New Federal Law Impacts Tenants and Foreclosures

by Judge Gerald A. Williams

North Valley Justice of the Peace

Congress recently passed, and the President recently signed, “The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009.”  12 U.S.C. § 5220.  It essentially allows good tenants at least an additional 90 days to stay in the residence after a foreclosure.  This law applies to any federally-related mortgage or deed of trust (like a VA, FHA or HUD loan).

Most Arizona homeowners technically don’t have a mortgage.  Arizona is a deed of trust jurisdiction and if a homeowner signs one, then the lender can sell the house at a trustee’s sale if the homeowner is behind in his payments, didn’t pay for property insurance or didn’t pay his property taxes.  If a homeowner is in one of these categories, then the lender can sell the home in approximately 90 days.

Under this new law, a buyer of a residence at a trustee’s sale must honor any existing lease that was signed before the notice of trustee’s sale was issued.  If the buyer purchased the house as an investment, and if the tenant has and continues to follow the terms of the lease, then the tenant can continue to live in the residence until the lease expires.

If the buyer is going to move in and will occupy the home as his primary residence, then the tenant will have to move.  However, the buyer must give the tenant a notice to vacate 90 days before an eviction action could be filed.

It is very important for everyone to understand that this law does not protect tenants who are in default.  If you are a tenant and you hear that your residence may be going into foreclosure, perhaps the worst thing you can do is stop paying rent.  Doing so will likely trigger an eviction action for nonpayment of rent, which will move a lot faster than any foreclosure proceeding.

Occasionally, tenants going through this process face a practical problem of more than one person claiming to be their landlord.  Tenants have a duty to pay rent; but obviously not twice for the same month to two different people.  If an eviction action has been filed, then a tenant can pay their rent to the court as a “litigant bond.”  At trial, the judge will determine who is the real landlord and the tenant will avoid having a judgment entered against him.

Judge Williams is the presiding justice of the peace for the Northwest Regional Court Center.  His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.

Two liberal activist judges: Donahoe & Daughton

Judge Gary Donahoe

Judge Gary Donahoe

AZ Judges Review has done a nice job exposing Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell’s handpicking of retired judges to handle key political cases, in order to ensure a liberal outcome. Most recently, she chose retired Democrat judge Donald Daughton, who has contributed to Obama and Harry Mitchell, to handle the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood demanding a temporary restraining order against Arizona’s newly passed abortion legislation. Of course Daughton granted it, stopping the laws from going into effect and thwarting the will of the people.

Another activist liberal judge whose high-profile biased court decisions keep popping up is Gary Donahoe. This time he has held the Sheriff’s Office in contempt for not being able to transport inmates to Court hearings on time. Problem is, it’s not their fault. The Board of Supervisors cut the Sheriff’s budget by 15%, in order to pay for the brand-new state of the art $340 million court tower which contains penthouse quarters for the judges.

In his order, Presiding Criminal Judge Gary Donahoe wrote that the sheriff’s court-security division is “chronically understaffed,” which he characterized as a consistent and conscious decision on the part of the Sheriff’s Office.

Well yes, we’ve heard that the Sheriff’s Office has been losing around 10 employees a month for the past year due to attrition, and it has not been able to replace them due to the severe budget cuts by the Supervisors. Guess Judge Donahoe forgot to put that in his memo.

Donahoe ordered the Sheriff’s Security Chief Deputy to pay $10,575 to the court, prosecutors, defendants, their attorneys, and jurors for their loss of time.  Utterly amazing. Why not just turn that money directly over to the Board of Supervisors and their Taj Mundell court tower?

This isn’t the first outrageous decision by this judge. Judge Mundell handpicked him to handle the lawsuit against the Supervisors over the court tower. Donahoe ordered the County Attorney off the case, saying there was a conflict (we’re not sure what – he never provided any reasons, even though the County Attorney had provided sworn affidavits from three ethics experts saying there were no conflicts). He ignored the obvious conflict – the Supervisors’ attorney, Tom Irvine (former attorney for the Democrat Party), was also the attorney for the Court. Donahoe’s ruling was especially offensive because it said the County Attorney had a conflict of interest in the investigation, but Donahoe didn’t even though he would have spacious new quarters in the courthouse being investigated.

