Consumer Law Task Force

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Consumer Law Task Force Meeting

Date: 
Tue, 05/10/2011 - 10:00am - 12:00pm

If you are a member of the Task Force, find the GoToMeeting information at: http://www.mdjustice.org/node/985

Be sure to sign in to see the page.

LOCATIONS:

1/11 -- Baltimore

3/8 -- Metro

5/10 -- Baltimore

7/12 -- Metro

9/13 -- Baltimore

11/8 -- Metro

Location
Location Name: 
alternating Baltimore and Metro
Contact
Name: 
Heather Gomes
Sponsor: 
Marland Legal Aid Bureau, Inc.

Bankruptcy Court to issue new notice to debtors

From the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland
 
Effective December 13th, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland began mailing out a notice to debtors in all new consumer bankruptcy cases under chapters 7, 12 and 13.  It will be sent at the same time the 341 meeting of creditors is sent.  See the notice attached below.

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BankruptcyCTNoticetoDebtors.pdf129.51 KB

How to Find Out Who Owns Your Mortgage

One way for clients facing foreclosure to try to get some information.

http://www.wheresthenote.com/colorofchange/

The page helps the client create the following letter to email to the servicer of their mortgage.  The client first selects their mortgage servicer from a list, and the page inserts the proper email address for the mortgage servicer for the client before sending it:

 
To [edit] Wells Fargo
Subject [edit] Request for original mortgage note and additional information
Message [edit]

To whom it may concern:

This is a qualified written request under Section 6 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). I own the property at the address listed above, and your bank services my mortgage.

Over the last several weeks there have been many stories documenting the problem that banks are foreclosing on homes without proof that they own the loan. I have learned that in many cases, banks like yours do not even know who owns the loans you service. Employees at several leading banks have admitted to rubber stamping tens of thousands of foreclosures every month, without even checking to make sure that the bank had a legal right to proceed with foreclosure. In some cases, banks allegedly falsified mortgage documents to cover up their mistakes. There have been reports of two banks trying to foreclose on the same home, banks foreclosing on homeowners who were current on their payments, and even of a bank foreclosing on a home where the homeowner had never taken out a mortgage to begin with. This is not merely a "technical problem"--it is the difference between having a warm bed at night and being out on the street.

As a homeowner and a customer of your bank, I am horrified. I had always believed that if I played by the rules, I would be protected, but now I know that banks like yours think the rules don't apply to them.

To protect myself and my family, I need to know who owns my mortgage. Within sixty days, I would like to know the name, address, and phone number of the bank or investor that owns my mortgage. Furthermore, in light of the recent allegations of foreclosure fraud, I demand to see the original mortgage note proving ownership over my home loan. If you fail to produce a mortgage note proving that you have a right to collect my mortgage payments, I will be forced to consider all options available to me to ensure that my family and my home are protected.

I ask that I receive my response in writing. I understand that under Section 6 of RESPA you are legally required to acknowledge my request within twenty business days and must try to resolve the issue within sixty days.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

 

The letter is ready to mail, and should result in a response.  We hope.

Self Help for District Court

The District Court website has some pretty decent materials for people trying to represent themselves in court, but the pages may be buried pretty deep on that website.  Here is the link for the main Self Help page:

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/index.htm

Topics covered include:

Arrested
Civil

Court Issues
Crimes
FAQ
Housing
Mediation/ADR
Traffic
Resources

Please think about referring clients to these webpages for help when you are not able to represent them.

How to File a Small Claims Case

The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has developed a PowerPoint video about how to file a small claims case.  It is available at:

http://www.courts.state.md.us/mdatjc/needhelp-videomultimedia.html

In addition, the District Court has a good page on their website for pro se litigants at:

http://www.courts.state.md.us/district/forms/civil/dccv001br.html

Take a look at the video - it is a bit over 12 minutes long - and let's talk about how we might do similar videos for clients.  Because there is audio, this is a pretty simple way to create accessible materials for clients who are blind, or who cannot read very well.

Most importantly, as this is not directly on the District Court website, yet, refer intakes to this website!

Federal Trade Commission has resources for attorneys and consumers on identity theft issues

The Federal Trade Commission developed the Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims, attached below, to help attorneys and victim service providers chart their way through and resolve legal problems that pro bono clients may have following the theft of their identity.

See other resources available on their website at:

http://www.idtheft.gov/probono/

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/index.html

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/filing-a-report.html

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Guidebook for Assisting Identity Theft Victims.pdf49.51 KB

Consumer Law Task Force December meeting

Date: 
Thu, 12/16/2010 - 10:00am - 12:00pm

MLSC Announces 2010 Legal Services Awards - Honoring Wilhelm H. Joseph, Jr. among many others

