From Our Friends at Livinglies, Neil Garfield

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/95852/posts/2112751964

How to Use and Oppose Judicial Notice

One of the biggest bluffs used by claimants in foreclosure and eviction proceedings is the request for judicial notice. If unopposed, this results in myths being propagated as facts. Just because a document exists or has been uploaded to SEC.GOV or any other site doesn’t mean the source or the content is credible or reliable.
If I manage to record a deed purporting to transfer title that doesn’t mean that title is transferred nor that my ownership is to be presumed. The same is true if I upload the same fabricated deed to SEC.gov or any other site on the internet.
Judicial notice is erroneously applied as a vehicle for shifting the burden of proof. The basic rule of evidence is simple: the proponent of evidence must prove the truth, credibility and reliability of that evidence, even if it is admitted into evidence. Otherwise the evidence is admitted with zero weight.
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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
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Most states essentially have the same statute in their laws of evidence, like this one from Florida:

90.202 Matters which may be judicially noticed.A court may take judicial notice of the following matters, to the extent that they are not embraced within s. 90.201:

(1) Special, local, and private acts and resolutions of the Congress of the United States and of the Florida Legislature.

(2) Decisional, constitutional, and public statutory law of every other state, territory, and jurisdiction of the United States.

(3) Contents of the Federal Register.

(4) Laws of foreign nations and of an organization of nations.

(5) Official actions of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the United States and of any state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

(6) Records of any court of this state or of any court of record of the United States or of any state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

(7) Rules of court of any court of this state or of any court of record of the United States or of any other state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

(8) Provisions of all municipal and county charters and charter amendments of this state, provided they are available in printed copies or as certified copies.

(9) Rules promulgated by governmental agencies of this state which are published in the Florida Administrative Code or in bound written copies.

(10) Duly enacted ordinances and resolutions of municipalities and counties located in Florida, provided such ordinances and resolutions are available in printed copies or as certified copies.

(11) Facts that are not subject to dispute because they are generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. (e.s.)

(12) Facts that are not subject to dispute because they are capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned. (e.s.)

(13) Official seals of governmental agencies and departments of the United States and of any state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

History.s. 1, ch. 76-237; s. 1, ch. 77-77; s. 1, ch. 77-174; ss. 3, 22, ch. 78-361; ss. 1, 2, ch. 78-379.

A quick review of this statute, essentially the same as all others, reveals that it is not intended to be used as proof of contested facts. The fact that a document obviously exists may not be subject to contest unless the objection is that the document was prepared expressly for trial and not as part of whatever transaction is being contested.

Courts often overstep by becoming the lawyer for the claimant in foreclosure or eviction. As an example of the court stepping into the shoes of the claimant, there is the issue of judicial notice. You should research this. Because judicial notice is intended to be used as follows:
  1. For judicial economy — i.e., acceptance of facts that are virtually incontrovertible and not requiring proof. VERSUS your objections to the content of those documents. The requirement of absolute credibility is essential for judicial notice. There is no prejudice to any party by requiring actual proof of the documents and its contents. Judicial economy does not trump the rules of evidence which are designed to ferret out the truth not to assume facts that are untrue or that could easily be untrue because they came from an interested party.
  2. For documents, the only application of the judicial notice doctrine is that the documents exist and are maintained on a completely trusted site and not that what is written on them is true.
  3. In the case of government documents prepared by government with no interest in making any claims or defending any claims but simply in the ordinary course of record keeping, the record is subject to judicial notice and the content is generally presumed to be true unless disproven by the the opposing party.
  4. Judicial notice is completely inappropriate where the documents were prepared by parties with an interest in the outcome of litigation and claims and are not inspected, reviewed or scrutinized as to accuracy.
  5. Verifying facial validity of a document is NOT the same as verifying the statements contained on the document.
  6. For documents the source must be an independent third party source with no interest in the outcome. So if a fabricated assignment of mortgage is recorded in the county records, then the the existence of the document may be judicially noticed without any presumptions of the veracity or sufficiency of the statements contained in the assignment.
  7. Failure to object to the introduction of the document MIGHT be grounds for admission of both the document and its contents. The ability of the opposing party to present evidence that the document had been fabricated and that the statements contained within it are untrue or misleading is not barred by failure to object.
  8. The fact that it is admitted in evidence does not mean that should be given great weight by the trial court. Any evidence submitted by a party who has a direct interest in the outcome of litigation is to be viewed skeptically and requiring corroborative proof.
  9. Judicial notice is NOT appropriate for the PSA or anything else if the request for notice directs the court’s attention to SEC.GOV. This is an effort at misdirection.
  10. SEC.GOV is merely a repository for uploading documents with no more official capacity than box.com or dropbox.com. The fact that a document is there is NOT an indication that the document is an official document. The SEC has not reviewed it or approved it in any way, manner shape or form.
  11. BEST Evidence: Only the original document produced in court would be sufficient evidence of the document’s existence and then only if it was complete and signed — which means that the mortgage loan schedule is attached as the original mortgage loan schedule attached the trust instrument, the prospectus and the servicing agreements when they were originally executed.
  12. It is a common ploy to upload documents to SEC.Gov and then request judicial notice. This is wrong.
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Wells Fargo Employees Are Said to Improperly Alter Documents By Hannah Levitt


Wells Fargo Employees Are Said to Improperly Alter Documents
By Hannah Levitt
May 17, 2018, 10:06 AM EDT
Updated on May 17, 2018, 2:57 PM EDT

Wells Fargo & Co. found that employees in its wholesale unit added information to internal customer records without the clients’ knowledge, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The bank discovered the improper activity and reported it to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter hadn’t been publicly disclosed. The employees altered the documents in 2017 and earlier this year as they sought to satisfy regulatory demands related to anti-money-laundering controls, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported the issue earlier Thursday.

Wells Fargo has struggled to move past a wave of scandals, which led to a Federal Reserve ban on increasing assets until the lender fixes missteps. The bank’s first-quarter results were marred by a charge of $800 million tied to a settlement with U.S. regulators. Earlier this month, the bank rolled out a new marketing campaign built around its efforts to regain customers’ trust.

Bryan Hubbard, an OCC spokesman, declined to comment. Wells Fargo spokesman Alan Elias said in an emailed statement that the bank can’t comment on regulatory matters, but that it takes “swift action to correct” any behavior that violates the firm’s values.

