A Shorthand Multi-State Summary of Foreclosure Law to Equalize

October 2011


Mark Twain, the popular 19th Century American writer, journalist and humorist, used to opine that “after being around a host of courts and houses of ill-repute” in his time he felt “there was nary a difference in how and with what objective and vigor business was visited by the inhabitants thereof upon the sorry souls finding themselves there one way ‘r ‘nother.”   He concluded by suggesting there were only two kinds of people that had any chance to survive legal proceedings in the courts of his time, only one of whom “was them that knew the law.” The other, which appeared to him was a “mightily more successful supplicant if one had the choice” was “them that knew the judge(!)”  Intended to be biting satire for the time, more than 100 years later, that lament is still heard and especially when it is the David-sized debtor confronting the Goliath-sized Bank in the judicial system.  It is likely a statistical fact that judges are members of the same country club and dine regularly with more fat-cat Bankers and their lawyers than they do with the millions of the mom-and-pop “outsiders” who own homes and the investments and businesses who are seeking a fair economic sharing of the recovery burden they bear with the Banks and Bankers who caused the damage in the first place. They are more than a bit unnerved when they are addressed by the judge in court as the “defendant” and the opposing counsel for the Bank as “Chucky.”

     Of course, Mark Twain did not hold lawyers in much esteem, either—even those who knew the law though they may not have known the judge as any more than an acquaintance. He referred to them in his usual rants above as “the pimps of the ‘just-us’ system.”  Some still insist he may have had a point at least there.

     But the world has gotten a lot larger since Twain’s days and so has the legal system.  In many large counties, several hundred judges sit at any one moment and it is the luck of the draw who one gets and so if “knowing the judge” ever had any value (and it would be naive to suggest that it does not have some), knowing the law has become far more powerful.  It’s “David’s slingshot” in today’s court and it still works when used by one who, as David did, knows how to use it.

     With America in the turmoil of foreclosures and with the Banks now regularly and relentlessly dogging their tails, at least knowing the law of foreclosures for a few states suffering some of the worst might be helpful.  This is especially important when the Banks aren’t telling it straight and, frankly, lots of judges aren’t expert here, either.

      So in a world of misinformation and downright disinformation, here are some thumbnails of the actual FORECLOSURE LAWS of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii—some states on the hardest of times among a few more—that could help debtors a little to equalize the fight.  Aside from the reader’s own use—it is always better to get smarter—the reader should feel free to forward this summary to anyone in these straits the reader thinks might want to know or who could benefit.  At the conclusion of the summaries, below, there is a wrap-up with several paragraphs about TAXs and other practical RAMIFICATIONS common to all debt workouts and also a short summary of DEFENSES.

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