The Board of Directors of the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) has selected persons and organizations to receive its 2010 legal services awards. F. Vernon Boozer, Chairman of the MLSC Board, Maryland Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and members of the MLSC Board will present the awards at the organization’s annual awards reception on Monday, December 6, 2010, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Ward B. Coe III of Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP, will receive the Arthur W. Machen, Jr. Award. This award is presented annually to an attorney (usually in private practice) who has rendered extraordinary service by providing civil legal services to the poor or by improving the civil legal services delivery system for such persons. Throughout his long and established career as a practicing attorney in the public and private sector in Maryland, Mr. Coe has had a strong record of support of legal services to the poor, especially his extensive involvement in the lengthy class action suit to reform the Baltimore City foster care system and service as chair of the statewide Standing Committee on Pro Bono. ,

Wilhelm H. Joseph, Jr.executive director of the Legal Aid Bureau, will be honored as this year’s recipient of the MLSC Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award. This award is presented annually to an outstanding public interest attorney regularly involved in providing, promoting or managing civil legal services to the poor. Mr. Joseph, who has led the Legal Aid Bureau for 14 years, has advocated for the poor through his long civil rights career, his efforts with the filing fee initiatives in the Maryland General Assembly and many other accomplishments. 

This year’s William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award, for a non-attorney who has demonstrated outstanding service representing the rights and legal needs of low-income persons or by expanding access to justice for such persons, will be presented to Carole J. Alexander, former executive director of the House of Ruth. Ms. Alexander was the longest serving director, transforming the domestic violence landscape with meaningful protections and services for victims in Maryland and creating the legal services clinic, which has been a national model.

MLSC is presenting the Herbert S. Garten Public Citizen Award, which honors an entity or organization not regularly engaged in the delivery of legal services to low-income persons, to two law firms, Dickstein Shapiro LLP and Hunton & Williams LLP, because of their dedicated pro bono services on behalf of immigrants’ rights in cooperation with the Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services in Silver Spring and the Montgomery County Family Justice Center. Both firms provide legal counseling five afternoons a week to immigrant domestic violence victims and recruit, train and mentor other pro bono attorneys who take cases related to visas and citizenship as well as domestic violence.

The MLSC Board is also presenting Awards of Special Recognition to Senator Brian E. Frosh and Delegate Kathleen M. Dumais, of the Maryland General Assembly, who were leaders in the legislature working tirelessly to assure the passage of the filing fee surcharge legislation in 2010 to benefit funding for legal services to low-income Marylanders. Additionally, MLSC will recognize Marguerite Gardner, who retired after serving as administrative assistant for the Legal Services to the Elderly Program of the Bar Association of Baltimore City since its inception and providing compassion and patience as a "first responder" to every senior that contacted the office. MLSC will also recognize the outstanding service of outgoing Board member Douglas S. Snyder, Ph.D. of Bowie.

MLSC annually solicits nominations for legal services awards from bar associations, legal services programs and other interested persons and organizations. MLSC was established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1982 to receive and distribute funds to nonprofit organizations that provide civil legal assistance to low-income persons. From its inception, MLSC has made grants totaling over $138 million to help provide services in more than 1.7 million legal matters for Maryland’s families in areas of family, housing, consumer, employment, health care and other civil legal matters.

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PressRelease MLSC Awards2010.pdf33.8 KB

Small Loans That Create BIG Problems: Payday and Auto Title Loans

Find a recording of this presentation made by Leah Plunkett, Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center, at: http://www.nclc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=109&Itemid=120.  See the materials attached below.

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Small Loans That Create BIG Problems - Payday and Auto Title loans.pdf145.61 KB

New Overdraft Protection law and alternatives

Scanning one of the newsletters I read to keep up on consumer issues I came across this tidbit of information.

Don't … opt into overdraft protection being pushed by your bank.
Connect your checking account with your savings account instead, says the LA Times' Kathy Kristof:

By connecting accounts, you can avoid fees for careless errors, such as when you overspend by $5 at the grocery store and get hit with a $35 overdraft charge. If you connect your checking account to a credit card or savings account, you'll pay a fee to transfer money from savings to checking when necessary, but it will be a lot less than the standard overdraft charge for so-called automatic overdraft protection.

Read more: http://money.blogs.time.com/2010/07/27/want-to-keep-more-of-your-money-heres-what-not-to-do/#ixzz0vT5rd1RW

That tidbit appeared in this article: http://money.blogs.time.com/2010/07/27/want-to-keep-more-of-your-money-heres-what-not-to-do/

I don't know about you, but my bank has been absolutely harassing me into signing up for overdraft protection.  Because of the fees and interest involved, and the fact that they do not send you any notice when they cover an orverdraft, and they refuse to promise to cover all overdrafts, I am not doing that.  However, I did call my bank, BB&T, and they have two savings accounts that they will link to your checking account.  One is an online esavings account with a higher interest rate, and no minimum balance, than the pathetic basic savings account. 

Now, I am pretty sure the bank will figure out a way to make the money up that they will lose from those of us who will not sign up for overdraft protection, but I am willing to keep my eyes open for that.

Maryland Senior Legal Helpline

Call the Maryland Senior Legal Helpline at: (410) 951-7750 or 1-800-896-4213 ext. 7750 (in Maryland, outside of Baltimore City)

WHAT IS IT?

