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N.Y. Foreclosures Dive As Lawyers Must Vouch For Lenders

"It's a breather, it's not an end to foreclosure in the court system."

New York has found a way to halt foreclosures:  require lawyers to swear to the accuracyof the court papers of the lenders they represent.

Since Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on Oct. 20 required attorneys to do that, new foreclosures filed last week fell to 100 from 800, according to the Office of Court Administration.

In a striking bit of research, the New York Law Journal uncovered the figures.  The publication characterized its findings as a “precipitous decline” in filings.

Decline Expected to be Temporary

Attorneys and court officials anticipate the decline will be temporary and that foreclosures will start rising again as lenders and their attorneys become familiar with the new requirements and adjust their procedures, according to the Journal.

“I assume it’s a blip in the process,” Paul Lewis, chief of staff to Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau, was quoted as saying. “It’s a breather, it’s not an end to foreclosure in the court system.”

Larger banks have all but halted filings;  what new cases exist are the result of action by smaller lenders.  Lawyers must swear that the data in the file contain “no false statements of fact or law.”

Surprise at Severity of the Drop

At least one pending foreclosure action by financial giant Citimortgage was dismissed by a judge because counsel could not submit an affirmation because the institution had failed to institute procedures to comply with the order.

Lippman has said that the affirmations, which came against a backdrop of publicity about “robosigning” and other negligence in foreclosures, underscored the importance of full and accurate paperwork in proceedings where the stakes for homeowners are so high.

Lippman told The Journal that if the result was a slowdown, then “so be it.”

Lawyer Calls Procedure “A Bit Scary”

There were 797 residential foreclosure filings during Oct. 18-24, compared to 100 filings for the week of Dec. 6-12.

One attorney said he had signed 10 statements vouching for the papers of the lenders he represents, saying the process has been “a bit scary.”

One attorney called the requirement “preposterous,”  noting that if every criminal lawyer had to swear that their clients were telling the truth, “no one would practice criminal law.”

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