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Two giant lenders, Bank of America and GMAC, said this week they were resuming foreclosures. They'd put them on hold to review legal documents and procedures to ensure they were sound. But some judges remain concerned that the documents coming into their courtrooms may be tainted. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.
WENDY KAUFMAN: It's not enough, he told the lawyers, to just read the documents, they'll have to dig deeper.
J: And to talk to their clients and people with knowledge of the facts in these cases, and assure the court that the integrity of the court process is being upheld.
KAUFMAN: The key word here is integrity. And Lippman wants to ensure it's preserved in the courts. He believes an extra layer of scrutiny by lawyers will help.
J: Lawyers are going to be very, very careful.
KAUFMAN: This week, courts in Maryland also adopted rules for additional document scrutiny. And now if there's a problem with the lender's paperwork, the lender has just 30 days to show why the foreclosure should not be dismissed.
J: Judges do not react well to being lied to.
KAUFMAN: Twenty-three states have so-called judicial foreclosures where lenders have to go to court to get a house back. The law here is technical and relies largely on documents. Burke says if the paperwork is accurate and complete, lenders almost always prevail.
J: I'm aware of the pain that judges feel. Frequently the law puts a judge in the position that you're really sympathetic to the person who's about to lose their house. But legally there's really not much you can do.
KAUFMAN: Most homeowners facing foreclosure don't show up in court. And when they do, Burke says, they often know they won't be able to keep their house.
J: The person wants to get up before you and say, Judge, I really tried to make all my payments. I'm not a deadbeat. It's sad, and you want to say something. It's a little bit like a funeral.
KAUFMAN: Indeed, what Burke calls compassion fatigue can begin to set in among judges. It's a risk that's compounded by budget cuts and furlough days - and the sheer volume of cases.
INSKEEP: Don't underestimate the effect of case load.
KAUFMAN: Patrick Bauer is a law professor at the University of Iowa. Bauer isn't talking about the emotional toll here, but pointing out that judges are swamped with foreclosures.
INSKEEP: It's one thing to be able to open up the file and look at it carefully and make everything has been done right, if you have, you know, 20 of those today.
KAUFMAN: Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.
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