When something is right, it is fairly evident. However, just because the truth is correct does not always ensure a just outcome. If the process certifying that truth is corrupt, incomplete or minimized, there is no validation of the underlying principle. Nor should there be. Without due process, due judgment cannot hold forth.
I bring this up in response to the mortgage foreclosure paperwork debacle that has recently been discovered. Perhaps some explanation of how this added insult of incompetence to the original injury is needed. Keep in mind that every story has two sides, and this saga also has guilt and blame on both sides of the furor: corrupt bankers and lenders plus borrowers who know from the get-go that, in many cases but not in all of them, they will not be able to meet their mortgage payments, but taking advantage of the lenders’ greed anyway and consciously ignoring their personal responsibility.
Word has it that the latest denouement of every Tom, Dick and Harry mass-signing foreclosure orders from the financial institutions originated with one homeowner’s plight in Maine:
Even though this homeowner had not made a mortgage payment in two years, the bank’s disregard for following established procedure for foreclosures may just let this Mainer keep her house for a little while longer. The fact that this woman basically forfeited her home by not making her payments just might be invalidated and/or tempered due to the illegal procedure used by the bank in their attempt to foreclose.
Who is right? Who should claim the spoils? This homeowner certainly is living in La-la Land if she thinks she is entitled to occupy her home when she has not made a payment for years. Yes, I sympathize with her financial plight but who does she think should pick up the costs of her living expenses? In this specific case though, I think she should get another chance at mortgage modification due to the reckless handling of her foreclosure proceedings by her bank. But just as entitlement does not trump personal distress, so too does institutional bumbling not guarantee a complete win for the suffering homeowner.
This scenario reminds me of the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles. Clearly, there was forensic evidence that was unbelievably ignored, not collected and compromised. Additionally, the same corrupt, negligent behavior was applied by the LAPD personnel to the collection of evidence, the interviewing of pertinent witnesses and the inept handling of the case by the Los Angeles prosecutors assigned to the case. In the long run, it didn’t matter if Simpson was truly guilty because the lackadaisical, sloppy pre-trial events and actual trial was so badly bumbled that the main question morphed from whether or not Simpson was guilty into whether or not he was given a fair shake. The jurors’ verdict handed down went in favor of fairness over guilt or innocence.
Back on the topic of real estate foreclosures, Steven Pearlstein wrote a very concise — and fair — article on this dilemma of allowing the delinquent borrower continued occupation of his home due to foul-ups on the part of the lender:
His belief that, in this recent mortgage paperwork fiasco, BOTH parties are liable is absolutely correct. While lenders hired untrained and lazy staff to sign off on the mass of foreclosures, the borrowers cannot be exonerated from their part in this mess if they were not making their required payments. Two sides to every story and both sides seem to have fallen to the lowest common denominator of responsibility.
My take is that each and every foreclosure should be reviewed and completed (or not) based on the legality and merits of each specific case. Do I think that the homeowners should be let off the hook of foreclosure as punishment to their incompetent lending institutions? Absolutely not. The procedures must be adhered to and the lumps taken. Above all, without the proper sequence of oversight events, foreclosure practices have no validity until the legal process is rectified. But then the legal process must go forward, good, bad or indifferent.
This necessary adherence to proper rules and regulations is the bedrock of justice as we know it. That is precisely why the Obama administration fought tooth and nail to enact such major legislation as health care and financial reform through our branches of government, i.e. seeking passage by Congress rather than using executive privilege. If the process is subject to our constitutional rigors from the beginning, chances are that the verdict will have more staying power, a deeper validity. After congressional consideration, the third branch of our government, the Supreme Court, would have the final say — unless or until future legislation is brought to the table to refute it. These three branches of government are known to us as checks and balances, and the further each issue moves through this system and gathers validity in the process, the higher the odds that the new laws will stand and have value.
For the life of me, I have not been able to figure out why President Obama has been reluctant to repeal DADT. Well folks, this is the answer. Sure, he can issue an executive order doing away with DADT immediately. However, just as Bill Clinton, immediately upon taking office in the White House, did so in a sweeping order to allow gays to serve in the military, our current President would probably not be resolving the matter. If you remember, the brouhaha that ensued after Clinton’s statement to allow gay people to serve was the precise impetus for the enactment of DADT. Mission not accomplished.
So I think this time, President Obama wants to be as sure as he can be that the repeal of DADT is well-grounded in our constitutional framework. It took me a long time to understand this, but I do see the long-term benefits now. Even though I acknowledge that this drawn-out process is infuriating in light of the basic rights that are allotted in our Constitution and can quickly turn a patient person into a cynic, I get it. Validation and passage through our legislative and judicial branches of government is a slower process than executive order, but its effect is much more beneficial to the implementation of the new law.
First a valid process, then the truth just might emerge. Without the pre-requisite of a proper foundation, the right thing does not have much of a chance of surfacing and prevailing. Equal rights for all Americans has been such a long time in coming, but in order to insure the strongest statement of that principle yet, we need just a bit more patience.
Tags: Bill Clinton insituting DADT, institutional corruption goes hand in hand with personal responsibility, mortgage forelosure paperwork fiasco, O.J. Simpson trial, proper procedure as the basis for truth, the Maine incident