No New Foreclosure Cases for Steven J. Baum, P.C.

On November 15, 2011, in Foreclosure, Message/News Board, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

No New Foreclosure Cases for Steven J. Baum, P.C.

From the  Freddie Mac Website:

After November 10, 2011, Servicers may not refer any new Freddie Mac foreclosure or bankruptcy cases in New York to Steven J. Baum, P.C., whether referred within or outside of our Designated Counsel Program.

Until further notice, Steven J. Baum, P.C. will continue to work on all foreclosure and bankruptcy matters referred on or before November 10, 2011.

A partner at our firm, Robbie L. Vaughn, is quoted in this article from The New York Law Journal:  Check it out below!  As always we are here to answer any questions concerning this new court ruling at (516) 858-2620!

New Court Rule Says Attorneys Must Verify Foreclosure Papers

Andrew Keshner

New York Law Journal

October 21, 2010

“We feel we have an obligation to make sure the attorneys do their due diligence and come to us with credible papers because the consequences [of wrongful foreclosures] are so great,” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in an interview, adding that the new filing requirement is the first in the nation.

See a sample of the affirmation attorneys will be required to provide.

Attorneys must now certify, “under the penalties of perjury,” that they have communicated with a representative of the plaintiff bank or lender and that they have personally reviewed all documents and records related to the case.

After making this review and “other diligent inquiry,” they must attest that “to the best of my knowledge information and belief, the Summons and Complaint and all other documents filed in support of this action for foreclosure are complete and accurate in all relevant respects.”

The court system’s affirmation form notes that foreclosure filings in various courts around the nation have been subject to a variety of defects, including the failure of counsel to review documents and establish standings, bogus notarized affidavits and the “robosignature” of piles of documents by parties and their counsel.

“The wrongful filing and prosecution of foreclosure proceedings which are discovered to suffer from these defects may be cause for disciplinary and other sanctions upon participating counsel,” the court system warns.

“I think this makes clear to everybody the court system’s absolute commitment that we are not going to allow anything to interfere with the integrity of the court process,” said Judge Lippman.

Attorneys general in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are jointly investigating whether mortgage companies have violated state laws. In Maryland, an emergency measure approved this week by the state’s highest court outlines how state judges can review foreclosures and stop them if documents are invalid.

In New York, attorneys already have an obligation to ensure that the documents they present to the court are valid. For example, Rule 3.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct states that lawyers should not knowingly “make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the lawyer.”

However, Judge Lippman told the Associated Press that forcing lawyers to sign something to certify that all papers have gotten a proper review will hold them accountable like never before.

“We want to make sure that everyone is focusing like a laser on these particular types of proceedings,” he said. “It puts them on notice. That’s what this is all about. We all have to make doubly sure that we are doing what we should be doing in the first place.”

Some New York judges have complained loudly about rampant errors of varying severity in legal filings by banks seeking to foreclose on record numbers of homeowners (NYLJ, Oct. 14).

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Schack, one of the judges who have pressed lenders to submit accurate paperwork, said the new Lippman rules are a “great idea,” which he hopes will allow defendants and judges to “get to the bottom of this mess.”

He said some lawyers appearing before him have admitted to signing documents at a rate of “hundreds a week and thousands a month, and the notary wasn’t even in the room.” The new rule may reduce inaccuracies, he said.

“I don’t know if it is unfair,” Justice Schack said. “You want to use the court system for relief, you have the burden of trying to have accurate paperwork and, based on your diligent inquiry, that it is true.”

Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau said she had judges with cases in which they refused to sign foreclosure orders without more documentation.

“There are particular issues in the foreclosure process that require us to be particularly diligent,” she said.

Judge Lippman said in a press release that “we cannot allow the courts in New York State to stand by idly and be party to what we now know is a deeply flawed process.”

The New York State Bar Association welcomed the new requirement. Its president, Stephen P. Younger, said in a statement that “the chief judge has taken swift steps to address a nationwide problem in foreclosure actions. The New York State Bar Association applauds any effort to preserve and maintain the integrity of the foreclosure process.”

Mr. Younger said the affirmation form would be printed on the state bar’s Web site at www.nysba.org/foreclosureaffirmation.

Robbie L. Vaughn of Vaughn & Weber in Mineola, who represents homeowners in foreclosure matters, said that “anything that would help the veracity of the paperwork would help. We find so many problems, it’s a shame.”

Gale D. Berg is a solo practitioner who is also the director of Pro Bono Attorney Activities for the Nassau County Bar Association, which runs a monthly foreclosure clinic. Speaking personally, she said the new requirement could prove difficult for some attorneys hired by the banks. Such counsel sometimes are hired on a per diem basis and first learn of the specific cases they are to handle only on the day they are to appear.

Anthony A. Capetola, a Williston Park-based attorney, has been court referee in Nassau and Suffolk County foreclosure matters for about 35 years. He noted that many homeowners facing foreclosure cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Without someone to advocate for the homeowner, the new requirement was the court’s effort to “try to put somebody’s neck on the line,” he said.

“The merits of this rule are going to be in the details,” said Joshua Stein, a Manhattan commercial real estate attorney who watches the residential market. Mr. Stein said it might make sense to ask a lawyer to make reasonable efforts to assess the facts, but attorneys could not be expected to become a “guarantor” of those facts.

“Is this imposing some higher standard and if it does, what will the unintended consequences be?” said Mr. Stein, who is the chair of the education committee for the state Mortgage Bankers Association but was speaking for himself. He added that slowing down the foreclosure process was not a good idea. “It’s a slow enough process already,” he said.