The Senior Legal Helpline is a free telephone service for persons living in Maryland aged 60 years or older. 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

When you call the Senior Helpline, you may talk to a lawyer for legal advice, brief legal services, or for a referral to another lawyer or to an appropriate public or private agency.

The types of legal services we provide most often involve:

Public benefits                         Medicare                                 Medical assistance

Long term care                       Access to health care              Third-party decision making

Neglect                                   Exploitation                             Landlord/Tenant

Home ownership                     Utilities                                    Consumer problems

We do not provide services in:

Criminal cases                         "Fee-generating" cases            Traffic court cases

HOW DOES IT HELP?

The Helpline supplements the work of the Title III-B legal services programs by offering additional opportunities for legal assistance for seniors who ordinarily do not have ready access to a lawyer. By providing these services over the telephone, seniors may get some help for their legal problems without having to leave home. The Helpline will also coordinate existing sources of assistance to help resolve the legal problems of older people.

WHEN CAN I CALL?

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Thursday: 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Telephone translation is available for speakers of over 170 languages.

TTY Users, call the Maryland Relay at 7-1-1.

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SeniorHelplineFlyer.pdf1.41 MB

Vulgar Voice Mails Cost Agency $1.5 Million

"Advanced Call Center Technologies, usually in the business of collecting money for its clients, now finds itself $1.5 million in debt to Allen Jones. A Dallas County court awarded him the hefty judgment after a jury found the agency barraged Jones with harassing and racially charged phone calls."  Article from AOL on 6/3/10.

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/vulgar-voice-mails-cost-debt-collection-agency-15-million/19500256 

The Hallmarks of Consumer Fraud Targeting Senior Victims: A Primer on How to Identify, Deter, and Defend Against Consumer Fraud

Training of 4/14/10

Sponsored by the NCLC and Administration on Aging

Sara DePaul, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, will host this webinar.  The presentation will focus on consumer fraud issues that impact senior citizens, such as telemarketing fraud, identity theft, money wire scams, and deceptive health product claims.  Time permitting, the presentation will also provide information on consumers' rights when inquiring about and purchasing funeral goods and services.  

Link to the PP presentation (in pdf form) and the recording:

http://www.consumerlaw.org/issues/seniors_initiative/webinar.shtml

At that page, scroll down to the April 14th Webinar.

2010 Consumer Rights Litigation Conference

Date: 
Thu, 11/11/2010 - 7:00am - 6:00pm

This is the NCLC annual Consumer Rights conference.  The conference’s cutting edge courses will strengthen your cases, sharpen your legal strategies, and improve your results for your consumer clients.  In addition to a full lineup of breakout sessions, plenaries, and the Consumer Class Action Symposium, the conference will feature a number of Intensive sessions that provide timely, in depth information on mortgage litigation and foreclosure defense, consumer bankruptcy, manufactured homes, consumer issues affecting domestic violence survivors, and debt collection suits.

Register online today by clicking on this link here: Register Online

Money-saving conference deadlines:

August 13, 2010:  Deadline for scholarship applications.

September 10, 2010:  Deadline for reduced conference registration rate.

October 18, 2010:  Space permitting, hotel rooms are available at a reduced rate of $199 until this date.  There is also a further-reduced rate of $179 for legal services, nonprofits, and government registrants.

SCHOLARSHIP INFORMATION

A limited number of partial scholarships to cover registration fees are available for nonprofit and legal services advocates and assistant attorneys general.  For more information and to download the application form, visit our conference website.  The application deadline is August 13, 2010.

For more information about our conference, speakers, agenda descriptions, online registration, hotel booking, and scholarship information please visit: Consumer Rights Litigation Conference 2010

If you have any questions, please email Conference@NCLC.org.  We look forward to seeing you in Boston!

Location
Location Name: 
Boston Park Plaza Hotel
Address1: 
50 Park Plaza on Arlington Street
City: 
Boston
State: 
MA
Contact
Name: 
Conference@NCLC.org
Sponsor: 
National Consumer Law Center
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2010-nclc-brochure.pdf822.61 KB

National Consumer Law Center's new website

Picture of new NCLC website

US Bankruptcy Court calendar - It's searchable!

Did you know that the court's calendar can be searched online?  This means that to check your own or a colleagues scheduled events, you can go to the website and enter the attorney's name to find all of their calendar items!  I quote the clerk:

The link to the calendar can be found on our web site (www.mdb.uscourts.gov) under Judges.  The new program provides much better filtering capabilites.  For example, using the Advanced tab, you can select a specific attorney name and see the dates at a quick glance where that attorney has a court hearing or a 341 meeting.  Please try this new program and if you have any questions, contact our technical help desk at ecf@mdb.uscourts.gov.

Go to: http://mdb-calendar.mdb.uscourts.gov/.

It's a beautiful thing.

The next financial goofiness in housing

http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100611-707353.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines

Thousands of developers are signing up with an investment company to add an interesting new fee for homeowners who sell their homes. They are burying a covenant in legal paperwork that requires every current and future owner of the home for the next 99 years to pay the developer and this investment company a one percent fee every time the home is sold. The investment company is even trying to package this flow of future income into an investment vehicle on Wall Street.

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