“This matter involves documents used for internal purposes,” Elias said. “No customers were negatively impacted, no data left the company, and no products or services were sold as a result.”

The bank’s shares dropped 1.6 percent at 2:40 p.m. in New York trading, the biggest decline in the 24-company KBW Bank Index.

— With assistance by Laura J Kelle

Same Old Story: Paper Trail vs, Money Trail (Freddie Mac) Posted on May 15, 2018 by Neil Garfield

Same Old Story: Paper Trail vs, Money Trail (Freddie Mac)
Posted on May 15, 2018 by Neil Garfield
Payment by third parties may not reduce the debt but it does increase the number of obligees (creditors). Hence in every one of these foreclosures, except for a minuscule portion, indispensable parties were left out and third parties were in reality getting the proceeds of liquidation from foreclosure sales.
The explanations of securitization contained on the websites of the government Sponsored Entities (GSE’s) clearly demonstrate what I have been writing for 11 years and reveal a pattern of illusion and deception.

The most important thing about a financial transaction is the money. In every document filed in support of the illusion of securitization, it steadfastly holds firm to discussion of paper instruments and not a word about the actual location of the money or the actual identity of the obligee of that money debt.

Each explanation avoids the issue of where the money goes and how it was “processed” (i.e., stolen, according to me and hundreds of other scholars.)

It underscores the fact that the obligee (“debt owner” or “holder in due course” is never present in any legal proceeding or actual transaction or transfer of of the debt. This leaves us with only one conclusion. The debt never moved, which is to say that the obligee was always the same, albeit unaware of their status.

Knowing this will help you get traction in the courtroom but alleging it creates a burden of proof for you to prove something that you know is true but can only be confirmed with access to the books, records an accounts of the parties claiming such transactions ands transfers occurred.

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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

For one such example see Freddie Mac Securitization Explanation

And the following diagram:

Freddie Mac Diagram of Securitization

What you won’t find anywhere in any diagram supposedly depicting securitization:

Money going to an originator who then lends the money to the borrower.
Money going to a named REMIC “Trust” for the purpose of purchasing loans or anything else.
Money going to the alleged unnamed beneficiaries of a named REMIC “Trust.”
Money going to the alleged unnamed investors who allegedly purchased “certificates” allegedly issued by or on behalf of a named REMIC “Trust.”
Money going to the originator for sale of the debt, note and mortgage package.
Money going to originator for endorsement of note to alleged transferee.
Money going to originator for assignment of mortgage.
Money going to the named foreclosing party upon liquidation of foreclosed property.
Money going to the homeowner as royalty for use of his/her/their identity forming the basis of value in issuance of derivatives, hedge products and contract, insurance products and synthetic derivatives.
Money being credited to the obligee’s loan receivable account reducing the amount of indebtedness (yes, really). This is because the obligee has no idea where the money is coming from or why it is being paid. But one thing is sure — the obligee is receiving money in all circumstances.
Payment by third parties may not reduce the debt but it does increase the number of obligees (creditors). Hence in every one of these foreclosures, except for a minuscule portion, indispensable parties were left out and third parties were in reality getting the proceeds of liquidation from foreclosure sales.
Spread the word

From Our Friends at Living Lies Weblog: CitiMortgage Must Face Class Action for False notarization of Documents in Foreclosures


CitiMortgage Must Face Class Action for False notarization of Documents in Foreclosures
https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/95852/posts/1614247594
Oct 3, 2017

Where is the prejudice in requiring the foreclosing party to prove its case with facts raather than presumptions?

There are two big takeaways: (1) Courts are getting more curious about what really happened in the mortgage meltdown and (2) this is one more example of how the TBTF banks are not entitled to any legal presumptions regarding their documents.

Research always shows that a fact is presumed in certain cases — but only in the absence of questions about the credibility of the party who proffers a document from which the legal presumption arises.
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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
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see https://www.reuters.com/article/citimortgage-foreclosures/9th-circuit-revives-lawsuit-over-citimortgage-foreclosure-records-idUSL2N1MD245

What the banks have done is (1) create self-serving documents and then (2) fabricate other documents that rely upon the facts stated or implied in prior fabricated documents. The “greater weight” (piles of false documents) of the evidence falsely leads judges to presume that all that paper must mean something even when it is all trash.

Like other objections or motions in limine practicitioners should strive for a ruling that the foreclosing party must actually prove the facts that they want to be presumed. That includes the funding of the loan, the payment for the loan, and whether any so-called “transfers” were anything more than some words scratched on a piece of paper. They must prove facts not receive the benefit of a legal presumption or factual assumption.

Transfer documents (e.g., assignment of mortgage) and endorsements imply that a purchase took place. Whether such a purchase took place or not, the documents read the same. The error is in assuming the transaction took place when the source of the document has at least questionable credibility. Credibility questions arise whether it is Wells Fargo in creating fake financial accounts and then charging fees for them, Citi fabricating signatures and notarization, BofA or US Bank appearing as the injured party, or Chase claiming to own WAMU loans that not even WAMU had on its books. It’s obvious that the players are

Credibility questions arise whether it is Wells Fargo in creating fake financial accounts and then charging fees for them, Citi fabricating signatures and notarization, BofA or US Bank appearing as the injured party, or Chase claiming to own WAMU loans that not even WAMU had on its books. It’s obvious that the players are allin on the same “game,” to wit: keeping ivnestors and homeowners in the dark while the banks trade “paper.”

That includes the funding of the loan, the payment for the loan, and whether any so-called “transfers” were anything more than some words scratched on a piece of paper. They must prove facts not presume them. Transfer documents and endorsements imply that a purchase took place

Transfer documents and endorsements imply that a purchase took place because it is obvious that nobody goes around giving mortgage loans away. The “presumption” that the foreclosing parties want to use is that there must have been a purchase transaction in real life — facts — as opposed to the presumption that a transaction occurred in which one party purchased a loan from another party.

The presumption to the contrary in the context of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of cases in which documents were fabricated, forged, robo-signed, and falsely notarized leads the courts to a false conclusion and the denial of the homeowner’s basic defense: this foreclosing party has no right, title or interest in my loan and doesn’t represent anyone who does have a right, title or interest in the debt, note or mortgage.

