Although the coverage in the press is presented in the context of the ongoing home foreclosure crisis, the practice of “robosigning” is also prevalent in the universe of consumer credit and debt litigation. That is my experience, so that is what I’ll describe here.
After the complaint is filed a consumer will have the opportunity, through Discovery, to obtain documents for evidence at trial. A typical request in the consumer debt context is for a signed document stating that the plaintiff owns the debt. Often what we’ll get back is a facsimile of an account record and some kind of notarized statement that the “keeper of the record” is familiar with the account and attests to the accuracy of the document, which is usually a facsimile of an account statement. But the seal of the notary is from a different state than the plaintiff’s address, from someone who has never seen the record, or who is not familiar with any of the details of the account [typically what they have is an electronic printout containing a name, address,and social security number and an account balance].
In the context of foreclosure, attorneys from states with judicial foreclosure, like Florida, have been deposing these individuals and finding out that they don’t know any of the facts and circumstances of the accounts they are responsible for. They sign hundreds of documents a day and can’t possibly know the details of each file. All they are doing is providing signatures in a machine-like fashion, hence the name “ROBOSIGNING.”
Now along comes this bill, H.R.3808, and Congress, through its power to regulate interstate commerce, is going to legitimize this practice by requiring both federal and state courts to accept these signatures as legitimate.
I am still enough of an idealist to believe the court system strives for equal justice for all. What can you say when the political power of institutional plaintiffs is expressed through this kind of legislation? An individual standing before the court must meet one standard while an institutional plaintiff can meet a far lower standard of proof. Any reasonable person would have to cite this as an example of corruption.
This is why I am having trouble working for the Democratic party this year. Obama, and to some extent Gov. Patrick, are unable to disentangle themselves from corporate interests, particularly financial interests.
Clearing bad debt from the court system is in the common interest because people can’t really participate in the economy until their credit clears. If banks, mortgage brokers and alike seek to use the courts to collect debts, houses, whatever, they ought to meet the same standard of proof as everyone else. Making the courts into agents for mortgage aggregators and debt buyers on their own terms is bad policy. It smacks of the circumstances of Shay’s rebellion.
I did at least call the White House and ask that the president not sign the bill. It hurts all the more because this exactly the kind of practice that I expected the Obama administration to stop.