June 24, 2009 – The economic downturn and drops in employment are taking a toll on homeowners’ ability to keep up with their mortgage payments. The number of foreclosure actions filed in the past year is nearly quadruple the pre-2005 average, while foreclosure cases in Wisconsin surged 29% between the first quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. About 23 percent of the state's 7,693 foreclosures are in Milwaukee County.
To help people stay in their homes and alleviate the current backlog of foreclosure cases in the county court system, Marquette University Law School will provide mediation between lenders and residential borrowers facing foreclosure through the Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program.
Located at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, the Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program will be a voluntary, court-based independent mediation option for lenders and borrowers. The chief mediator, a licensed attorney and experienced mediator, will conduct daily mediation sessions and work with other volunteer mediators to serve the parties in foreclosure requesting mediation services. According to the Law School, in most cases, successful mediation will serve as a venue to work out new loan terms, a short sale, or other solution that is mutually agreeable, and execute a final agreement between the parties.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is committing $310,000 in proceeds from the successful Countrywide Financial Corporation lawsuit for the program. In addition, the City of Milwaukee recently approved $100,000 in funding for the same effort.
“My decision to fund the Court-Appointed Mediation Program is based on Marquette’s reputation for dispute resolution and the likelihood that this effort can expand statewide with their efforts,” said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. “As well, of particular concern to me are the significant public safety concerns related to foreclosed and abandoned properties in Milwaukee.”
Mayor Barrett gratefully accepted the funds. “We’re pleased these proceeds can be used to benefit an important recommendation of the Milwaukee Foreclosure Partnership Initiative (MFPI).” Mayor Tom Barrett launched MFPI on September 18, 2008 to address the foreclosure crisis in the City of Milwaukee. “The Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program is a critical part of the Partnership’s intervention approach and will serve those in need and the city very well,” Barrett said.
Marquette Law School Dean Joseph D. Kearney noted, “This state funding, along with the funding already approved by the City of Milwaukee, will enable us to help citizens preserve housing assets and retain homeownership where feasible, to return a steady mortgage payment to lenders, and to relieve the court dockets.”
The chief mediator and law school faculty, together with the advisory board, will work to recruit qualified attorneys to volunteer their time toward the effort. Law students will provide supervised volunteer assistance in the form of research, case management and other mediation-related activities.
Mediation activities will begin after July 1, 2009. For those interested in learning more about the program, please call the informational phone line at (414) 288-4040.
Mediation training program and call for volunteer mediators
The Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program is seeking experienced attorney/mediators to volunteer to mediate foreclosure cases filed in Milwaukee County. At this time, mediation is voluntary; the homeowner or the lender need to request mediation, and both must agree to mediate. Each mediation will last approximately 1.5 hours, and will be held at the courthouse or another designated location in Milwaukee County.
Marquette University Law School is sponsoring a foreclosure mediation training program on July 8 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. for volunteer mediators. To sign up as a mediator and register for the training, go to http://law.marquette.edu/foreclosure.
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