It is wrong for a court to ignore the 50 state settlement, the consent orders and the many cases in which borrowers were successful in undercutting the claim that the foreclosing party had legal standing.

Consider this: if the foreclosing parties really were acting legally, why wouldn’t they want to prove it? That would certainly discredit borrower defenses and send a message to foreclosure defense lawyers that these loans are real and the transfers were in fact purchases. Where is the prejudice in requiring the foreclosing party to prove its case with facts raather than presumptions?

Why would Goldman Sachs buy Delinquent and Defective Mortgages? Posted on March 18, 2017 by Neil Garfield By the Lending Lies Staff


From Livinglies weblog:
Posted on March 18, 2017 by Neil Garfield
https://livinglies.wordpress.com/

Why would Goldman Sachs buy Delinquent and Defective Mortgages?
Posted on March 18, 2017 by Neil Garfield
By the Lending Lies Staff

Just last year Goldman Sachs entered into settlements with state and federal governments over the sale of toxic mortgage backed securities to investors while subsequently shorting the very same securities they were selling. Goldman would agree to provide $1.8 billion in debt relief to delinquent borrowers. However, since Goldman (and likely no other identifiable party) doesn’t owns the debt, Goldman cuts its losses by repackaging the toxic debt, assigning it an AAA rating and selling it to unsuspecting investors and pension funds for a fee, thus off-loading any liability. Goldman knows the feds won’t do anything to stop its crimes spree- so why not sell mortgage backed securities you know are toxic?
Goldman has once again successfully masterminded a new strategy to satisfy the $1.8 billion settlement without having to fund a dollar of that outstanding obligation, and while also profiting on this RICO scheme.
Goldman’s plan includes buying up billions of dollars of non-performing and defective loans at massive discounts. Goldman just announced they were purchasing 4.5 billion dollars in non-performing loans from Fannie Mae. It would be interesting to research if Fannie Mae discloses that these loans have material defects that cannot be remedied.
Goldman then contacts the homeowners and negotiates loan modifications by incentivizing the homeowner to participate by reducing their principle balance. Most desperate and unsuspecting homeowners have no idea that Goldman is acting as a debt collector and there is no underlying party that owns the debt or has a right to modify the mortgage contract in the first place. Once the modification is signed, in theory, a “new” loan is issued that rectifies all past endorsement, assignment and trust issues, while whitewashing all prior fraud.
The homeowner is now making payments on a new loan that is less than Goldman’s initial discount on the original purchase. Goldman than credits the principle forgiveness against its $1.8 billion dollar mortgage relief obligation while making money! Goldman is able to skirt the punishment and the fine costs them nothing because the debt was acquired at an even larger discount.
Finally, the true ingenuity of this plan emerges. Once the loan is modified and performing, the loans can be repackaged and resold as Triple-A paper once again to unsuspecting buyers.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the debt scavengers at Goldman Sachs are the largest buyer of Fannie Mae’s non-performing loans, having purchased $5.7 billion worth of unpaid loans over the past several months. Goldman Sachs should have been barred from ever participating in mortgage backed securities transactions after its last criminal enterprise.
Over the past year-and-a-half, Goldman Sachs has become the largest buyer of severely delinquent home loans from Fannie Mae. In fact, Goldman has acquired nearly two-thirds of $9.6 billion in loans the agency has auctioned off, representing unpaid loan balances in excess of $5.7 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal’s review of government records.
In all, Goldman has spent roughly $4.5 billion on some 26,000 Fannie-owned loans, according to government records. It has also been buying mortgages, from private sellers and Freddie Mac. Apparently while everyone is unloading zombie mortgage loans, Goldman Sachs is buying as much toxic sludge that is available.
According to the government-sponsored enterprise, the portfolio was split into four pools of loans and auctioned off.
The winning bidder of the smallest of the four pools is Igloo Series II Trust (Balbec Capital). That pool contained 1,465 loans that carry an aggregate unpaid principal balance of $246,748,844.
The pool has an average loan size of $168,429; a weighted average note rate of 4.51%; a weighted average delinquency of 29 months; and a weighted average broker’s price opinion loan-to-value ratio of 78.75%.
The remaining $1.43 billion in unpaid principal balance went to MTGLQ Investors, a “significant subsidiary” of Goldman Sachs.
MTGLQ Investors is now a fixture among the NPL sales from both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Last year, MTGLQ Investors bought billion-dollar pools of NPLs from Fannie and Freddie in several different sales.
In this latest sale, MTGLQ Investors bought the remaining three pools of NPLs.
The first pool contained 3,062 loans that carry an aggregate unpaid principal balance of $496,205,215.
Goldman has an excellent business plan. By renegotiating and repackaging worthless mortgage loans it can polish high-risk loans into grade-A paper. The pension funds take on all of the risk if the homeowners default, and Goldman will have kicked the can down the road to the newest suckers in the scheme.
On Tuesday Goldman won the majority of defective loans at Fannie Mae’s latest auction, its largest to date. The bank bought about 8,000 loans with unpaid balances of $1.4 billion.
Goldman has paid between 50 and 90 cents on the dollar for the loans, according to Fannie Mae, however, some (if not all) of these loans are likely not worth a dime until fraudulently modified.
Meanwhile, because Goldman is getting credit toward fulfilling the terms of its settlement, it can afford to pay more for the delinquent loans than other competing bidders, which essentially means they’ve not only created but they have cornered an entire market.

2 million phony accounts Wells Fargo!

Together we'll go far Wells Fargo Home Page

5,300 Wells Fargo employees fired over 2 million phony accounts

Everyone hates paying bank fees. But imagine paying fees on a ghost account you didn’t even sign up for.

That’s exactly what happened to Wells Fargo customers nationwide.

On Thursday, federal regulators said Wells Fargo (WFC) employees secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts — without their customers knowing it — since 2011.

The phony accounts earned the bank unwarranted fees and allowed Wells Fargo employees to boost their sales figures and make more money.

“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,” Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in a statement.

Wells Fargo confirmed to CNNMoney that it had fired 5,300 employees over the last few years related to the shady behavior. Employees went so far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the CFPB said.

Related: Who owns Wells Fargo? You, me and Warren Buffett

The scope of the scandal is shocking. An analysis conducted by a consulting firm hired by Wells Fargo concluded that bank employees opened over 1.5 million deposit accounts that may not have been authorized.

