NEW RULES IN JUDGE CASE COURT; FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE

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Start with the Federal Rules of Evidence. This is an act of congress signed into law by the President of the United States. You can’t get much higher than that for authority. At issue in this article are Rule 901 and 902. Judge Charles G Case issued his own local rules regarding motions to lift stay. These rules are revealing not only because they say, in part, what borrowers want to hear, but because they  contain a warning for both Borrowers and the pretender lenders.

The essence of what Judge Case is saying is that we have rules of evidence — follow them. And the next person who tries to use a buzz word without knowing what they are talking about will receive sanctions. In all probability that next person will be a pro se litigant and they may be fined literally out of court.

Judge Case’ “New Rules” say as follows, citing In Re VEAL: “A party seeking stay relief in order to enforce a secured obligation against real property has the burden of making a colorable showing that it has standing to enforce the note and deed of trust or mortgage. To meet this burden, Movant must provide evidence, in the form of assignments, endorsements or otherwise, demonstrating that it is a person entitled to enforce the note under the Uniform Commercial Code as well as a complete chain of title of the beneficial interest under the deed of trust or mortgage. Such evidence shall either be self authenticated under FRE 902 or accompanied by a declaration of a person with knowledge authenticating each document in a form sufficient under FRE 901. If the Movant is proceeding as a servicer or agent, evidence of the servicing or agency agreement must be provided, authenticated as indicated above. Absent such a showing, a hearing on the motion may be vacated and sanctions may be imposed.”

So the good news is that pretender lenders will be sanctioned if they attempt, without proper grounds, to come into court and state that they are entitled to a relief from the automatic stay order that issues in every bankruptcy proceeding. And Judge Case is very specific as to what is proper and what is not, so we can expect some orders levying sanctions against the pretender lenders as they try to get past Judge Case with their usual arguments of spin. It remains to be seen how strictly Judge Case will adhere to his own rules. But if he is trying to penetrate the fog of securitization, and if he really wants to know whether the party seeking to lift stay was the lender or actually acquired the loan, then the Banks are in for tough going at higher and higher levels.

On the other hand, a challenge to standing will not stand on its own. Just saying it doesn’t make it so and Judge Case is making it clear that he ie quite tired of hearing accusations without the foundation of fact and law required to challenge standing. “Any objection to standing must be made with particularity. If an objection to standing is made without an adequate basis in law or fact, the party making the objection may be subject to sanctions.” It appears that Judge Case is saying that he is going to enforce the rulers of evidence and pleading, very strictly against anyone who comes to court and presents either a claim or a defense. If you want to challenge standing, it must be either apparent from the face of the pretender’s own documents and pleadings, or backed up by information that is actually offered into evidence and which therefore is admissible evidence.

I don’t agree with Judge Case in that he continues to place the burden on the borrower to establish the case for the opposition and then establish a defense. It puts the burden on the borrower to come up with information that is admissible evidence when it is the borrower who has the least amount of information and the party with the least access to that information. In any other setting Judge Case would require any party seeking affirmative relief to satisfy its burden of pleading and proving a prima facie case in support of the relief requested. Somehow, borrowers still remain different.

Mark Stopa: Preparing for Trial In a Foreclosure Case

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Stopa makes some very good points for lawyers to consider, the main one being that you should make it as hard as possible for the would-be forecloser to prove their case. If they really have the goods, they will prove it; but as we have seen time after time, the documents are fabricated, even forged and they have no witnesses to authenticate the documents. The mistake made by lawyers and pro se litigants alike is that they know they signed a note and they assume the note was valid. So they shy away from denying the authenticity of the documents or the validity of the documents. That is a mistake.

Start at the beginning. Look carefully at the documents and see if they actually describe the transaction as you NOW understand it given the claims of securitization and transfers. Look even more carefully — the so-called original note might be mechanically fabricated indicating that they did not proffer the original note into evidence — which means that the original note is still out there, somewhere, in the hands of someone else. Of course it also means that the attorney and his/her client are attempting to perpetrate a fraud upon the court, especially if the attorney’s office had anything to do with fabricating or signing the documents offered at a hearing or at trial.

