Fighting Massachusetts SJC Travesty-of-a-Decision Against Alton King Continues!

Please continue signing and sharing widely our petition to the SJC!

The SJC clerk gets an update every 24 hours of new signatures on the petition, so this is a very visible public display of pressure, and thousands of signatures may change the course of the history of this fight.


NEW: Reconsideration Motion Filed in Alton King Ruling by MA SJC

“Alton King asks for reconsideration as a Mass. resident, the Mass Supreme Judicial Court must recognize that he is covered by the Constitution (as is every other resident — whether similarly situated to him or not).”

  • Motion to Reconsider ( PDF )
  • Amici Brief in Support of Motion to Reconsider ( PDF )
  • Record Appendix I of II ( PDF ) and II of II ( PDF )

Also! Now Available: A “close read” of the Alton King decision as originally promulgated (the SJC has already changed things about it in response to our filings). A close read is not a full legal argument, but it’s great for those of you who have been dying to understand specifically what the SJC said and how, step-after-step, the SJC violated the explicit wording of statute, its own legal precedents and our state constitutional requirements and protections. If you can stand the legal-ese, this read is for you.

Also, additional amicus briefs have been filed. See the brief of James Jennings ( PDF ), long time renowned social science researcher and activist, and that of the honorable Representative Benjamin Swan (now retired) ( PDF ), 22 year veteran of the Massachusetts Legislature.

For more information about the SJC’s disastrous Alton King decision, please visit this page.

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Great News: Governor Baker Extends Foreclosure/Eviction Moratorium

Governor Baker has extended the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for another two months until October 17, 2020! The bill that MAAPL worked to pass at the end of April allowed the Governor to extend the moratorium by executive order.

This is a double victory!

1. We have another 60 days! This means that all of the work that MAAPL members and supporters have been doing to emphasize how devastating it would be on August 19th to suddenly have the floodgates open for all foreclosure auctions to go forward AND also the work that everyone has been doing to extend the eviction moratorium. That was all heard and got some traction.

2. Because the moratorium extension was done based on the language passed on April 20th, that law was the strongest legislation possible to extend the moratorium on foreclosures. The new bill, HD 5166, does not have a phase-in with protections for people on the foreclosure side. (We are working with the new Homes for All Coalition to include a partial lift that would still halt all BUT judicial foreclosure.)  For now, the fact that the extension is based on the existing language is really important.

The extension gives MAAPL time to strengthen understanding across our efforts so that any extension language for a moratorium includes the foreclosure options that best serve all of us.

Thanks to these great efforts by all, we have a real win that can fuel our work over the next few months and lead to better, more lasting changes for MA homeowners, especially for homeowners and communities of color!

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URGENT: Call Your State Legislators TODAY to Pass the Housing Stability Act!

Photo of MA State HouseMAAPL Call-In NOW to State Legislators Monday, July 27th, 2020

Add Crucial Language and Pass the Legislature’s Emergency Housing Stability Act!

Your voice gets results! Call your state Representative and Senator, and ask them to get critical changes into the Housing Stability Act!

Good news because of bad! Given the continuing COVID-19 crisis, Governor Baker
has extended the existing moratorium on foreclosures and eviction until October 17th! AND we have a huge opportunity to extend the moratorium longer! But we need your help to make that happen… Call Your State Legislators TODAY!

Here’s what you do:
If you don’t know who your state legislators are, go to WhereDoIVotema.com. Type in your
address and click the Show my results button. It will tell you who your elected officials are.

Look for your State Representative and Senator (they’re listed under District Representatives), and click their names to view their contact information. Write down your state Representative’s and Senator’s names and phone numbers, then make your calls.

What do I say? Leave the message below (Legislators’ offices are empty, but staff
check phones regularly):

“Hello, my name is ________. I live in ________ (name of your town).
Please make critical changes to the Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium legislation and then pass it as soon as possible!

S2831/H4878, The Housing Stability Act must:

  1. Revise and pass the 12-month eviction and foreclosure moratorium;
  2. Put enforcement in this legislation to address the numerous moratorium violations
    going on. This means:

    • Meaningful fines;
    • Notification provisions sent to the Tenant, Landlord and other associations or groups likely to be affected by or responsible for enforcement of the Act;
  3. Finally, please support the upcoming Anti-Structural Racism and Land Title
    Restoration Act.