The way it worked was that employees moved funds from customers’ existing accounts into newly-created ones without their knowledge or consent, regulators say. The CFPB described this practice as “widespread.” Customers were being charged for insufficient funds or overdraft fees — because there wasn’t enough money in their original accounts.

Additionally, Wells Fargo employees also submitted applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without their customers’ knowledge or consent. Roughly 14,000 of those accounts incurred over $400,000 in fees, including annual fees, interest charges and overdraft-protection fees.

The CFPB said Wells Fargo will pay “full restitutions to all victims.”

Related: ATM and overdraft fees top $6 billion at the big 3 banks

Wells Fargo is being slapped with the largest penalty since the CFPB was founded in 2011. The bank agreed to pay $185 million in fines, along with $5 million to refund customers.

“We regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request,” Wells Fargo said in a statement.

Wells Fargo has the highest market valuation among any bank in America, worth just north of $250 billion. Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), the investment firm run legendary investor Warren Buffett, is the company’s biggest shareholder.

Of the total fines, $100 million will go toward the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund, $35 million will go to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and another $50 million will be paid to the City and County of Los Angeles.

“One wonders whether (the CFPB) penalty of $100 million is enough,” said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor and former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It sounds like a big number, but for a bank the size of Wells Fargo, it isn’t really.”

Wells Fargo confirmed to CNNMoney that the 5,300 firings took place over several years. The bank listed 265,000 employees as of the end of 2015.

Related: Barclays fined $109 million for trying to hide a deal with rich clients

“At Wells Fargo, when we make mistakes, we are open about it, we take responsibility, and we take action,” the bank said in a memo to employees on Thursday.

The CFPB declined to comment on when the investigation began and what sparked it, citing agency policy. “We don’t comment on how we uncover these matters,” a spokesman said.

As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo needs to make changes to its sales practices and internal oversight.

Customers are fuming. Brian Kennedy, a Maryland retiree, told CNNMoney he detected an unauthorized Wells Fargo account had been created in his name about a year ago. He asked Wells Fargo about it and the bank closed it, he said.

“I didn’t sign up for any bloody checking account,” Kennedy, who is 57 years old, told CNNMoney. “They lost me as a banking customer and I have warned family and friends.”

“Consumers must be able to trust their banks,” said Mike Feuer, the Los Angeles City Attorney who joined the settlement.

Feuer’s office sued Wells Fargo in May 2015 over allegations of unauthorized accounts. After filing the suit, his office received more than 1,000 calls and emails from customers as well as current and former Wells Fargo employees about the allegations.

Wells Fargo declined to say when it hired a consulting firm to investigate the allegations. However, a person familiar with the matter told CNNMoney the bank launched the review after the L.A. lawsuit was filed.

Even though the Wells Fargo scandal took place nationally, the settlement with L.A. requires the bank to specifically alert all its California customers to review their accounts and shut down ones they don’t recognize or want.

“How does a bank that is supposed to have robust internal controls permit the creation of over a half-million dummy accounts?” asked Vladeck. “If I were a Wells Fargo customer, and fortunately I am not, I’d think seriously about finding a new bank.”

–To reach the author of this article email Matt.Egan@cnn.com

It Finally Dawned on Me! An Epipheny

James and I were talking the other night, about foreclosure hell.  And as we talked, we were listening to Alex Jones’ InfoWars.  It suddenly all made sense.  All of the foreclosures.  That is not what the show was talking about, at all.  It came to me suddenly, out of the blue.

Think about it.  While thinking about the foreclosures, think about all the illegal immigrants. Where the hell are they all supposed to go, where are they going to live?

Anyone that lives in a house, anywhere, every day, passes by foreclosed upon homes.  How long some of those houses been vacant.  Really now, how long?  We have houses around here that were foreclosed upon pretty early on, most of them are still vacant, and new ones being foreclosed upon every day still.

Do you get it now?  George Soros, with his shit stirring stick, funds Black Lives Matters, and who knows what else.  The banks are still gathering houses, and letting them sit.  Of course, they have lost no money, because they never funded the loans.

This has been a long time coming.  One only needs to sit back and think about it.  They now say that Detroit has been bought by Soros, for the immigrants to live there.  It all makes sense to me now.  We are being replaced by illegal immigrants.  All the people who lost their homes, and wondered why, can now know that it was a long term plan to get rid of Americans.

Just like has happened in Germany, the Germans are moving out, leaving everything for the immigrants.  The immigrants have never lived in a society like that which the Americans are used to.  They don’t want to get along with you.  They treat women like shit.  Throwing them on the ground, kicking them, kicking them in the face and stomping on their heads.  How long do you think it will be  before the same thing is happening here?

I always said the Bank with the most homes in the end wins.  Now I know what it is they have been attempting to win.  The downfall of the American people.  What better way to do it?  Reign in 100’s of thousands of illegal immigrants that hate Americans and the western way of life, brought here to destroy each and every one of us….

2016 STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE HUGH P. THOMPSON SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA January 27, 2016, 11 a.m. House Chambers, State Capitol

016 STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS
THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE HUGH P. THOMPSON
SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA
January 27, 2016, 11 a.m.
House Chambers, State Capitol

Lt. Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Shafer, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, members of the General Assembly, my fellow judges and my fellow Georgians:
Good morning. Thank you for this annual tradition of inviting the Chief Justice to report on the State of Georgia’s Judiciary. Thanks in large part to your support and the support of our governor, as we move into 2016, I am pleased to tell you that your judicial branch of government is not only steady and secure, it is dynamic; it has momentum; and it is moving forward into the 21st century with a vitality and a commitment to meeting the inevitable changes before us.
Our mission remains the same: To protect individual rights and liberties, to uphold and interpret the rule of law, and to provide a forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes that is fair, impartial, and accessible to all.
Our judges are committed to these principles. Each day, throughout this state, they put on their black robes; they take their seat on the courtroom bench; and they work tirelessly to ensure that all citizens who come before them get justice.


