About a year ago, students working in a new Mortgage Mediation Clinic at Gonzaga Law were hard at work, testing new Washington state laws governing mortgage foreclosure practices. Now, a combination of a new grant for $300,000 and a few big successes in court mean that the clinic has a new name, an expanded goal, and a vision for the future.
Mortgage Mediation Clinic becomes the Foreclosure Prevention Clinic
The original $30,000 2012 grant from the WA State Attorney General provided funding for the Mortgage Mediation Clinic to get started and take on a first crop of foreclosure cases. That original grant expired in December of 2012. Over the summer, program director retired District Court Judge Richard White wrote a new grant, proposing that the small, part-time Mortgage Mediation Clinic become a full-scale Foreclosure Prevention Clinic under the guidance of the Consumer Law Clinic at Gonzaga Law. The grant application was accepted, and the Washington State Attorney General granted the clinic a $100,000 per year, 3 year grant that will operate the full-time work of helping homeowners nearing foreclosure save their homes or find collaborative solutions.
Helping Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure
The new expansion of the clinic means that the 12 students and their supervisors are taking on cases outside the scope of only mortgage mediation. This means that in addition to helping homeowners work with banks to mediate possible solutions to foreclosure. This new clinic explores all options available to homeowners, which could include legal actions outside of mediation. “Lawsuits are an option of last resort, but they can be effective,” explains White.
Taking On Current Legal Issues
In February of this year, students working in the clinic filed an amicus brief in the Washington State Supreme Court case of Dianne Klem v Washington Mutual Bank. The case asked if the trustee of a foreclosure violated the Consumer Protection Act by predating the notarized notice of sale and deferring a request from the homeowner to defer the sale. “We wanted to get involved with this case because many of the mortgage foreclosures we are handling in the clinic are directly affected by the decision in this case, which deals with robo-signing and many of the other mortgage industry challenges working their way through the courts,” explains Al McNeil, head of the Consumer Law Clinic at Gonzaga Law.
Giving Students A New Insight To Working With Clients
Of the 12 students currently working in the Foreclosure Prevention Clinic, 5 of them are in their second semester of working directly with clients. “The experience for clients is better when they get to work with one student,” explains White, “and for students, it is always better when they see a case from beginning to end. Most of the clients of the Clinic started the process on their own, and the majority of them are largely unemployed. This means by the time they get to us, they are frustrated and very worried, because the system itself is very problematic.” White goes on to explain that for students, this provides a unique insight into handling very emotional cases for clients.
The Foreclosure Prevention Clinic provides free assistance for Washington state resident homeowners that are in danger of or in the foreclosure process. To request assistance or for more information, contact the Gonzaga Center for Law and Justice (University Legal Assistance) at 509-313-5791.