I am very excited to have joined Legal Aid’s Consumer Law Unit as an Equal Justice Works Fellow last month. My project, which is sponsored by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP, focuses on providing assistance to low-income homeowners facing foreclosure in the District of Columbia.
My project comes at a very opportune time. In March 2014, new procedures were implemented affecting homeowners who have been sued for foreclosure in D.C. Superior Court. Specifically, early mediation was added as an initial step in judicial foreclosure cases, offering homeowners the chance to sit down with their lenders and discuss the possibility of loan modifications or other alternatives to foreclosure. A significant portion of my project will be focused on representing homeowners in these early mediations, with the goal being to help clients remain in their homes when possible.
Not only is the early mediation process a recent development, but judicial foreclosure itself is new to D.C. Until very recently, foreclosures in D.C. happened almost exclusively outside of the court system, and it is only within the last year or so that lenders have begun using the courts to foreclose on homeowners. In response to the huge influx in judicial foreclosure cases filed—over 300 in the last year—D.C. Superior Court created a special foreclosure docket that takes place every Friday. As part of my project, I will be in the courthouse on Fridays helping to guide homeowners through the new system, connecting them with HUD-certified housing counselors, and encouraging prospective clients to come to Legal Aid for an initial interview.
In addition to providing direct representation to individual clients and being available as an informational resource in court, I will be conducting outreach to make sure that homeowners facing foreclosure understand the importance of coming to court and are aware of the opportunity to participate in early mediation as part of the new court process.
Because the legal landscape has changed so much in the past year, this is a very exciting time to be involved in foreclosure prevention in D.C.
On a personal note, having worked at Legal Aid in many different capacities—first an undergraduate intern, then as a legal assistant, and most recently as a law student intern—I am thrilled to be back as an Equal Justice Works fellow. The low-income community in D.C. is one I care about deeply, and I couldn’t be happier to be working with Legal Aid’s client community again.