Our Judicial Council is the policy-making body of the state’s judicial branch. It is made up of competent, committed leaders elected by their fellow judges and representing all classes of court. They are assisted by an Administrative Office of the Courts, which is under a new director – Cynthia Clanton – and has a renewed focus as an agency that serves judges and courts throughout Georgia.
A number of our judges have made the trip to be here today. Our judges are here today because the relationship we have with you is important. We share with you the same goal of serving the citizens of this great state. We could not do our work without your help and that of our governor.
On behalf of all of the judges, let me say we are extremely grateful to you members of the General Assembly for your judicial compensation appropriation last year.


Today I want to talk to you about Georgia’s 21st century courts – our vision for the future, the road we must travel to get there, and the accomplishments we have already achieved.
It has been said that, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
Since a new state Constitution took effect in 1983, our population has nearly doubled to a little over 10 million, making us the 8th most populous state in the country. We are among the fastest growing states in the nation, and in less than four years, our population is projected to exceed 12 million.
Because it is good for our economy, we welcome that growth. Today, Georgia ranks
among states with the highest number of Fortune 500 companies, 20 of which have their global headquarters here; we have 72 four-year colleges and universities; we have the world’s busiest airport and we have two deep-water ports. Georgia is a gateway to the South, and for a growing number of people and businesses from around the world, it is a gateway to this country.
All of this growth produces litigation – increasingly complex litigation – and just as our state must prepare for this growth by ensuring we have enough roads and modes of transportation, enough doctors and hospitals, and enough power to reach people throughout the state, our courts also must be equipped and modernized for the 21st
century.
While our population has nearly doubled since 1983, the number of Georgia judges has
grown only 16 percent. We must work together to ensure that our judicial system has enough judges, staff and resources in the 21st century to fulfill the mission and constitutional duties our forefathers assigned to us.
A healthy, vibrant judiciary is absolutely critical to the economic development of our state. Thanks to many leaders in the judiciary, as well as to our partnership with the governor and to you in the legislature, we are well on our way to building a court system for the 21st century.


This time next year, with your support, we will have put into place an historic shift in the types of cases handled by the Georgia Supreme Court – the highest court in the state – and by the Court of Appeals – our intermediate appellate court. Thanks to Governor Deal’s Georgia Appellate Jurisdiction Review Commission, this realignment will bring the Supreme Court of Georgia in line with other state Supreme Courts, which handle only the most critical cases that potentially change the law. Serving on the Commission are two of my colleagues – Justice David Nahmias and Justice Keith Blackwell – as well as two judges from the Court of Appeals – Chief
Judge Sara Doyle and Judge Stephen Dillard.
I thank you, Justices and Judges, for your leadership.
Under the Georgia Constitution, Supreme Court justices collectively decide every case that comes before us. Currently the state’s highest court hears divorce and alimony cases; we hear cases involving wills; we hear cases involving titles to land; and we hear disputes over boundary lines.
But the Governor’s Commission, and a number of reports by other commissions and
committees issued since 1983, have recommended that such cases should be heard by our intermediate appeals court, not by our highest court.
Both of our courts are among the busiest in the nation. But unlike the Supreme Court, which sits as a full court with all seven justices participating in, and deciding, every case, the Court of Appeals sits in panels of three. With your approval last year of three new Court of Appeals judges, that court will now have five panels, so it will have the capacity to consider five times as many cases as the Supreme Court.
Modernization of the Supreme Court makes sense. In a 19th century court system, when
most of the wealth was tied up in land, maybe title to land cases were the most important. Maybe they had the greatest implications for the public at large. But as we move into the 21st century, that is no longer true.
In answer to questions such as who owns a strip of land, what does a will mean, and who should prevail in a divorce settlement or an alimony dispute, most judicial systems believe that three judges are enough to provide the parties with a full and fair consideration of their appeal. It no longer makes sense to have seven – or nine – justices collectively review these types of cases.
There is no doubt these cases will be in good hands with the Court of Appeals.
Let me emphasize that all these cases the Commission recommended shifting to the Court of Appeals are critically important to the parties involved.
Let me also emphasize that the purpose of this historic change is not to lessen the burden on the Supreme Court. Rather, the intent is to free up the state’s highest court to devote more time and energy to the most complex and the most difficult cases that have the greatest implications for the law and society at large.
We will therefore retain jurisdiction of constitutional challenges to the laws you enact, questions from the federal courts seeking authoritative rulings on Georgia law, election contests, murder and death penalty cases, and cases in which the Court of Appeals judges are equally divided.
Significantly, we want to be able to accept more of what we call “certiorari” cases
which are appeals of decisions by the Court of Appeals. The number of petitions filed in this category during the first quarter of the new docket year is nearly 14 percent higher this year over last. Yet due to the amount of appeals the law now requires us to take, we have had to reject the majority of the petitions for certiorari that we receive.
These cases are often the most complex – and the most consequential. They involve
issues of great importance to the legal system and the State as a whole. Or they involve an area of law that has become inconsistent and needs clarification.
Businesses and citizens need to know what the law allows them to do and what it does
not allow them to do. It is our job at the highest court to reduce any uncertainty and bring consistency and clarity to the law.
Under the Commission’s recommendations, our 21st century Georgia Supreme Court will
be able to accept more of these important appeals.


As we move into the 21st century, plans are being discussed to build the first state Judicial Building in Georgia’s history that will be dedicated solely to the judiciary. We are grateful for the Governor’s leadership on this. The building that now houses the state’s highest court and the Court of Appeals was built in 1954 when Herman Tallmadge was governor. Back then, it made sense to combine the state judicial branch with part of the executive branch, by locating the Law Department in the same building.
But the world has changed since 1954, and the building we now occupy was not designed with visitors in mind. It was not designed with technology in mind. And it surely was not designed with security in mind. Indeed, it was designed to interconnect with neighboring buildings that housed other branches of government.
A proper Judicial Building is about more than bricks and mortar. Outside, this building will symbolize for generations to come the place where people will go to get final resolution of civil wrongs and injustices; where the government will go to safeguard its prosecution of criminals; and where defendants will go to appeal convictions and sentences to prison for life.
Inside such a building, the courtroom will reinforce the reality that what goes on here is serious and solemn; it is a place of great purpose, in the words of a federal judge. The parties and the lawyers will understand they are all on equal footing, because they are equal under the law.
There is a majesty about the law that gets played out in the courtroom. It is a hallowed place because it is where the truth must be told and where justice is born. The courtroom represents our democracy at its very best.
No, this building is not just about bricks and mortar. Rather it is a place that will house Georgia’s highest court where fairness, impartiality, and justice will reign for future generations.