Michael P. Smith, the president of the state bankers’ group, said his members have long worked with court administrators to bring a “fair and timely resolution to foreclosure proceedings.”

“While we have not yet analyzed the new rules, we reaffirm our support for efforts to provide further clarity to a process which already is subject to stringent state laws,” Mr. Smith said in a statement.

New York is one of 23 states that requires judicial approval of foreclosures. JPMorgan Chase has estimated that its average foreclosure takes 792 days, one of the longest rates in the nation.

JPMorgan was one of a few major banks that froze all foreclosures nationwide while they reviewed their filings for problems. Two of the biggest, Bank of America and GMAC Mortgage, resumed proceedings this week.

The rule requiring a signed affirmation applies to both new cases and the 78,000 foreclosure actions already under way in New York courts. (See Foreclosure Figures for New York State: 2010 Year-to-Date Foreclosures Filed and Pending by County, 2009 Foreclosures Filed and Pending by County and Number of Filings by County 2005-2009.)

Lawyers handling pending foreclosure actions will probably need to go back to their clients and verify that all proper steps were followed, Judge Lippman said. The form created by the court requires the lawyers to give the name of the bank employee who affirmed that the records were accurate and the date the conversation took place.

Because the process is so lengthy and there are so many pending foreclosures, attorneys will be allowed to submit their affirmations at one of several points in the process.

For new cases, the affirmation would have to be included for the file to be complete. For pending cases—which can be at any point between the initial filing and the final ruling—the new affirmation is required before the judge’s final signature on the decision.

Once an order is signed, the affirmation would be required before an auction sale of the property is held.

@|Andrew Keshner can be contacted at akeshner@alm.com. The Associated Press and Law Journal reporter Joel Stashenko contributed to this report.

The following Press Release is from the NYS Unified Court System:

New York Courts First in Country to Institute Filing Requirement to Preserve Integrity of Foreclosure Process

NEW YORK – The New York State court system has instituted a new filing requirement in residential foreclosure cases to protect the integrity of the foreclosure process and prevent wrongful foreclosures. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman today announced that plaintiff’s counsel in foreclosure actions will be required to file an affirmation certifying that counsel has taken reasonable steps – including inquiry to banks and lenders and careful review of the papers filed in the case – to verify the accuracy of documents filed in support of residential foreclosures. The new filing requirement was introduced by the Chief Judge in response to recent disclosures by major mortgage lenders of significant insufficiencies – including widespread deficiencies in notarization and “robosigning” of supporting documents – in residential foreclosure filings in courts nationwide. The new requirement is effective immediately and was created with the approval of the Presiding Justices of all four Judicial Departments.

Chief Judge Lippman said, “We cannot allow the courts in New York State to stand by idly and be party to what we now know is a deeply flawed process, especially when that process involves basic human needs – such as a family home – during this period of economic crisis. This new filing requirement will play a vital role in ensuring that the documents judges rely on will be thoroughly examined, accurate, and error-free before any judge is asked to take the drastic step of foreclosure.”

Under the new requirement, plaintiff’s counsel in foreclosure matters must submit the affirmation at one of several stages. In new cases, the affirmation must accompany the Request for Judicial Intervention. In pending cases, the affirmation must be submitted with either the proposed order of reference or the proposed judgment of foreclosure. In cases where a foreclosure judgment has been entered but the property has not yet been sold at auction, the affirmation must be submitted to the court referee, and a copy filed with the court, five business days before the scheduled auction. Counsel is also obligated to file an amended version of the affidavit if new facts emerge after the initial filing.

View the affirmation form.

As always, The Foreclosure Defense Law Firm of VAUGHN & WEBER, PLLC is here to assist you. We are conveniently located in the heart of Nassau County, Long Island, at 217 Willis Avenue in Mineola, NY 11501. Contact us at (516) 858-2620 to arrange a consultation with a foreclosure defense lawyer.

Please visit our Foreclosure category to learn more about foreclosure issues.

The following is from the NY Banking Department’s website:

October 8, 2010

To the Institution Addressed:


Recent events surrounding the foreclosure process of several mortgage loan servicers and the use of individuals identified as “robosigners” to execute affidavits without proper verification have raised considerable concerns for the Banking Department.

As you may be aware, on September 20, 2010, Ally Financial halted foreclosures in several states after discovering that faulty affidavits were filed in foreclosure cases.  Specifically, Ally indicated that certain individuals executed affidavits without personal knowledge of the allegations contained therein.  Subsequently, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America made similar announcements concerning documents filed in foreclosure actions.

Given the extent and severity of the issues raised, the Department is requesting that [Institution Addressed] conduct an internal review of its foreclosure practices in New York and provide a response by October 22, 2010 to the following:

  • The steps you are taking or have taken to review your foreclosure process in New York;
  • The results of your review, including a description of the process for verifying affidavits submitted in support of foreclosure actions in New York and which, if any, of your employees or agents have executed foreclosure documents without direct personal knowledge of the facts or with other irregularities;
  • The corrective action, if any, you have taken or intend to take in response to the results of your internal review;
  • The measures taken to ensure that affidavits filed in New York foreclosure actions are executed in compliance with New York law; and
  • The status of pending foreclosure actions (including foreclosure sales and evictions) in New York and the measures taken to suspend such actions pending your review and corrective action.

In the interim, we are requesting that [Institution Addressed] suspend foreclosure actions in New York until such time as it has conducted a thorough analysis of its foreclosure practices and determined that such practices are in compliance with New York law.

Read entire letter here

Please visit our Foreclosure category to learn more about foreclosure issues.

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