Please, as my Legislator, will you fight to protect our homes during this COVID-19 emergency? Thank you.”

When you have finished the call, e-mail Grace Ross, MAAPL Coordinator, at maaplinfo@yahoo.com. Tell her who your Legislators are and that you asked them to get crucial foreclosure language in the Housing Stability Act.

Want to also send the Legislature your “written testimony” on S2831/H4878,
The Housing Stability Act? The Joint Committee on Housing is collecting
people and groups’ opinions and ideas on the Act. They must receive the written
testimony by Noon this Tuesday, July 28th. Type up your story; tell them why
homeowners dealing with foreclosure need the protections above. MAAPL can help you with your testimony. Once you’re ready, send your testimony to: https://forms.gle/z7uEKUeQKWi2ocyD7

Please also let MAAPL know of any moratorium violations you have heard about over the last few months! We have heard some truly horrifying stories, and we know there are more and worse violations being committed and attempted.

Background Information: Anti-Structural Racism and Land Title Restoration Act
MAAPL’s omnibus anti-foreclosure legislation calls out the fact that the banks’
entire predatory mortgage scheme first launched against people of color—as has
been this industry‘s history for many decades. The omnibus legislation combines
all of the most important structural changes and enforcement needed to bar the
industry’s foreclosure and other violations, repair title and reverse the harm of
what has been done to hundreds of homeowners.

To learn more about this bill, download MAAPL’s Fact Sheet ( PDF )

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URGENT: Sign MAAPL’s Petition to Reverse the Alton King Decision!

Over 1,600 people have signed MAAPL’s petition to  reverse the SJC’s Bank of NY Mellon, as Trustee vs. Alton King decision—we need thousands to stand up against this injustice! Please share this widely and sign today!

A truly reprehensible decision and travesty has been delivered by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC); since this predatory lending surfaced in 2008, the SJC has focused its job as simply upholding our laws; with decisions, of course, that have overwhelmingly meant protecting homeowners.

However, its June 17, 2020 decision against Alton King, reversed (we hope temporarily) that role. We must reverse this historic first: stripping constitutional rights of a portion of Massachusetts residents!

“Demand the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Take Its Knee Off Our Necks! Rescind its decision denying court access to Alton King and all homeowners who were illegally foreclosed and made indigent.”

We urgently need your signature on this petition right here and for you to spread it as widely and broadly as possible. We literally need thousands of signatures to truly expose to the SJC that it must, Must, MUST change this decision.

Now is our time!

  • We must act to use this moratorium and the current level of legislative awareness to shift the battlefield on which the banks have been acting.
  • Systemically, we can also take this bad decision from the SJC and make it the Industry’s last hurrah for using those in our government as its patsies — in this onslaught against people of color, women heads of household and of course, the collateral inclusion of working class white folks in this criminal ravaging of our society.  Together we can turn the tide on all of this.

P.S.  MAAPL is still seeking people with administrative and/or computer processing, word processing, online researching skills to compile the tens of thousands of pieces of evidence, especially for the criminal violations the industry has engaged in. Please contact us if you can do this. Almost all of this can be done remotely.

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MAAPL and BOWH File Amicus Brief in “Alton King” Reconsideration Case

On July 14, 2020, MAAPL and Bring Our Wealth Home! (BOWH) submitted an amicus brief in the reconsideration case Bank of New York Mellon… v. Alton King Jr. and Terri A. Mayes-King.

This case, recently decided by the MA Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), strips homeowners who have been declared “foreclosed” of their constitutional rights. MAAPL and BOWH have been working to get this disastrous decision rescinded since the SJC ruling was handed down.

Download and read the amicus brief ( PDF ) by BOWH co-chairs Dawn Duncan and Zakiya Alake.

You can learn more about the Alton King case and our analysis of the consequences of the SJC’s ruling in MAAPL’s recent Action Alert.

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Action Alert: SJC Erases Constitutional Rights of MA Homeowners—We Must Fight Back!

In a Reversal of Its Entire History, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has used its power to erase an entire sector of our state’s residents from protection under our constitution: homeowners who have been declared “foreclosed” even though every such auction has been illegal and evidently criminal since the beginning of this crisis. Join us to get this so-called decision rescinded!

