judges split on mortgage issue

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In a case of first impression between a lender and the mortgagee on record, the Indiana Court of Appeals was divided as to whether the mortgagee on record had an enforceable right under a mortgage.

Shannon Barabas’ mortgage on her property in Pendleton said that the security instrument “is given to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), (solely as nominee for Lender, as hereinafter defined, and Lender’s successors and assigns), as mortgagee.” It also defined the lender in the mortgage as Irwin Mortgage Corporation and gave its address, and said any notice to lender shall be given to lender’s address.

Barabas refinanced the property with ReCasa, defaulted, and ReCasa foreclosed in June 2008. It named Irwin as a defendant, which disclaimed any interest in the real estate. The property was sold back to ReCasa at a sheriff’s sale and then sold to Rick Sanders in March 2009.

In April 2009, MERS assigned the MERS mortgage to Citimortgage and in October, Citi filed a motion to intervene and for relief from the September 2008 amended default judgment in the foreclosure lawsuit. Citi claimed as the assignee of MERS, it could assert any and all rights of MERS and it was the holder of the first mortgage on the property. It sought to foreclose on the MERS mortgage. The trial court declined to set aside ReCasa’s amended default judgment.

Citi argued that because ReCasa didn’t name MERS as a party defendant, it rendered the foreclosure judgment ineffective as to MERS and its assignee, Citi. The trial court held that Citi failed to redeem the property within one year of the judicial sale and as a result, its claim is precluded by Indiana Code Section 32-29-8-3. The majority, citing the June 2008 date in which ReCasa filed its foreclosure complaint, affirmed the lower court in Citimortgage, Inc. v. Shannon S. Barabas, et al., No. 48A04-1004-CC-232.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented on this point, noting that the time period is one year after the sale. The judicial sale happened on Jan. 23, 2009, in this case, not on the date ReCasa first foreclosed on the property or the date the mortgage was assigned to Citi. She wrote that the statute didn’t preclude Citi’s claim because it filed a motion to interview and for relief in October 2009.

The judges also disagreed as to whether MERS is a party possessing rights under the mortgage. Citi also argued that I.C. Section 32-29-8-3 doesn’t apply because MERS – as the mortgagee on record – should have been given notice of ReCasa’s initial foreclosure lawsuit instead of Irwin. An analysis of this relationship between MERS and Irwin is a matter of first impression.

The majority chose to follow the ruling in Landmark Nat’l Bank v. Kesler, 216 P.3d 158, 161 (Kan. 2009), which held that MERS was little more than a “straw man” for a lender.

“Like Landmark, Citi seeks to have the default judgment set aside based on the fact that it received its interest from MERS, which served as the mortgagee ‘solely as nominee’ for Irwin Mortgage,” wrote Judge Patricia Riley. “Thus, when Irwin Mortgage filed a petition and disclaimed its interest in the foreclosure, MERS, as mere nominee and holder of nothing more than bare legal title to the mortgage, did not have an enforceable right under the mortgage separate from the interest held by Irwin Mortgage.”

Judge Brown dissented, noting in the instant case, the mortgage was given to MERS as mortgagee, which was not the case in Landmark. Also, the fact that MERS assigned the mortgage to Citi and Irwin issued a disclaimer of interest indicate that MERS was more than a “straw man” and had a real interest in the property, she wrote.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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