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This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Legal Aid for Foreclosure Victims

In Georgia, homeowners have alleged fraud and racketeering in a suit against document processor Prommis Solutions, MERS, Wells Fargo, Bank of America Home Loans, several real estate law firms and almost two dozen defendants in all. The suit alleges that Prommis and the others manufactured documents to speed along foreclosures. The lead couple in the case, the Crawford family of Marietta, asked Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker (D) to investigate Prommis, who have been heavily involved in document fraud in the past, but he claimed that the investigation would be outside his jurisdiction.

Georgia is not a judicial foreclosure state, which makes it even harder for this class-action suit to advance. The homeowners claim that the banks have not proven the right to foreclose on their homes, but they’re up against significant legal firepower. Here’s the attorney in the case:

Ebony Ameen, the attorney who filed the suit, said the defendants “took advantage of the nonjudicial foreclosure system in Georgia.”

Ameen said similar practices were likely used in thousands of metro Atlanta foreclosures. The scope of alleged problems goes beyond negligence or mistakes, she said.

“It has to make you wonder, ‘what’s going on here,?’” Ameen said.

There’s no question this is happening in every state in the nation, and yet only the 23 judicial foreclosure states have a definitive venue for them. And that venue, such as with Florida’s “rocket docket,” is more of a hurdle to homeowners seeking justice than anything.

There are definitely cracks in the armor. MERS has been ruled ineligible to foreclose in several cases in numerous states. Dogged foreclosure defense attorneys have won significant judgments for their clients. There’s the securitization fail by Countrywide, which could set off a round of lawsuits and attempts by investors to put back bad securities on the banks. The US Trustee’s Office intervened in two recent bankruptcy cases, rendering an opinion that the banks had no standing to foreclose on borrowers in default. There are means at the disposal of borrowers.

But they have to have solid legal representation to do so. A few days ago, Matt Taibbi laid this out.

Also, lastly, I hear today from the lawyers at JALA, the Jacksonville Legal Aid office whose excellent work I profiled in the piece, that their offices are going to be losing three attorneys in January due to a budgetary shortfall. This organization needs donations to survive (as do legal aid offices all around the country), and here’s why this matters; most of the people who are being foreclosed upon actually have ways to fight back if they can get legal representation. The problem is that offices like JALA have a finite number of attorneys, and so are forced to turn back people who come knocking asking for legal help. Each additional attorney, then, can keep dozens of people in their homes. I strongly suggest that anyone who has extra funds give if they can to local legal aid offices in their states, or even JALA in particular (their donation info can be found at, because this right now is crunch time and a little money can go a long way to helping stop the foreclosure bleeding. I myself am making a donation today.

This is really important. That $35 million for legal services for foreclosure victims isn’t likely to be appropriated, and the Administration’s efforts are insufficient. I’ve heard multiple stories of legal aid foundations planning to cut back on staff because of budget troubles.

The holidays are coming up. I can’t think of a better gift to give to someone than the opportunity for them to stay in their home. Legal aid foundations need our help. Find one in your area.

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David Dayen

David Dayen