OCA Plan Puts Judges on Hand in Foreclosure Conferences
As pending residential foreclosure cases pile up, state court administrators will make judges available to address issues that arise during mandatory settlement conferences.
The upcoming assignments at the four jurisdictions with the heaviest foreclosure volume—Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties—are a response to complaints from homeowners’ attorneys that lenders are sending representatives to conferences who have no authority to make decisions.
Justice Barry Kamins, chief of policy and planning for the courts, said the court officials are responding to homeowners’ concerns expressed in meetings with their attorneys from various groups over the past month.
The legal service providers also on Wednesday released a report that found in 80 percent of 252 settlement conferences observed over a three-month period last year, attorneys appearing for the lender either lacked necessary information or appeared with out settlement authority.
Under the assignment plan, Kamins said both lenders and homeowners would have “immediate” access to judges who could resolve issues or disputes.
Kamins noted that he has reached out to representatives for both lenders and homeowners for their feedback.
The assignments will be made in cooperation with the administrative judges, who have not yet selected judges. Kamins said he hoped to have the judges in place by June.
By the end of 2013, there were 87,016 pending foreclosure cases statewide. As of March 30, there were 90,275 pending cases. Last year, there were 100,334 settlement conferences.
The report by JASA/Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens, Legal Services NYC and MFY Legal Services scrutinized mandatory settlement conferences, which occur once the foreclosure commences, under CPLR 3408.
The proceedings are held in the hopes that borrowers and lenders can negotiate an outcome short of foreclosure, such as a mortgage modification.
CPLR 3408 (c) says, “the plaintiff shall appear in person or by counsel, and if appearing by counsel, such counsel shall be fully authorized to dispose of the case.”
Another part of the statute, CPLR 3408(f) says both sides “shall negotiate in good faith to reach a mutually agreeable resolution, including a loan modification, if possible.”