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PJC Brief Challenges Due Process in Foreclosures

On December 5, 2007, the Public Justice Center, along with nine other national and local consumer and housing advocate amici, filed an amicus brief in the case of Griffin v. Bierman in the Maryland Court of Appeals, challenging whether Maryland's minimalist notice to homeowners of a foreclosure sale meets constitutional due process requirements. Ms. Griffin had a home mortgage with a notorious predatory subprime lender. Aided by Public Citizen Litigation Group, Civil Justice, Inc., and Scott Borison of the Legg Law Firm, she challenged the foreclosure of her home on grounds that she had not received notice of the sale before it was already too late to prevent it, and that due process requires more than sending notice of a foreclosure sale by regular and certified mail. The Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County refused to set aside the sale, and she appealed. In the Court of Appeals, the PJC’s amicus brief argued that affirmance of the Circuit Court’s judgment would affront the basic notions of procedural due process notice. The PJC noted that the current notice scheme for mortgage foreclosures in Maryland has fundamental flaws, recognized recently in a report by the Governor’s Homeownership Preservation Task Force, that exacerbate the raging crisis of foreclosures that has devastated thousands of Maryland homeowners. Specifically, in light of the fact that Maryland law allows foreclosure sales to be held a mere 15 days from the docketing of the action to foreclose, the PJC urged the Court of Appeals to extend Maryland due process to hold that the method of notice of these proceedings should be personal service. Personal service is critical to ensuring that homeowners are made aware of the impending loss of their most valuable asset – their home. The current requirement that notice simply be mailed by regular and certified mail is not reasonably certain to make sure that homeowners even receive even the notices, much less have the time to act in defense of their homes. Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow Gregory Care authored the brief for the PJC.

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