Fourth foreclosure case reopened after Center of Public Integrity uncovers judicial conflict of interest

Fourth foreclosure case reopened after Center of Public Integrity uncovers judicial conflict of interest

New panel of judges reaches same conclusion in Maryland foreclosure case

A federal appeals court has scrapped a 2010 foreclosure ruling in favor of Wells Fargo Bank after a Center for Public Integrity investigation revealed that one of the three judges who participated in the decision owned stock in the banking giant.

But Mountaga and Michelle Johnson Bah, the couple fighting to keep their Bowie, Maryland, home, didn’t get the decision they wanted when a new panel of judges reopened the case. On June 10, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals once again dismissed the couple’s claims accusing Wells Fargo of predatory lending.

“I do not agree with it,” Mountaga Bah said of the most recent judgment.

“I’m not going to give up,” he added. “I am not going to leave my home.”

The Virginia-based appeals court reopened the case at the Bahs’ request. The couple had challenged the judgment after the court acknowledged in March that Judge Barbara Keenan owned $1,900 worth of stock in Wells Fargo at the time she participated in the 2010 ruling favoring the bank.

In a May 27 letter to the court, Bah called the original appeals court judgment unfair and urged the court to reopen the case. “The only decision we are looking for is the dismissal of the decision and to save our home with our three little girls,” he wrote.

The Center identified the conflict while reporting its months-long “Juris Imprudence” investigation, which found 26 examples since 2010 where federal appellate judges ruled on cases in which they had a financial conflict. By law, judges cannot own even a single share of stock in companies that come before them. 

In response to the Center’s findings — and as required under court rules — judges in all of those cases had letters sent to the litigants to alert them of the conflicts. The letters were the first step in possibly reopening the cases.

Keenan’s case is the fourth to be reopened due to the Center’s reporting.

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