Foreclosure court pitched for state

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A series of bills making their way through the Legislature would, among other reforms, mandate a judicial review process in either the state Supreme Court or in Land Court, giving homeowners at risk of foreclosure the option of appealing to the courts.

As many as 29 other states already have adopted judicial review, including Maine and Connecticut, according to supporters of the legislation. But the idea has been proposed before and backed away from because of workload concerns.

"We considered judicial review. The problems are still the same problems. The courts are swamped, and there is no structure in place to deal with this," said Sen. Susan Tucker, D-Andover, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Housing.

Joan Kenney, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Judicial Court, said the court is not taking a position on the legislation.

The Legislature last year passed a bill aimed at protecting current and future homeowners by requiring lenders to be licensed, making mortgage fraud a felony and giving homeowners 90 days to make overdue mortgage payments, with fees and penalties accruing.

Sen. Diane Wilkerson, D-Boston, has introduced three new bills that, besides judicial review, would create a six-month moratorium on foreclosures involving subprime mortgages and would prevent tenants from being evicted if their landlord's property is foreclosed on.

The bill received a hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary earlier this month, and Wilkerson's staff said the senator hopes to see action on it before the end of the legislative session.

Tucker said she supports the effort to offer relief to homeowners, but acknowledged that there is a lot of resistance to the idea of a wholesale bailout for borrowers who made bad decisions by entering into subprime loans they could not afford once the higher interest rates kick in.

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