Documentary Clearing House and Associates (“DCH”) has pioneered a new strategy for attorneys who defend foreclosure cases. To date, DCH has produced three motions to assist attorneys implement the new strategy foreclosures in Phoenix.
Viewed from afar, the short, unpleasant history of foreclosure during the last three years presents a sorry spectacle. Far too many judges in foreclosure proceedings have stopped behaving like judges and instead become advocates for the foreclosure mills. The parties that foreclose continue to ignore and avoid alternate dispute resolutions.
The government’s efforts to stem the tide of foreclosure and encourage alternate dispute resolutions have been feckless and dissipated. Most people being foreclosed have not discharged their legal obligation to defend themselves. Instead, many if not most foreclosure cases go to summary judgment uncontested. The resulting assault upon American homeownership has been systemic and overwhelming.
Many homeowners in foreclosure believe that legal representation is unaffordable. Unable to make monthly mortgage payments, they conclude that they have no means to hire a lawyer. The public sector which defends people who cannot afford a lawyer has been unable to mount an effective counter- response to foreclosure.
Too much time has been spent on tactics; too little time has been spent on strategy. Foreclosure defense is preoccupied with finding omissions, defects and deficiencies. The tactics tend to show that a rule has been violated.
Too many courts are inclined to forgive and forget. The courts dream up notions such as finding the non-compliance merely “technical” or that the foreclosure is within the “four corners of the loan agreement”.
DCH is calling for a change in strategy. What is needed is a new strategy which is effective and affordable. DCH’s new motion addresses both these requirements.
1. Employ generic defenses to make defense against foreclosure affordable to most of those facing foreclosure.
Instead of a case specific defense custom designed to meet the unique questions of fact and law unique to each case, a defense which most clients confronted by foreclosure can ill afford, DCH is providing pleadings and discovery where one size fits all. DCH is creating generic defenses. The foreclosure mills have declared war on defaulting mortgagors. The cost effective response to litigation filed by the foreclosure mills is counter-measures from a defense mill. DCH provides the bullets for attorneys to fire. By putting foreclosure one the assembly line, every client can afford to retain his or her own hired gun in a foreclosure battle..
There is a conundrum caused by the litigation protocol used in defense litigation to represent clients in foreclosure: It is effective and counterproductive at the same time. Lawyers are taught to approach each case as unique and upon its own merits. We are also taught to employ tactics to complicate the other side’s case and discover damaging information. Lawyers also try to use discovery to find errors and omissions in the other side’s case. A proficient litigator wages war upon the other side with motions, depositions, production of documents, interrogatories and requests for admissions and stipulations. Attorneys are taught that litigation cases are won and lost in pretrial preparation. Many believe that a successful outcome is predicated upon pre-trial strategy. Such tactics are p[art of the litigation protocol and have over time proven themselves to be effective and productive.
The problem lies neither with the tactics nor the strategy. Lawyers approach a litigation case like a tailor making a custom suit. Each case is entitled to receive its unique defense to custom fit the facts and law applicable to the case. The problem when it comes to foreclosure cases is the client. A client who cannot make mortgage payment can ill afford a custom suit. One reason so many cases go to uncontested adjudication is that the client has no way to pay for a custom tailored defense. Three of the four major areas for defense- a defective or fraudulent note, the provenance of the note and consumer protection and consumer fraud statutes and regulations- require an extensive proof of facts. No matter how meritorious the defense, it is not serviceable if a client cannot financially afford it.
Too many foreclosure defendants find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They lack the money required for a custom tailored defense; they cannot obtain legal services pro bono publico; and there are no neighborhood services available for which the defendants qualify financially. Many of these defendants wind up having to appear pro se and lack the ability to do so. A trained attorney litigating against a lay person is an unfair contest for which the lay person is ill equipped to succeed. For every individual who can manage competently to defend against foreclosure, there are countless scores who cannot. Compelled by foreclosure to defend themselves and unable to do so, these homeowners are buried by the judicial system without having a day in court before they lose their homes.