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Legal Aid, to subprime borrowers' rescue?

Scott Greenfield ventilates (in the Warner Bros. sense of "blasts holes in") an op-ed in today's NYT proposing the unleashing of legal services lawyers to go after mortgage lenders:

Sant's view is that the LAS should be at the forefront of a political campaign to win cash and prizes for the subprimers. ...

But [Legal Aid] lawyers are hamstrung by federal regulations that limit homeowners' access to speedy, low-cost legal relief.

No, No, No. There are no regulations that limit homeowners' access to anything. There are regulation that limit the LAS, which receives governmental funding, from engaging in political activities. Homeowners are free to go hire a lawyer, whether by fee or contingency, any time they want. A good time might have been before they signed their names 37 times on the mortgage papers. ...

Finally, federal law forbids legal aid lawyers to undertake class action litigation, preventing them from attacking systemic abuses in the real estate industry. Class actions offer the best chance for taking on foreclosure fraud, identifying illegal fees, recovering stolen equity and sending powerful signals to would-be predators. Instead, legal aid lawyers must prosecute cases one at a time.

While I seem to recall Michele Maxian, formerly of the New York Legal Aid Society, doing some "special projects" involving class actions, let's assume that Sant's correct. When it comes to his poor homeowners, what class actions is Sant talking about? Downtrodden Homeowners who agree to take mortgages they can't afford versus Evil Subprime Lenders who give mortgages to people with no assets and no income? Don't they teach students at Georgetown that when claims are dependent on the individual facts of each case, they really aren't class action material? And if he wants speedy justice, class actions certainly aren't the way to go.

Whole thing here.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.