Lawyers have a hand in foreclosure mess, judges say
As the nation continues to grapple with the continuing foreclosure crisis, judges in some states are looking at the culpability of lawyers in cases where counsel for the mortgage giants have cut corners and filed sloppy or fraudulent paperwork in courts.
The New York Times wrote about the trend this week.
But New York judges are also trying to take the lead in fixing the mortgage mess by leaning on the lawyers. In November, a judge ordered Mr. Baum’s firm to pay nearly $20,000 in fines and costs related to papers that he said contained numerous “falsities.” The judge, Scott Fairgrieve of Nassau County District Court, wrote that “swearing to false statements reflects poorly on the profession as a whole.”
But there are only 23 states in the country where judges oversee foreclosure proceedings and North Carolina isn’t one of them. Here, most foreclosures get handled by clerks of court instead of judges. And those clerks simply don’t have the same powers that judges do.
We called the N.C. State Bar, the state agency that licenses and monitors lawyers, to see if they’ve had an uptick in complaints about lawyers behaving badly in foreclosure cases.
They haven’t. In fact, they say they haven’t heard from anyone.
Katherine Jean, general counsel for the State Bar, said she’s not aware of any complaints about misconduct of lawyers representing lenders in foreclosure proceedings.
“To my knowledge, we have received zero complaints,” she said.
Foreclosures reached an all-time high in 2010, with 67,854 foreclosure proceedings started over the course of the year. Policy Watch’s parent organization, the N.C. Justice Center, released a report today that found those numbers could account for one out of every 63 housing units in the state.
That’s a lot of people, and a lot of lawyers filing those legal proceedings in the 100 county courthouses across the state. So does this mean that North Carolina has lucked out, and all the foreclosures here are being done by the book?
It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially considering that many of the problems we’ve heard about like robo-signing of affidavits and sloppy legal paperwork has popped up across the country.
What do you think? Is the situation just fine here in the Tar Heel state? Or are we just not hearing about problems?