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<xTITLE>Update on Home Foreclosure Mediation</xTITLE>

Update on Home Foreclosure Mediation

by Keith Seat
January 2014

This is another in a series of updates on the development of home foreclosure mediation in the United States by News Editor, Keith Seat.

Keith Seat

A new mortgage foreclosure mediation program has been established in Lake County, Illinois, to provide free mediation services to homeowners who choose to participate.  The mediation program is receiving funding from the state attorney general’s office and case filing fees.  The Chicago company responsible for the mediation program has recently trained 24 mediators for the program.  Chicago Daily Herald (December 12, 2013)

Lenders appealed the federal district court’s decision upholding the foreclosure mediation program in Springfield, Massachusetts, asserting a constitutional challenge that the state is the exclusive regulator of the foreclosure process, so that the city could not create a foreclosure mediation program without state approval.  The federal appellate court has now certified the state preemption question to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for its determination.  Easthampton Savings Bank v. City of Springfield, No. 12-1917 (U.S.C.A. 1st Cir., November 22, 2013)

The city council of Worcester, Massachusetts, gave unanimous preliminary approval to a foreclosure mediation ordinance, despite the advice of the city manager not to move forward until litigation against the similar Springfield mediation ordinance is resolved.  The city manager favors mortgage mediation being addressed by a statewide solution.  Worcester Telegram (November 12, 2013)

Taking further steps to comply with a federal appellate court’s June order, the federal district court in Rhode Island streamlined the processing of hundreds of cases in its foreclosure mediation docket by removing many, preventing multiple mediations per case, and setting specific time limits for mediations by the special master.  As of mid-October, the special master had handled some 1,100 cases, of which nearly 750 were still active.  Providence Journal (December 12, 2013); Providence Journal (November 4, 2013)

Homeowner advocates are concerned about the way the Maryland foreclosure mediation program is operating and hope to see legislative improvements in 2014.  In particular, they note that many resolutions are contingent and require additional steps, but the contingencies are not adequately documented and lenders move forward with foreclosure.  Maryland’s foreclosure rate has increased 42% percent in a year and is the third-highest in the country.  Since the state’s mediation legislation went into effect, about a fourth of all eligible homeowners have chosen to participate.  With about 9,000 closed mediations in Maryland, some 26% reached agreements between the homeowner and lender, but a majority of those were contingent on additional steps being taken.  The Baltimore Sun (December 20, 2013)

The Vermont Attorney General has sued the Bank of America for violating Vermont’s foreclosure mediation statute by failing to comply with settlement agreements reached in mediation and billing homeowners for more than agreed to in mediations.  VermontBiz (December 11, 2013)

A non-profit group is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Nevada Supreme Court rejected its efforts to obtain personal identifying data in mediations from the Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program due to confidentiality.  Reno Gazette-Journal (December 28, 2013)



Keith L. Seat is a full-time mediator and arbitrator who can effectively assist parties in resolving a wide range of telecommunications, antitrust and other commercial disputes. With over twenty years of legal experience as a mediator, arbitrator, litigator, advocate before executive branch agencies, and key staffer in the legislative and judicial branches, Mr. Seat brings a wealth of experience to his work as a mediator and arbitrator to help parties reach successful resolutions of complex disputes.

Mr. Seat began his legal career in a federal clerkship with U.S. District Judge William H. Becker, and then litigated antitrust and commercial disputes for many years at a major Washington law firm, Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White, where he first worked on telecom and technology issues. In 1993, Mr. Seat was named General Counsel of the Antitrust, Business Rights and Competition Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where he served for four years, playing a significant role in the enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Returning to the private sector in 1997, Mr. Seat rounded out his experience with a senior in-house counsel position at MCI, one of the nation’s largest telecommunications firms. At MCI, he gained a first-hand appreciation for the important perspective brought to issues and disputes by in-house decision-makers. Mr. Seat also deepened his knowledge of telecom issues and gained experience addressing competition-related issues in the corporate setting, as well as helping resolve disputes among large organizations.

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