As NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced in his State of the Judiciary today, and as the NYT is reporting, the NY courts are taking steps to make sure that there is greater help in foreclosure cases for homeowners. Please read the more detailed and specific explanation of the plan in the State of the Judiciary version (at p 7-9) since the above linked NYT article has language that might be read to suggest that the actual plan is broader than it is.
The court plan is: “To begin to address this disparity, we will establish a program to ensure, over time, that all homeowners who cannot afford a lawyer will be provided with legal assistance or representation at foreclosure settlement appearances. The settlement conferences mandated by law several years ago are considered the defining moment in the foreclosure process: the first opportunity for many defendants to learn about their legal rights and protections, about settlement options, and about the court process that lies ahead. It is the moment when having a lawyer at the table matters most.” (Emphasis added.)
CJ Lippman continued (after stating that the project would start in Queens and Orange County and that it was hoped to expand it to the rest of the state later in the year): “Legal services attorneys with foreclosure expertise, including experience in handling veterans’ issues, will be assigned to courthouses in the counties involved. After a screening process designed to make sure that the foreclosure settlement conferences are as meaningful as possible, these legal services attorneys will provide legal assistance or representation to unrepresented homeowners at the initial conference in as many cases as possible. Thereafter, the attorney will either keep the case and continue with repre- sentation or refer the homeowner to a network of legal services, pro bono or law school clinic counsel who will be standing by to provide additional legal assistance in support of this project.”
This is obviously a very important step. I hope that similar steps will be taken in other jurisdictions. This blog will try to track this initiative and bring more information as it becomes available.