We are no longer living in a 1950s Georgia. The courts of the 21st century must be
equipped to handle an increasingly diverse population. Living today in metropolitan Atlanta alone are more than 700,000 people who were born outside the United States. According to the Chamber of Commerce, today some 70 countries have a presence in Atlanta, in the form of a consulate or trade office. We must be ready to help resolve the disputes of international businesses that are increasingly locating in our state and capital. Our 21st century courts must be open, transparent and accessible to all. Our citizens’ confidence in their judicial system depends on it. We must be armed with qualified, certified interpreters, promote arbitration as an alternative to costly, courtroom-bound litigation, ensure that all those who cannot afford lawyers have an avenue toward justice, and be constantly updating technology with the aim of improving our courts’ efficiency while saving literally millions of dollars. For all of this, we need your help.


When I first became a judge, we had no email, no cell phones, no Internet. People didn’t Twitter or text, or post things on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. The most modern equipment we had was a mimeograph machine.
This past year, by Supreme Court order, we created for the first time a governance
structure to bring our use of technology into the 21st century. Chaired by my colleague Justice Harold Melton, and co-chaired by Douglas County Superior Court Judge David Emerson, this permanent Judicial Council Standing Committee on Technology will lead the judicial branch by providing guidance and oversight of its technology initiatives.
Our courts on their own are rapidly moving away from paper documents into the digital age. At the Supreme Court, lawyers must now electronically file all cases. This past year, we successfully launched the next phase by working with trial courts to begin transmitting their entire court record to us electronically. The Court of Appeals also now requires the e-filing of applications to appeal, and this year, will join the Supreme Court in accepting electronic trial records.

Our goal is to develop a uniform statewide electronic filing and retrieval system so that lawyers and others throughout the judiciary can file and access data the easiest way possible.
Using a single portal, attorneys will be able to file documents with trial courts and appellate courts – and retrieve them from any court in the state. This is the system advocated by our partner, President Bob Kaufman of the State Bar of Georgia, and by attorneys throughout the state.
Such a system will not only make our courts more efficient at huge savings, but it will make Georgia safer. When our trial judges conduct bond hearings, for example, they often lack critical information about the person before them. They usually have reports about any former convictions, but they may not have information about cases pending against the defendant in other courts. The technology exists now to ensure that they do.
Also on the horizon is the expanded use of videoconferencing – another electronic
improvement that will save money and protect citizens’ lives. After a conviction and sentence to prison, post-trial hearings require courts to send security teams to pick up the prisoner and bring him to court. Without encroaching on the constitutional right of confrontation, we could videoconference the inmate’s testimony from his prison cell. Again, the technology already exists.
Our Committee on Technology will be at the forefront of guiding our courts into the 21st century.


As Georgia grows, it grows more diverse.
Our Georgia courts are required by the federal government to provide language services free of charge to litigants and witnesses, not only in criminal cases but in civil cases as well.
Even for fluent English speakers, the judicial system can be confusing and unwelcoming.
My vision for Georgia’s judiciary in the 21st century is that every court, in every city and every county in Georgia, will have the capacity of serving all litigants, speaking any language, regardless of national origin, from the moment they enter the courthouse until the moment they leave. That means that on court websites, signs and forms will be available in multiple languages, that all court staff will have the tools they need to assist any customers, and that court proceedings will have instant access to the interpreters of the languages they need.
Chief Magistrate Kristina Blum of the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court has been
working hard to ensure access to justice for all those who come to her court, most of whom are representing themselves.
Recently her court created brochures that provide guidance for civil trials, family
violence matters, warrant applications, garnishments, and landlord-tenant disputes. These brochures provide basic information about each proceeding – what to expect and how best to present their case in court.
Judge Blum, who is in line to be president of the Council of Magistrate Judges and is a member of our Judicial Council, has had the brochures translated into Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese. Such non-legalese forms and tutorial videos that our citizens can understand go a long way toward building trust in the judicial system, and in our entire government.
The Supreme Court Commission on Interpreters, chaired by Justice Keith Blackwell, is
making significant strides in ensuring that our courts uphold the standards of due process. With the help of Commission member Jana Edmondson-Cooper, an energetic attorney with the Georgia Legal Services Program, the Commission is working around the state to educate judges,court administrators and lawyers on the judiciary’s responsibilities in providing language assistance.
The essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard. Our justice system is the envy of other countries because it is open and fair to everyone seeking justice. By helping those who have not yet mastered English, we reinforce the message that the doors to the best justice system in the world are open to everyone.
Our law demands it. Our Constitution demands it.


The courts of the 21st century will symbolize a new era. A turning point in our history occurred when we realized there was a smarter way to handle criminals.
Six years ago, my colleague and then Chief Justice Carol Hunstein accompanied
Representative Wendell Willard to Alabama to explore how that state was reforming its criminal justice system. Back in Georgia, Governor Deal seized the reins, brought together the three branches of government, and through extraordinary leadership, has made criminal justice reform a reality. Georgia is now a model for the nation.
Today, following an explosive growth in our prison population that doubled between
1990 and 2011 and caused corrections costs to top one billion dollars a year, last year our prison population was the lowest it has been in 10 years. Our recidivism rate is the lowest it’s been in three decades. And we have turned back the tide of rising costs.
For the last five years, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform – created by the governor and your legislation – has been busy transforming our criminal justice system into one that does a better job of protecting public safety while holding non-violent offenders accountable and saving millions in taxpayer dollars. I am extremely grateful to this Council and commend the steady leadership of co-chairs Judge Michael Boggs of the Court of Appeals and Thomas Worthy of the State Bar of Georgia.
Throughout this historic reform, Georgia’s trial court judges have been in the trenches.
Our number one goal in criminal justice reform is to better protect the safety of our citizens.
Central to that goal is the development of our specialty courts – what some call accountability courts.
These courts have a proven track record of reducing recidivism rates and keeping our
citizens safe. Nationwide, 75 percent of drug court graduates remain free of arrest two years after completing the program, and the most conservative analyses show that drug courts reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options. Last year, these courts helped save Georgia more than $51 million in prison costs.
From the beginning, you in the legislature have steadfastly supported the growth in these courts, most recently appropriating more than $19 million for the current fiscal year.
Georgia now has 131 of these courts, which include drug courts, DUI courts, juvenile and adult mental health courts, and veterans courts. Today, only two judicial circuits in the state do not yet have a specialty court, and both are in the early stages of discussing the possibility of starting one. In addition to those already involved, last year alone, we added nearly 3500 new participants to these courts.
Behind that number are individual tales of lives changed and in some cases, lives saved.
Our judges, who see so much failure, take pride in these success stories. And so should you.