The SJC’s 17 June 2020 decision in BoNY v. King & another (SJC-12859) is a breathtaking dereliction of judicial responsibility by the Court responsible for ensuring every Commonwealth resident’s rights to life, liberty, and property under the Massachusetts Constitution. Among other deficiencies, the SJC misnames the plaintiff as being Bank of New York Mellon. However, the plaintiff is a purported securitized trust. Without citing them, the SJC in effect overturns the Massachusetts Indigent Court Costs Law, Ibanez, Eaton, and other leading cases as to legally indigent homeowners, by holding that the courts can price such homeowners out of their appeals. The SJC’s hostility to such homeowners’ constitutional property rights could not be more plain.

Be clear, we will not take this historic stripping of rights of a sector of Massachusetts residents lying down! Literally, our Highest Court has never in its history rolled back constitutional rights for any subset of our people.

We cannot win if you do not join us in this fight. We will win if you do!

Do not let the banks’ shaming of you as their intended victims silence you!

In this decision, the SJC reversed itself in the following ways:

  1. Now, the court will not act to enforce our laws even where it recognizes that a violation may exist unless an opposing party can pay for them to review the case.
  2. Used to be the Court used its Constitutional role to expand equal rights or at least hold the line; now, it can use its role as the final constitutional interpreter to roll back and end the recognized constitutional rights of a sector of our residents (inhabitants) if they cannot afford to pay for those rights.
  3. And specifically target this ruling at a man of color on behalf of an industry whose practices are settled as to being structurally racist and therefore imposing this erasure of the human existence of this sector in the eyes of the court knowing that it will enforce structural racism and disparately harmed people of color (and women heads of household) and therefore especially women of color. #BlackBrownHomesMatter
  4. Used to be that a statute that contravened the Constitution was recognized as unconstitutional and declared null; now, a statute can strip you of your Constitutional rights.
  5. Used to be that standing is a threshold issue that a court must determine even if there is no opposing party; now unless someone opposes who can pay for it, standing is unnecessary.
  6. That a preliminary balancing test is no longer measured by your likelihood of success in this case, but your likelihood of protecting whatever is at issue indefinitely into the future.
  7. Used to be that those who are recognized as legally indigent had to be allowed access to our Courts; now you can be priced out of access to our courts even with a “non-frivolous” case.
  8. Used to be that unincorporated or otherwise not legally founded non-human entities could not be a party to a case; now they are recognized by the court as legal entities with rights and the ability to prosecute a case.
  9. A monetary balancing test used to be used to make sure everyone could participate in a case; now a balancing test as to financial capacity should favor the party with more money.
  10. A foreclosure used to extinguish a mortgage obligation, but now a mortgage obligation to the supposed mortgagee continues even after the supposed mortgagee claims to have extinguished the mortgage.
  11. Used to be, when exercising its equitable powers, the Court followed the maxims of equity; now the court will claim to apply an equitable test so as to benefit the party that violated several of those maxims.
  12. The Court has abdicated its commitment to jealousy guard legal requirements around foreclosures, even while it delegated its authority to foreclose to mortgagees through the power of sale in a private mortgage, that is, the ability to foreclose non-judicially.
  13. It reversed the settled role of the court as an interpreter of statute as opposed to the writer of statutes including ignoring
    1. the actual statutory history of the law implicated in this decision and creating a false narrative, which it claimed it was a statutory history reversed;
    2. The statutory interpretive requirement that all words in a statute must be given force and effect;
    3. That all words in a statute (unless otherwise defined) should be given their plain meaning
    4. And if it’s a technical word it be given the meaning as used in the applicable field at the time;
    5. that statutes are to be interpreted as to the mischief they were seeking to address;
  14. The due process requirement to not overly, broadly interpret a category of persons under the law so as to misapply the law;
  15. Especially, in statutes related to the specialized, statutorily determined area of Summary Process (eviction cases), wording of statutes is not to be strayed from;
  16. It explicitly reversed the following recent decisions; Adjartey, Hatcher, Pinti, Marroquin, Matt, Ibanez, Eaton, Rosa and Comerford, Fremont, Bevilacqua and so many more that we can’t name them.
  17. Previously, each of numerous violations of real property and/or foreclosure law rendered a claimed transfer void by operation of law; now, even where such violations are recognized by a court as likely having occurred, the claimant transferee can receive a presumption of legal transfer even when their standing depends upon it and when a necessary element to preempt any consideration of a homeowner’s defense by a court unless the homeowner can pay for it.
  18. Previously, a foreclosure by sale had to comply at the applicable strict or utmost diligence/strictest good faith (when purported mortgagee purchases) standard; now the SJC holds no compliance at all is necessary.

