Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

New York Working to Provide Counsel in Foreclosure Matters

Eric Angel, Executive Director

It was refreshing to read the recent New York Times article about the efforts the New York judiciary is making to ensure that all homeowners facing foreclosure are represented by an attorney.  This is a welcome development. New Yorkers already enjoy the protections of a judicial process to oversee foreclosure proceedings. Providing lawyers should ensure that homeowners will have the opportunity to properly utilize the court process and will enable homeowners to assert any defenses that they may have to a foreclosure.

Foreclosures are legally complicated proceedings that require analysis of relatively arcane issues such as a lender’s standing to foreclose. They also require in-depth analyses of the financial impact and benefits of a potential loan modification on both a homeowner and a lender. New York has taken an important step in recognizing the importance of representation for homeowners in these proceedings, particularly in these times when a more common impulse is to pull back on new expenditures. Providing an attorney ensures that homeowners are not needlessly or unwarrantedly removed from their homes. Both New York homeowners and New York lenders should benefit from that.

In the District, we lag well behind New York with respect to protections for homeowners in the foreclosure process. Although the DC Council recently passed important legislation that will allow homeowners to elect mediation prior to foreclosure, it is not enough. DC should join the 20 states that already provide judicial scrutiny of foreclosures. New York’s judiciary has recognized the importance of the judicial foreclosure process by providing attorneys for its homeowners. In the coming years, DC should provide for judicial foreclosure and then follow New York in providing counsel for homeowners facing the loss of their homes.

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One Comment

  • Claudia Johnson on Feb 19, 2011

    Many in the legal aid community think that working toward civil guideon clashed with creating systems and options for those without attorneys. Judge Lippman’s call for civil representation in foreclosure cases highlight that what we need to be build is a system of legal services that spans across and meets the diverse needs of litigants. Instead of perceiving a call for civil guideon to compete with a call for more self help services and option, New York is showing us that leadership requires working and asking for both. New York Courts have been working for many years in their Access to Justice Initiatives, many which provide information to those without lawyers, including online forms, and are making a valuable contribution not only to those without attorneys in NY state, but also to a larger group of legal aids, courts, and bar associations grappling with the tsunami of people in court without lawyers. To read some of their publications go here: and