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Amicus Brief, Supreme Court Hearing

Center for Social Justice advocates for borrowers facing foreclosure

After several years into a statewide foreclosure crisis, New Jersey’s Supreme Court is set to issue its first significant opinion that could clarify the rights of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey homeowners facing foreclosure in the years to follow. On behalf of its clients – lower-income borrowers facing foreclosure – the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice (CSJ) recently filed to appear as amicus curiae in the case, U.S. Bank v. Guillaume.

Working with the Center for Responsible Lending in Washington, D.C., Professors Linda Fisher and Kyle Rosenkrans and their students in the Civil Litigation Clinic – Prabhkaran Bedi '12, Michelle O’Brien '12, Wolfgang Robinson '12 and German Rozencranc '12 – filed a brief, which focused on the importance of enforcing long-standing state and federal protections for homeowners facing foreclosures.

The brief highlighted several key issues: 1) the evidence necessary to obtain default foreclosure judgments, 2) the content of foreclosure notices sent to borrowers and 3) procedures for litigating defenses under the federal Truth in Lending Act.

German Rosencranc offered his reflections on the process of drafting the brief with the team, and then, hearing the arguments before the Supreme Court, which took place on November 22, 2011.

Amicus Reflection- German Rozencranc

Foreclosures play a central role in the recovery of our stagnating economy. Despite ongoing foreclosure crisis and revelations about improprieties in the foreclosure legal process, the New Jersey Supreme Court has not yet issued an opinion interpreting laws aimed at helping the market recover and for homeowners to remain in their home. In deciding to grant certification of the case U.S. Bank vs. Guillaume, the New Jersey Supreme Court expressed a willingness to decisively tackle some of these issues. When the professors asked us to identify the cases we would like to work on this semester, the opportunity to help shape state policy on this important issue by offering an amicus brief seemed very exciting. The undertaking was a bit overwhelming for my teammates Michelle O’Brien, Wolfgang Robinson, Prabh Bedi and me—especially having to deal with an expedited filing deadline and the realization that our work had significant implications for the citizens of this state. However, writing the brief as part of the civil litigation clinic experience has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my Seton Hall Law career.

The drafting process consisted of utilizing the significant research and writing capabilities I have spent the bulk of my law school working to obtain.

In particular, we departed from standard legal arguments and instead, focused on taking a more policy-oriented approach to the legal issues that was more consistent with our role as “friends of the court.” The consistent peer review, constructive criticism, team-based writing approach, and law firm atmosphere in the civil litigation clinic undoubtedly prepared me for the many challenges that I will face in the practice.

The professors, Linda Fisher and Kyle Rosenkrans, were extremely attentive to any comments or suggestions from the student-attorneys, and provided positive reinforcement and helpful feedback throughout the drafting process. The entire experience has been an invaluable component of my legal education. Especially exciting was the opportunity to attend the oral argument at the New Jersey Supreme Court on November 30, 2011. The justices were pointed in their questioning, zeroing in on each side’s strongest and weakest arguments, and alluding to the greater policy implications the decision will have.

Our amicus brief was even discussed during the arguments, which vindicated our standing as an important voice in the New Jersey legal community. The Court is likely to decide on the matter soon and I look forward to seeing how it rules on this important issue.

Professor Fisher was interviewed by the Star-Ledger regarding this pivotal case. Read the article, "Future of Foreclosure in N.J. Hinges on State Supreme Court Decision."

Read the amicus brief.