If you start from the premise that the documents are invalid, not the originals, and do not describe the transaction that actually occurred — as to parties or terms — then you are on the right track. To assume otherwise, is to give up most of your ground before you even begin. And of course that means a gift to the pretender lender who is now attempting to foreclose on a home using a loan that it did not fund or purchase.

Preparing for Trial In a Foreclosure Case by Mark Stopa

Posted on May 11, 2011 by Mark Stopa http://www.stayinmyhome.com
I have a trial tomorrow in a foreclosure case. It’s in Lee County, of course – the county where the judges prosecute cases by setting trials sua sponte. Right now, I’m earnestly preparing for trial, but I thought I’d take a break to discuss the two issues are paramount in virtually every foreclosure case/trial. Depending on the facts of a particular case, there may be other issues, of course, but these two issues are critical to a Plaintiff’s ability to win at trial and should, in my view, be vigorously defended in virtually every case:

1. Introducing the Note into evidence.

2. Proving the homeowner’s default in payments and the amount owed.

Re. the former, we all know the Plaintiff must introduce the original Note into evidence, failing which a foreclosure judgment cannot lawfully be entered. The fact that a Note is “self-authenticating” makes this seem like a low hurdle – the Plaintiff’s attorney simply needs to hand the original Note to the judge and it will be admitted into evidence. Fortunately for homeowners, it’s not that simple.

Under Fla. Stat. 673.3081, if a homeowner denies the authenticity of a Note or the signatures thereon in the pleadings, the Plaintiff must authenticate the Note, and its signatures, at trial. There is still a presumption the Note and all signatures are authentic, but by contesting authentication, a homeowner can force the bank to authenticate the Note at trial. This may be harder than you think. For instance, if I challenge the authenticity of a blank indorsement, the Plaintiff must put on testimony from someone who can swear, under oath, that he/she saw the indorsement executed or that he/she recognizes the signature and it is authentic. Similarly, if I challenge the authenticity of the Note, the Plaintiff must present a witness who can testify he/she saw the homeowner sign the Note or who recognizes the homeowner’s signature based on other documents. The way that Notes change hands between banks, neither of these things would be very easy, and I doubt the Plaintiffs’ lawyers will be prepared to deal with these evidentiary issues. In other words, it’s quite possible that if the homeowner preserves these evidentiary objections at trial, the Plaintiff’s lawyers won’t be prepared for them and won’t even have the requisite witness(es) at trial to testify.

Re. the second issue, testimony at trial must generally be based on personal knowledge. That means the Plaintiff must testify to events he/she has seen with his/her eyes or heard with his/her ears. This is virtually impossible to do with regard to proving a homeowner did not pay a mortgage payment or proving the amount owed, so the Plaintiff invariably must rely on documents to prove these facts. This is permissible, but only if the Plaintiff can introduce these documents under the business records exception to the hearsay rule.

Again, this is harder than you think. The Plaintiff must show: (1) the documents are a memorandum, report, record, or data compilation; (2) made at or near the time of the event; (3) by or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge; (4) kept in the course of regularly conducted business activity; and (5) that it was the regular practice of that business to make such a record. All five elements must be satisfied or the documents cannot be used as evidence at trial.

I’m not trying to teach anyone how to practice law. Rather, my point is that there are virtually always things that can be done to make it difficult for a bank to prevail in a foreclosure case; these are just two examples. So don’t give up – keep fighting foreclosure!

Mark Stopa

NJ: GAME OVER — STANDING REQUIRED — NO PRETENDER LENDERS ALLOWED — PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED TO AUTHENTICATE

ONE ON ONE WITH NEIL GARFIELD ONE ON ONE WITH NEIL GARFIELD

COMBO ANALYSIS TITLE AND SECURITIZATION

BORROWER APPEARED PRO SE

GAME OVER: EVIDENCE REQUIRED, NOT PRESUMPTIONS

EVEN IF HOLDER, THEY ARE NOT HOLDER IN DUE COURSE; DEFENSES APPLY

SEE 01.28.2011 NJ CT OF APPEALS REVERSE NO STANDING -WELLS-FARGO-BANK-N-A-As-Trustee-Respondent-V-SANDRA-a-FORD-Appellant[1]

NOTABLE QUOTES:

This appeal presents significant issues regarding the evidence required (E.S.) to establish the standing of an alleged assignee of a mortgage and negotiable note to maintain a foreclosure action.

