- Maryland resident Joyce Griffin lost her house in a foreclosure sale because she never received notice until it was too late for her to save her home. Her case is a stunning example of how predatory subprime lenders, high-volume foreclosure mills, and a hands-off legal system can combine to wreak havoc on people's lives.
- Griffin's mortgage company, the now-defunct Ameriquest, tricked her into refinancing the home she owned, when, after her fiancé died, she'd simply wanted to have his name taken off the mortgage. When the single mother could no longer make the increased mortgage payments, a "foreclosure mill" law firm representing Ameriquest quickly began foreclosure proceedings. After they made a bare-bones and unsuccessful effort to notify her of any pending action, Griffin lost her home when it was literally auctioned off on the courthouse steps. She never learned that her home had been sold until the new owner tacked a note on her door.
- Griffin immediately hired a lawyer to block the sale, arguing that the notice procedures violated her constitutional right to due process, but the court upheld the lender's actions. Public Citizen and Baltimore-based Civil Justice Inc. are appealing that decision. We argue that the 2006 decision in Jones v. Flowers — a case that Public Citizen argued in the U.S. Supreme Court — means that additional reasonable steps must be taken to notify a property owner if a foreclosure notice is returned as unclaimed by the post office. But the lawyers who conducted the foreclosure of Ms. Griffin's house say they can ignore undelivered letters and do not have to make any effort to follow-up before selling someone's house.
- If Griffin had been a defendant in a small-claims case, a property tax foreclosure, a federal tax foreclosure, or even a tenant in an eviction proceeding, the law would have required that the documents be served in person, sent via restricted certified mail (complete only upon delivery) or be posted by mail-and-nail notification in which the mailed documents are also posted directly on a dwelling's door. Even in a routine debt collection action, Ameriquest's mishandling of Griffin's case would have violated her constitutional rights. The Constitution demands more when someone's home is at stake.
Source: Description Of Pending Case in Griffin v. Bierman, et al. in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (Public Citizen Litigation Group).
In a separate press release, Public Citizen attorney Deepak Gupta noted:
- "People are waking up to the reality of predatory subprime mortgages, but what they may not yet realize is the one-two punch of shifty loans and shiftier foreclosure firms that can knock them right out of their homes.”
For the entire press release, see Homeowners Facing Mortgage Foreclosures Denied Constitutional Right to Proper Notification.
To view the appellate brief in this case filed last week on behalf of the homeowner, see Brief - Griffin v. Bierman, et al.
Representing the homeowner in this case are: Deepak Gupta, Micahel T. Kirkpatrick, and Brian Wolfman, with Public Citizen Litigation Group (Washington, DC); Phillip Robinson, with Civil Justice Inc. (Baltimore, MD); and Scott Borison, with Legg Law Firm, LLC (Frederick, MD).