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Fundamentals of Foreclosure

by Neil Garfield | November 6, 2018

Probably the biggest mistake and most common mistake I ever made as a lawyer was by assuming certain things at the very beginning of a case. No case is more dangerous ground for assumptions than foreclosures.

WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND:

When a lawsuit is filed or nonjudicial foreclosure is initiated, the party bringing the claim always has the burden of proving the legal elements of the claim. Such a party must prove that it has the right to make the claim (standing) in addition to establishing the elements of a cause of action. A party only has the right to make a claim (i.e., the court only has jurisdiction) if the the claiming party has been injured in some way by the Defendant or homeowner, in the case of foreclosures. The claiming party must identify itself and allege that it exists and is otherwise sui juris (able to make a claim under state law). In foreclosures, this element is nearly always misrepresented.

In foreclosure cases the claim is always the same — the involuntary sale of the subject property. The elements to be proven by the claimant, in addition to its legal existence, are that it is injured by nonpayment. The claimant can also allege that it is bringing the action on behalf of the party injured if it identifies the [arty with sufficient specificity such that the homeowner can seek to confirm whether the agency relationship exists. Otherwise the right to cross examine witnesses, guaranteed under the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is violated. In the courts this has been a weak spot for judges who simply assume that the named claimant exists and was injured by the homeowner's alleged non payment. Aggressive advocacy is required to redirect the court's attention to basic, fundamental elements of lawsuits and nonjudicial foreclosures.

If the claimant has proved a prima facie case the burden of proof shifts to the homeowner. Without proof that is accepted into evidence by the Judge, the court is merely presuming facts rather than finding them by weight of the evidence. The common practice is for the claimant to invoke legal presumptions arising from the apparent facial validity of an instrument. But the courts go too far in using such presumptions in also presuming that every word on the document is also valid and true. Again aggressive advocacy is required to redirect the court's attention.

Without the presumptions it is most likely impossible for the claimant to prove a case on its own behalf much less for any third party. Frequently the claimant does not legally exist (REMIC Trust) and thus is not sui juris and has no place being referred to as claimant in either judicial or nonjudicial foreclosures.

The usual pattern is that the name of an entity is asserted and implied to be a trust without stating where it was formed, under what jurisdiction, and whether it still exists, and if so, where it exists. Normally the address would be the same as the Trustee but this is not the case with REMIC Trusts; this is because the rules for domicile of a business entity require its place of business to be where it does business and maintains activities that are administered by the trustee. But if no business activity is conducted by the Trust it is usually because there is nothing that has been entrusted to the named Trustee to actively administer on behalf of the beneficiaries of a trust. If there is nothing in trust then there is no trust and the trust allegation must be ignored.

To avoid the overuse of legal presumptions, homeowners (by and through their counsel) must "prove" a narrative that contradicts the facts that are presumed. The burden of proof however is much lower than proving a case or a defense. It is more akin to a probable cause finding or even less.

The narrative must raise serious and credible issues under which the facts at trial might be found that are inconsistent with the facts that the claimant is presuming. The court would then ignore the legal presumptions and require the claimant to prove their case with facts rather than presumptions.

Documents that contain inconsistencies with each other or even within the same document are the most likely sources of a credible narrative under which the actual facts found at trial might differ from the facts that the claimant seeks to be presumed. In virtually all foreclosure cases where the claimant is forced to prove the facts rather than being allowed to rely on preemptions, our observation is that the case is settled under seal of confidentiality.

 

 

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