Wells Fargo claims that it acquired the status of a holder in due course as a result of this assignment and therefore is not subject to any of the defenses defendant may have been able to assert against Argent.

Wells Fargo asserted that Argent had assigned the mortgage and note to Wells Fargo but that the assignment had not yet been recorded.

Wells Fargo subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment. This motion was supported by a certification of Josh Baxley, who identified himself as “Supervisor of Fidelity National as an attorney in fact for HomEq Servicing Corporation as attorney in fact for [Wells Fargo].”

Baxley’s certification stated: “I have knowledge of the amount due Plaintiff for principal, interest and/or other charges pursuant to the mortgage due upon the mortgage made by Sandra A. Ford dated March 6, 2005, given to Argent Mortgage Company, LLC, to secure the sum of $403,750.00.” Baxley did not indicate the source of this purported knowledge. Baxley’s certification also alleged that Wells Fargo is “the holder and owner of the said Note/Bond and Mortgage”

The documents defendant alleged were forgeries included a purported handwritten note by her stating that she was employed by Bergen Medical Center at a monthly salary of $9500, even though her actual income was only approximately $10,000 per year.
Defendant also alleged that “[t]he estimate for closing fees that was given to me prior to closing was around $13,000.00 and the Good Faith Estimate of Closing Costs was for $13,673.90 but on the closing statement they were $36,259.06.”

On appeal, defendant argues that (1) Wells Fargo failed to establish that it is the holder of the negotiable note she gave to Argent and therefore lacks standing to pursue this foreclosure action; (2) even if Wells Fargo is the holder of the note, it failed to establish that it is a holder in due course and therefore, the trial court erred in concluding that Wells Fargo is not subject to the defenses asserted by defendant based on Argent’s alleged predatory and fraudulent acts in connection with execution of the mortgage and note; and (3) even if Wells Fargo is a holder in due course, it still would be subject to certain defenses and statutory claims defendant asserted in her answer and counterclaim.

We conclude that Wells Fargo failed to establish its standing to pursue this foreclosure action. Therefore, the summary judgment in Wells Fargo’s favor must be reversed and the case remanded to the trial court. This conclusion makes it unnecessary to address defendant’s other arguments.

we note that Wells Fargo argues in its answering brief that “[defendant] is estopped to contest Wells Fargo’s standing”; “defendant’s brief exceeds the scope of this appeal,” and “[defendant’s] arguments are counterintuitive.” These arguments are clearly without merit and do not warrant discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
“As a general proposition, a party seeking to foreclose a mortgage must own or control the underlying debt.” Bank of N.Y. v. Raftogianis, ___ N.J. Super. ___, ___ (Ch. Div. 2010) (slip op. at 3). In the absence of a showing of such ownership or control, the plaintiff lacks standing to proceed with the foreclosure action and the complaint must be dismissed. See id. at ___ (slip op. at 35-36).1