Chief Judge Richard Slaby of the Richmond County State Court, speaks with great pride of Judge David Watkins and the specialty courts that have grown under Judge Watkins’ direction. Today the recidivism rate among the Augusta participants is less than 10 percent.
The judges who run these courts are committed and deserve our thanks. We are grateful to leaders like Judge Slaby, who is President-Elect of the Council of State Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council; to Judge Stephen Goss of the Dougherty Superior Court, whose mental health court has been recognized as one of the best mental health courts in our country; to Chief Judge Brenda Weaver, President of the Council of Superior Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council. Judge Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit serves on the Council of
Accountability Court Judges of Georgia, which you created last year by statute. Its purpose is to improve the quality of our specialty courts through proven standards and practices, and it is chaired by Superior Court Judge Jason Deal of Hall County. Judge Deal’s dedication to the specialty court model in his community, and his guidance and encouragement to programs throughout the state, are described as invaluable by those who work with him.


We may not have a unified court system in Georgia. But we have judges unified in their commitment to our courts. Among our one thousand four hundred and fifty judges, Georgia has many fine leaders. I’ve told you about a number of them today. In closing, I want to mention two more.
When the United States Supreme Court issued its historic decision last year on same-sex marriage, our Council of Probate Court Judges led the way toward compliance. Three months before the ruling was issued, the judges met privately at the behest of the Council’s then president, Judge Chase Daughtrey of Cook County, and his successor, Judge Don Wilkes of Emanuel County. Together, they determined that regardless of what the Supreme Court decided, they would follow the law. Both Governor Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens also publicly announced they would respect the court’s decision, despite tremendous pressure to do otherwise.
These men are all great leaders who spared our state the turmoil other states endured. The bottom line is this: In Georgia, we may like the law, we may not like the law, but we follow the law.


The day-to-day business of the Georgia courts rarely makes the news. Rather judges,
their staff and clerks spend their days devoted to understanding the law, tediously pushing cases through to resolution, committed to ferreting out the truth and making the right decision. It is not easy, and they must often stand alone, knowing that when they sentence someone to prison, many lives hang in the balance between justice and mercy.
So I thank all of our leaders, and I thank all of our judges who are leading our courts into the 21st century.
May God bless them. May God bless you. And may God bless all the people of Georgia.
Thank you.

Wells Fargo Agrees to pay $1.2 Billion (yes, with a B) to resolve claims by Justice Dept. & other federal agencies for the origination of “shoddy loans” insured by FHA


Compliance & Regulation
Why Wells Fargo Blinked in Its FHA Fight with the Government
Kate Berry
By Kate Berry
February 3, 2016
http://www.nationalmortgagenews.com/news/compliance-regulation/why-wells-fargo-blinked-in-its-fha-fight-with-the-government-1071213-1.html?utm_medium=email&ET=nationalmortgage:e4010451:a:&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=-feb%205%202016&st=email

The long arm of the government is tough to elude, even if you are the nation’s largest home lender.

Wells Fargo stunned the mortgage industry Wednesday by tentatively agreeing to pay $1.2 billion to resolve civil claims by the Justice Department and other federal agencies that it originated shoddy loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

The proposed settlement could prove a bellwether for other banks that have outstanding investigations of FHA loans including PNC Financial Services Group, Regions Financial and BB&T.

Wells had been the lone big bank holdout willing to go to trial as a potential test of the government’s pursuit of banks for violations of the False Claims Act. That Civil War-era law allows the government to collect triple damages for fraud against the government. The law also has been a lightning rod for banks, causing some to pull out of FHA lending entirely.

Some observers said they were surprised at the size of the deal. Wells had put up a fight, claiming it has always been a prudent and responsible FHA lender. But some observers said the risk to its reputation and the cost of continuing the litigation was just too great.

“Nobody’s put [the government] to the test like Wells,” said Allen Jones, an independent mortgage consultant who managed Bank of America’s FHA business from 2005 to 2009. “They definitely made a run like no one else has. But there comes a point in time where you add it up and have to quantify the downside risk.”

The $1.8 trillion-asset bank reached an “agreement in principle” on Monday to resolve the FHA claims but could not provide any additional details until the deal is finalized, said Catherine Pulley, a Wells spokeswoman.

The agreement is forcing Wells to shave $134 million, or three cents a share, off its previously reported net income for 2015, the bank said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Wells said its revised profit for 2015 is $22.9 billion, or $4.12 a share.

The San Francisco bank had to provide for an additional legal accrual because of the settlement, which increased its operating losses within noninterest expense by $200 million, the filing said.

The deal appears to provide Wells some future protections. It would resolve “other potential civil claims relating to the company’s FHA lending activities for other periods,” the filing said.

Prosecutors had alleged that Wells “engaged in a regular practice of reckless origination and underwriting of its retail FHA loans” from 2001 to 2010.

Theoretically lenders are required to indemnify FHA for loans that contain mistakes or are defective, essentially self-insuring the loan so taxpayers are not on the hook for potential losses. In this case, Wells not only failed to report material violations to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but HUD also paid insurance claims on thousands of defaulted loans that it later found had significant violations, the lawsuit alleged.

Last year the government added a Wells executive in charge of quality control, Kurt Lofrano, as a defendant to the lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2012. Lofrano was responsible for reporting loans with material defects to HUD, which oversees the FHA.

Prosecutors were preparing to use Wells’ own internal quality control reports to prove that executives knew some loans were of poor quality but did nothing about it. Wells failed to report the errors or change its practices because of pressure to fund more loans, the government claimed.

Patricia McCoy, a professor at Boston College Law School who specializes in banking law, said that because details of the settlement have not yet been released, there is no way to gauge the severity of Wells’ lending errors.