Further action and analysis to follow! Please check back, join us in action and share this broadly!

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Summary of the Most Recent COVID-Related Court Orders

MAAPL Coordinator, Grace Ross, has provided an update to the COVID-related court information posted on the MAAPL website. Her summary of this information is posted below:

Massachusetts courts will remain physically closed until July 13 and will reopen in two phases. Between now and July 13 and beyond, they are doing emergency matters either virtually or, if absolutely necessary, in person.

Key changes: the new order recognizes that if a pro se litigant will be disadvantaged by a virtual teleconference hearing, they have to find a different means, which is awesome!

Second, cell phones are back. In any courthouse you’re allowed to bring in your cellphone (and PEDs). MAAPL is worried that lawyers are going use their computers to try to do legal research during court hearings, which they are not allowed to do. We think that folks who are pro se probably should refuse to be part of any virtual meeting unless there’s an order by the Judge that the lawyers are not allowed to do legal research as the argument progresses. That should be a general requirement, but we strongly suggest that you ask that order of the Judge if you are going to participate in a virtual court hearing.

After July 13 they are reserving the right to do “screening” of everyone who comes into a court building. They do not identify what that is.

The moratorium on eviction cases moving forward, we expect it will be in place until August 18; there is discussion about the Legislature extending it. In relationship to the courts being opened nothing should move forward against you in an eviction case.

We believe that the Legislature never meant for your ability to defend yourself to be postponed; so, if you can move forward, we recommend you proceed. You can do other emergency issues like code violations and things like that in Housing Court; please do not hold off on emergency health and safety matters.

As for other courts besides Housing Court, when your next piece is due is a little confusing. Jury trials will not be scheduled until September 8 or later. Bench trials can be held virtually or in person starting on July 13. The Judge can decide who is allowed to be in the courtroom.

The tricky thing is when your next filing is due. What determines due dates? If what determines the due date is a statute of limitations, the number of days you had left on your statute of limitations as of March 17 will then begin, being counted on July 1. The same is true if the deadline is set out in statute or court rules, standard orders or guidelines.

So, if you’re in the Appeals Court and you had a brief due between March 17 and July 1, based on a court deadline whatever days counted to hit that deadline should restart on July 1.

So, for those of you who have reply briefs due between March 17 and June 30: because the other side had put in their appellee brief after March17, you have 14 days after the appellee brief comes in but based on this order your reply brief would then be due 14 days after July 1.

Except, if the deadline was set specifically by court order in your case; then it is due on July 1st unless the deadline is later. I think that means those of you who put in notices to the court saying that your brief would have been due except there was a further deadline and could you have time? That now means that the court might say we gave you until July 3. You should contact the Court and clarify that if you hadn’t asked for a clarification you would have had until whatever it is; in the example above, July 15th. So, for those of you who were responsible and were communicating with the court about clarifying the extension of your deadlines, I would probably contact the court; point out that under this order you would have had more time if you have not communicated and that, therefore, you’re requesting the new additional deadline otherwise you end up with less time because you were responsible about communicating with the court.

This is a summary of both the Trial Court order (the administrative side of the courts) and the SJC order. The Trial Court clarification says that it supersedes all other court’s own orders which means it should supersede the last orders from the Appeals Court that were different than the SJC and shorter and confusing. So, even if you’re in the Appeals Court you are covered under the orders. Links to orders so you can read them yourself.

https://www.mass.gov/supreme-judicial-court-rules/supreme-judicial-court-third-updated-order-regarding-court-operations

https://www.mass.gov/trial-court-rules/trial-court-emergency-administrative-order-20-11-order-supplementing-the-supreme

As a reminder again, these rules only apply to Massachusetts state court. These are not the rules that apply to federal courts.

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MAAPL Announces “Bring Our Wealth Home!”

Bring Our Wealth Home! is a project of the Mass. Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL) — working to reverse illegal predatory loans and foreclosures and the damage they have created. This project highlights the impact of the foreclosure crisis on Black and Brown families and communities, and supports and promotes the leadership of Black and Brown people in the fight to gain justice and return stolen wealth to their communities.

To learn more about this project, visit our new “Bring Our Wealth Home!” page.

