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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. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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