“Part of the problem is, there is a continuum of different types of conduct that would have led to a False Claims Act claim, and depending on the lender it could have been really bad, or a mixture with innocuous errors that slipped through,” McCoy said. “We don’t know where Wells Fargo fell along that continuum. At worst, it was a mix, some bad and probably a lot of innocuous errors.”

A bigger problem, McCoy said, is that the Justice Department has used the False Claims Act and its potential for treble damages for each violation as a tool to get banks to settle FHA violations. That threat has caused many to flee the program, she said.

“It’s a very heavy sledgehammer, and that’s not a constructive approach because in the course of underwriting innocent mistakes can happen and often they can be cured or fixed,” she said. “If the FHA is saying as a condition of a lender doing FHA loans, they have to be 100% perfect or else they are automatically going to face this threat of treble damages — that’s not a viable lending program.”

The Bank With the Most Homes in the End Wins!!!!!

City of Springfield Banned all Foreclosures! How Will The Supreme Court Rule On That?

 

BOSTON – A group of Western Massachusetts banks argued before the state’s highest court on Thursday that the city of Springfield’s anti-foreclosure ordinances should be overturned.

The banks say the local ordinances contradict state laws, and a bond levied on lenders constitutes an illegal tax. “It’s not that banks are opposed to mortgage laws and reform, but to how it’s being done,” said Craig Kaylor, general counsel for Hampden Bank, one of the banks that brought the lawsuit. “These are for the state to decide, not city by city.”

But the city disagrees and says the laws are necessary to avoid blight and protect neighborhoods that have high rates of foreclosure.

“This is the city’s response to the foreclosure crisis,” said Springfield Assistant City Solicitor Thomas Moore, who argued the case before the Supreme Judicial Court. “It’s a response from the city council and mayor based on what they see every day in the city. They’ve taken the strongest stance to protect homeowners and the city itself.”

The city of Springfield passed two anti-foreclosure ordinances in 2011 as the city was being hit hard by the mortgage foreclosure crisis. One ordinance requires a bank that forecloses on a home to pay for a $10,000 bond, which can be used by the city to maintain the foreclosed properties, if the bank fails to do so.

The other ordinance requires the establishment of a mandatory mediation program to help homeowners facing foreclosure. The bank would be responsible for paying most of the cost of the mediation.

Springfield is among the top cities in the state in the number of distressed properties it has. The city says high rates of foreclosures lead to health and education problems for children in families that lose their homes, and high rates of blighted or vacant properties lead to crime and violence in those neighborhoods.

Six western Massachusetts banks, with Easthampton Savings Bank as the lead plaintiff, challenged the ordinances. A U.S. District court judge upheld the ordinances. However, on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay preventing Springfield from enforcing them. The federal court then asked the Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, to answer two questions related to state law before the federal court makes its ruling. The case is Easthampton Savings Bank and others vs. City of Springfield.

The SJC must decide whether the local foreclosure ordinances are preempted by existing state foreclosure laws. The court must also decide whether the $10,000 bond is a legal fee or an illegal tax. Cities and towns cannot create taxes without legislative approval.

The banks also argue that the ordinances violate the contract clause of the U.S. Constitution by impairing the contract between the homeowner and the mortgage-holder, a question that remains before the federal court.

During Thursday’s arguments, Tani Sapirstein, an attorney representing the banks, argued that the bond is a tax because banks do not get any particular benefit from paying it – which is the criteria for calling something a fee. The way the bond works is when a foreclosed property is sold, if the city did not have to use the bond money to maintain it, $9,500 would be returned to the bank and $500 is kept by the city as an administrative fee, used to maintain blighted properties and implement the foreclosure laws.

Chief Justice Ralph Gants questioned Sapirstein on whether the bank does not actually receive benefits. “You have an interest in preserving the value of your property,” Gants said. “If there are foreclosed properties going to hell all around your property, it diminishes the value of your property and diminishes the value of what you receive on the foreclosure. Why is this concern about avoiding blight not something that would benefit the bank as well as the city?”

Sapirstein replied that eliminating blight would benefit the bank “as well as the city and other property owners in the neighborhood.” “How is that a particularized benefit?” she said.

Moore argued that the bond is a fee, which the city needs to hire code inspectors and create a database of who controls foreclosed properties.

But Justice Geraldine Hines said if she pays for a copy of her birth certificate, she gets a document in return for the fee. “Here I don’t see that,” she said. “The property owners, the mortgagees, don’t have something tangible.”

Moore said the banks get a “well-regulated industry” and preservation of their property values. In addition, when a bank registers ownership in the database, the city knows who is responsible and problems can be resolved more easily.

Sapirstein also argued that local law cannot require more than state law in an area that is regulated by the state or the result would be “a patchwork of ordinances.”

Gants indicated that the court may move to narrow the ordinances – for example, applying them only to a bank that has taken possession of a house, not a bank that is in the process of foreclosure when the homeowner is still living there. Gants said the ordinance as written could fine a bank for not maintaining a property where the homeowner still lives. As a homeowner, Gants said, “I’d say I’m still living here. This is my home. How can they be punished for not invading what’s still my home just because they happen to be foreclosing on it?” Gants said.

Moore acknowledged that the ordinance may be overbroad and said the city does not anticipate pursuing a violation in a case like that. Moore said the lenders’ lawsuit is premature because there is no information yet about how the city will enforce the laws. “We have the lenders essentially saying the sky will be falling, we are worried about x, y, z happening. None of that has happened and none of that may happen,” Moore said.

Moore said the city is still writing the regulations for the ordinances and if they are upheld, “The city is ready to go forward with implementation within a period of weeks.”

Similar foreclosure ordinances were established in Lynn and Worcester, and local banks challenged those as well. That lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court in Worcester. The case involving Lynn and Worcester could be affected by the SJC’s ruling in the Springfield case.

Several activists supporting homeowners came in from Lynn and Springfield to hear the arguments. Candejah Pink, a Springfield homeowner and community organizer battled foreclosure for four years before reaching an agreement to keep her home. She helped write the Springfield ordinances. Pink said the bond is there to ensure that homes are maintained, which keeps crime and violence down. The mediation program, she said, is important to help homeowners come to an agreement with lenders. “We’re not asking to live in our homes for free. We’re asking for some mediation,” she said.