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The Structural Racism of Mortgaging and Foreclosures Continues…

MAAPL recommends the following recent articles highlighting the dramatically decreased levels of Black homeownership in the wake of the financial crisis, as well as the impact of mortgage discrimination on Black homebuyers.

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Update: MA State Court Deadlines Postponed Until July 1

MAAPL Coordinator Grace Ross has issued an update to our previous post on  Massachusetts state court cases being postponed. Court case deadlines have been postponed for another month until July 1, 2020 for all non-emergency or lower-priority matters.

Today, May 26, 2020, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) published a new COVID-related order.

The key points are that the courts will physically remain closed, although the clerks are there doing business. If you need to reach them you can call, email, etc. Because of the further extension of deadlines, courts expect to hold more non-emergency hearings virtually than they did previously. (They do not expect this delay to be extended any farther than July 1–unless, God forbid, the pandemic starts getting worse again.)

What you need to know:

1. The Massachusetts moratorium on evictions and foreclosures continues to be in place, and any roles the courts play in that will continue (they mention that directly in the guidance for the first time.) That means summary process/eviction cases are stayed.

A. We are keeping in touch with the courts because of the possibility of misinterpretation. We are deeply concerned about this specifically regarding the moratorium we fought for. It was meant to stop evictions. That should not stop your ability to use the courts to protect against an eviction. We are reaching out to the courts (and if necessary, will bring in our Legislators) to clarify the purpose for putting a stay on eviction cases in the courts.

2. If you have any kind of deadline for a court filing or a tracking order (for instance, a set of dates that say discovery will be due on this date, motions will be due on that date), those are all stayed until July 1.

A. If you had a deadline of, let’s say, 30 days, and the clock on that deadline was supposed to start before March 17, you can figure the new deadline this way: it will be whatever number of days occurred before March 17, and then the clock stops. On July 1 the clock will start again. So you’ll have the remainder of whatever 30 days had not gotten used up by March 17. That will become your new deadline in July.

B. If the other side was supposed to get you something on a court tracking order by a certain date, and their date is now moved to July 1 and your date was after that, you need to figure out the number of days between their deadline and your responsive deadline after that. Then imagine counting your deadline as counting the same number of days after July 1.

3. All jury trials in civil matters will not commence before September 8. All bench trials on the civil side scheduled for any time up to June 30 are now continued to a date no earlier than July 1, 2020.

If you have trouble figuring out when things are due, please be in touch with MAAPL and we’ll help you work out the answer.

We have two concerns:

1. If anyone is trying to pressure or intimidate you, or otherwise deter you from fighting your case in court. All of that is illegal. If they show up on your property that’s still trespassing, and we will use the court to enforce against any of these actions. So let us know if you are experiencing such things.

We are concerned if you need to take action to defend yourself, and that could include emergency needs such as a code violation in your home. Again, let us know, and we’ll make sure you can file in court.

2. Virtual hearings – It is possible that some courts may decide to hold a hearing because they’re trying to get through some of their non-emergency business, which may affect you if you have a case that’s a non-emergency matter sitting idle right now in the courts. They can try to hold such hearings virtually (not for eviction or foreclosure because of the state moratorium, but for other cases).

This deeply concerns us because pro se folks have reported to MAAPL having a harder time doing things by telephone or over the Internet rather than being present in the courtroom. This is a constitutional due process issue, and you should be protected from such a hearing.

If you are not as effective virtually as you would be in person, the courts say (under number three of the 5-26-20 order) that in-person proceedings will be conducted “only where entry to a court house is required to address matters that cannot be resolved virtually,” and they give two reasons why: either “because it’s not practicable or would be inconsistent with the protection of constitutional rights.”

Your right to your home, whether it’s possession or ownership (that is, the right to occupy and not be evicted, or for instance, a foreclosure), is a constitutional right, and your right to protection through the courts of those constitutional rights is separately also a constitutional right.

So, if a telephonic hearing or a virtual hearing makes you less effective, you should refuse it. If they try to hold such a hearing and it’s not working for you, you should register a complaint right then, and ask that the hearing be rescheduled for an in-person hearing. It’s critical that you put such an objection on the record in the court during the virtual hearing because it’s a constitutional due process violation if you are in any way weaker or less able to function, or handicapped by the fact that the hearing is being held virtually.

Please keep checking back here on MAAPL’s home page. We will continue posting updates on this situation regarding court schedules and related matters.

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