If a debt is evidenced by a negotiable instrument, such as the note executed by defendant, the answer to this question is governed by Article III of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), N.J.S.A. 12A:3-101 to -605, in particular N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301. See generally Raftogianis, supra, ___ N.J. Super. at ___ (slip op. at 3-8). N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301 states in pertinent part:
“Person entitled to enforce” an instrument means [1] the holder of the instrument, [2] a nonholder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of the holder, or [3] a person not in possession of the instrument who is entitled to enforce the instrument pursuant to [N.J.S.A.]12A:3-309 or subsection d. of [N.J.S.A.] 12A:3-418. [EDITOR’S NOTE: A KEY POINT NOT RAISED BY THE HOMEOWNER NOR DISCUSSED BY THE COURT IS THAT ARGENT DID NOT LOAN THE MONEY CONTRARY TO REPRESENTATIONS AT CLOSING. THEREFORE THE DEBT IS NOT EVIDENCED BY A NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENT. HENCE THE PREMISE OF THIS COURT AND ALL COURTS IS WRONG. THE DEBT IS NOT EVIDENCED BY ANY WRITING BUT IT STILL EXISTS. SINCE THE NOTE DOES NOT DESCRIBE THE DEBT IT DESCRIBES A NON-EXISTENT TRANSACTION. THUS THE MORTGAGE SECURING THE DEBT REFERENCED IN THE NOTE SECURES A FICTITIOUS TRANSACTION AND IS SUBJECT TO QUIET TITLE]

N.J.S.A. 12A:3-201(b) provides in pertinent part that “if an instrument is payable to an identified person, negotiation requires transfer of possession of the instrument and its indorsement by the holder.”

Therefore, even if Wells Fargo had presented satisfactory evidence that it was in “possession” of the note executed by defendant (which is discussed later in this opinion), Wells Fargo admittedly presented no evidence of “its indorsement by [Argent].” Therefore, Wells Fargo was not a “holder” of the note within the first category of “person entitled to enforce” an instrument under N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301. See Raftogianis, ___ N.J. Super. at ___ (slip op. at 6).

the question is whether Wells Fargo presented adequate evidence that it fell within the second category of “person entitled to enforce” an instrument under N.J.S.A. 12A:3-A-3627-06T1 301; that is, “a nonholder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of a holder.”

Transfer of an instrument occurs “when it is delivered by a person other than its issuer for the purpose of giving to the person receiving delivery the right to enforce the instrument.”

the documents that Wells Fargo relied upon in support of its motion for summary judgment to establish its status as a holder were not properly authenticated. A certification will support the grant of summary judgment only if the material facts alleged therein are based, as required by Rule 1:6-6, on “personal knowledge.” See Claypotch v. Heller, Inc., 360 N.J. Super. 472, 489 (App. Div. 2003). Baxley’s certification does not allege that he has personal knowledge that Wells Fargo is the holder and owner of the note. In fact, the certification does not give any indication how Baxley obtained this alleged knowledge. The certification also does not indicate the source of Baxley’s alleged knowledge that the attached mortgage and note are “true copies.”

Furthermore, the purported assignment of the mortgage, which an assignee must produce to maintain a foreclosure action, see N.J.S.A. 46:9-9, was not authenticated in any manner; it was simply attached to a reply brief. The trial court should not have considered this document unless it was authenticated by an affidavit or certification based on personal knowledge. See Celino v. Gen. Accident Ins., 211 N.J. Super. 538, 544 (App. Div. 1986).

On the remand, defendant may conduct appropriate discovery, (e.s.) including taking the deposition of Baxley and the person who purported to assign the mortgage and note to Wells Fargo on behalf of Argent.

for the guidance of the trial court in the event Wells Fargo is able to establish its standing on remand, we note that even though Wells Fargo could become a “holder” of the note under N.J.S.A. 12A:3-201(b) if Argent indorsed the note to Wells Fargo even at this late date, see UCC Comment 3 to A-3627-06T1 N.J.S.A. 12A:3-203, Wells Fargo would not thereby become a “holder in due course” that could avoid whatever defenses defendant would have to a claim by Argent because Wells Fargo is now aware of those defenses. See N.J.S.A. 12A:3-203(c); UCC Comment 4 to N.J.S.A. 12A:3-203; see generally 6 William D. Hawkland & Larry Lawrence, Hawkland and Lawrence UCC Series [Rev.] § 3-203:7 (2010); 6B Anderson on the Uniform Commercial Code, supra, § 3-203:14R. Consequently, if Wells Fargo produces an indorsed copy of the note on the remand, the date of that indorsement would be a critical factual issue in determining whether Wells Fargo is a holder in due course.




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