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New approach to foreclosure prevention successful

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Courts around the state have experienced more success with a new approach to settlement conferences utilizing facilitators – who interact directly with borrowers and lenders – than past attempts to find alternatives to foreclosures.

The Mortgage Foreclosure Trial Court Assistance Project was first started in Allen County in February. Marion, St. Joseph, and Monroe counties followed suit with similar programs in April. Lake County started its program in July, and the latest to start a program, Madison County, began using a facilitator in August. Two more counties – Clark and Vanderburgh – are also set to start using facilitators in the next two months.

All of the participating counties use court-appointed facilitators who are paid through a portion of the $50 filing fee required for all foreclosure cases in Indiana starting July 1, 2009.

During the initial call, the facilitator and borrower discuss what the borrower needs to bring to a settlement conference, what they might be able to achieve in terms of a workout – whether it’s a short sale, a loan modification to stay in the home, or another option. Ultimately the facilitator helps schedule the settlement conference between the borrower and lender.

Ayers-Cynthia-mug Ayers

While it’s too early to tell if the borrowers who have had initial success will have long-term success due to the length of the foreclosure process, which can take up to six months, the numbers are promising, said Megan Graves, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Between March 1 and Sept. 1 in Allen, Marion, St. Joseph, and Monroe counties, of the 447 telephone conferences that were scheduled, 266 conferences were held and the remaining 181 borrowers failed to appear. During the 266 telephone conferences that took place, 222 settlement conferences were requested, of which 156 were held; of those, 94 conferences resulted in workouts, 34 resulted in no workout and the lender proceeded with foreclosure, and the remaining conferences were being followed up by the facilitators, according to statistics provided by Elizabeth Daulton, project manager of the Mortgage Foreclosure Trial Court Assistance Project for the Indiana Supreme Court, Division of State Court Administration.

The majority of the phone and settlement conferences took place in Marion and Allen counties because they started earlier than the other counties.

In Allen County, of the 210 telephone conferences scheduled, 110 were held. Of those, 87 settlement conferences were requested, and 71 were held. Of those, 38 resulted in a workout and 15 resulted in foreclosure.

In Marion County, 174 telephone conferences had been scheduled, and 91 took place. Of those, 73 requested a settlement conference, and 62 took place with 44 resulting in a workout and 15 resulting in foreclosure.

In Monroe County, 49 telephone conferences had been scheduled, and 14 were held. Of those, 11 requested settlement conferences, and eight took place. Four resulted in a workout, and one resulted in foreclosure.

In St. Joseph County, 51 telephone conferences were held and all requested settlement conferences. Since then, 15 have taken place, with eight resulting in a workout and three in foreclosure.

“It has been estimated that each averted foreclosure saves local communities and stakeholders at least $40,000,” according to a fact sheet Daulton provided to Indiana Lawyer. “... from March to September 2010, the MFTCAP has saved Indiana residents more than $3.75 million.”

Since the two facilitators started working in Marion County, things have been “remarkably better,” said Marion Superior Judge Cynthia Ayers, who oversees one of the courts in her county to have the program. She has also been involved with foreclosure prevention efforts through the Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force of the Indianapolis Bar Association.

“Now there is someone to help collect the appropriate documents from the borrower to have when the conference takes place,” she said. “… When the borrowers come to the settlement conference it’s much more likely they’ll be successful.”

She said there were still some issues with document exchange where a borrower would send their documents to the bank that holds the mortgage, but then the servicer – the lawyer who comes to court – would not receive them in time for the conference.

To get around that issue, she said, the court has discussed having an online document repository where the court could save documents from the borrowers, which the court could then e-mail to the servicer ahead of the settlement conference.

Judge Ayers has also met with state legislators to discuss her concerns, including a possible change to the statute that would change the program to an opt-out program.

She also suggested to legislators that there would be a stay in the foreclosure proceedings until all negotiations are concluded.

“Now, if there’s no agreement in seven days, the lender can move ahead with a foreclosure. We want there to be a stay because miscommunication is a huge problem,” she said.

Another effort to work with borrowers was a Sept. 1 event sponsored by the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network that took place at National Guard armories in Indianapolis, Hammond, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Columbus, Evansville, Terre Haute, and Richmond.

Participants at each location sat through a 30-minute orientation session, met with foreclosure prevention counselors to discuss what they would need to provide to their lenders, and what options they might have, Graves said.

The counselors helped borrowers compile packets for their lenders, including copies. Following the event, counselors have been going through about 300 submitted packets from around the state, and they have followed up with participants for missing information. Completed packets will then be given to lenders at an event in Indianapolis Sept. 16 that will include 20 lenders.

Borrowers who didn’t attend the Sept. 1 event can still participate Sept. 16, but Graves said organizers wanted to have a statewide event so those who couldn’t make it to Indianapolis Sept. 16 could still get their information in front of their lenders.

At the Sept. 1 event, borrowers who had legal questions could speak with attorney volunteers. There will also be attorney volunteers available at the Sept. 16 event.

Christopher Purnell, an attorney at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis who works with that agency’s foreclosure prevention counselors and another NCLC attorney on foreclosure issues, hosted a one-hour webinar training on foreclosure for the volunteer attorneys. He also volunteered Sept. 1, and planned to attend the Sept. 16 event.

While foreclosure prevention counselors were able to answer most of the questions participants had about loss mitigation, he said, some did ask volunteer attorneys about how bankruptcy might affect a workout. Others asked about how benefits from Social Security, disability, Medicare, or unemployment might affect their chances for a workout, and some asked how to appeal if they had been denied those benefits.

Graves said the Sept. 1 statewide event to prepare borrowers for the Sept. 16 event is the first of its kind in the country. She added they hoped to have closer to 1,000 households participate, but organizers were happy with 300 for the first event like this.

Daulton added there has been a great amount of interest from attorneys to volunteer for events like these, and ICLEF will have a training Oct. 28 as an update to the trainings that took place last year.

Purnell credited the volunteer attorneys for their efforts, and said borrowers seemed positive about the experience Sept. 1.

“Overall, the feeling was positive,” he said. “It’s like driving into a bad neighborhood. Even though they know it’s bad, at least they know where they are heading.”•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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