Back in April, we were receiving many calls from borrowers who either had been sued for foreclosure (in what are known as “judicial” foreclosure states), or where a Trustee’s Sale was in the works (in what are known as “non-judicial” states). The bulk of these calls were from borrowers who intended to represent themselves based on what they had learned from one or more blogs or other sources on the Internet, and who were seeking a legal opinion to validate what they had learned on the Web. All such callers were advised of the dangers of representing themselves in legal proceedings. However, most of these callers said that they felt comfortable representing themselves.
Now, in early August, many of these same borrowers are calling us frantically seeking assistance because they have gone as far as they can go in defending their foreclosure by themselves, in certain instances telling us that they were either laughed out of court or were told by the Judge to get an attorney. In other situations, borrowers who are not attorneys and are thus not familiar with court rules or Rules of Civil Procedure have impaired their defense by simultaneously filing a Motion directed to a perceived problem with the foreclosure proceeding and a formal Answer to the proceeding as well. Doing so is inconsistent, and tells the Judge that your Motion was not well grounded and that you don’t know what you are doing. This also wastes the Judge’s and Court’s time.
Judges are extremely busy people, and work in an environment where they are used to dealing with attorneys who are skilled in court procedure and the law. This permits the court system to function as a fairly well-oiled machine. Throwing a “pro se” party into the system causes delay, confusion, and aggravation on the part of those who work in the system on a regular basis. Although most Judges do accommodate pro se parties to an extent, everyone has their limits. In one case we are involved in, the Judge finally told the self-represented party that he had gone far enough and to get an attorney, period.
An additional problem with representing yourself in a foreclosure defense proceeding is that you may wind up filing something that actually hurts your case and helps the party who is trying to take your house away, or missing a procedural matter which, if properly presented through an attorney, could help your case. Attorneys have spent years developing the right kind of eyes to examine lawsuits and court filings. Dabbling in the law is like trying to dabble in brain surgery: one wrong move and the whole system winds up being disabled, paralyzed, or dead (as your defense may wind up).
Finally, bringing your case to an attorney when you may have already damaged it is going to require more work on the part of the attorney in less time, which is going to be more expensive to fix. Trying to undo a problem is always more difficult than preventing it in the first place. Foreclosure victims should thus think at least twice, and probably more, before deciding to represent themselves in a foreclosure.
Jeff Barnes, Esq.