This kind of judicial activism must be exposed and stopped.

Republic scandal with Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce forces resignation

Mike RyanAs reported on this blog earlier, Mike Ryan, a Vice President of theRepublic and General Manager of theScottsdale Republic (the Scottsdale community section of the Republic), had a clear conflict of interest by serving on the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce. It was hampering his judgment to report on issues involving the Chamber, such as the scandal last fall when County Supervisors’ attorney Tom Irvine advised the Chamber that it was perfectly acceptable to run a political campaign supporting candidates for Mayor and City Council without registering as a political committee (this isTom Irvine the kind of thing that got Irvine into trouble with the County Supervisors – telling them anything they want to hear). No wonder no one reads the newspapers anymore. Am just surprised this kind of stuff ever sees the light of day, the Republic has ignored it for the past year. Now, after publishing an article in the Republic defending his position to remain in both positions, Ryan has backed off and resigned from the Chamber. The Phoenix New Times has the full story here.

NY Times writes false piece about success of our light rail

In typical liberal biased journalism, The New York Times ran an article a couple of days ago called “In Phoenix, Weekend Users Make Light Rail a Success.” It was a typical puff piece, claiming that light rail has been even more successful than envisioned.

But it conveniently omitted any of the negative information about light rail since it launched in January indicating that it’s NOT a success, which our local media has helpfully been reporting. Sales tax revenues have decreased (guess light rail hasn’t helped spur the economy as predicted) and so there is no money to expand it to the planned 57-mile network. Light rail lost $235,000 in revenues in February alone. According to Phoenix Metro, the lost revenue was due to “technology provided by a German computer plus the passengers who use the ‘smart cards’ to pay their fares.” Nationwide, transit companies everywhere have been suffering economically, so it is suspect that the New York Times claims Phoenix light rail is doing well. “Transit systems all across the country are having very severe financial challenges,” said Virginia Miller, spokeswoman for the American Public Transit Association, a Washington-based lobbying group.

Without expanding light rail,  its range is fairly limited and will not reach any kind of potential or popularity. Right now it barely covers downtown to just past ASU barely to Mesa, and doesn’t go far enough north of downtown to reach anywhere like Glendale. That most important wing, to Glendale, is being put off for at least another three years.  Expansion to Paradise Valley is being put off until 2030.  Expansion into South Tempe has stopped. Scottsdale has withdrawn from participating, indicating there will be no expansion there.  Phoenix Metro admits that decreasing revenues have forced light rail to revise its original design as approved by voters, so to say it’s proven more of a success than envisioned is a flat out lie.

Light rail isn’t even the bargain it was envisioned to be. The costs of providing light rail increased way beyond estimates after it debuted, requiring significant hikes in fares. “Officials say the hike is due to a continual increase in the cost to provide service.” The fares increased dramatically soon after light rail debuted this year, on July 1, from $1.25 to $1.75 for a one-way pass and $2.50 to $3.50 for an all-day pass.  Some fares even more than doubled, with cash one-day onboard fees going from $3.50 to $7.25.

Perhaps  the most alarming news about light rail is that accidents have been increasing. Some of the reasons being looked at for the increasing number of crashes include confused motorists, improper procedures by train operators, defective safety equipment and systems, unclear intersection markings and signage, bike and pedestrian accidents including by ticketed riders, quick stops, insufficient security, and injuries suffered while loading or unloading. Trial lawyers are ready and waiting to file lawsuits, which will result in substantially increased costs.

Light rail is a big mistake for our commuter region. It is too late to try and build a comprehensive light rail system; not only is it too expensive, but there is no room to build, too many properties would need to be condemned. We are too spread out for it to be realistic. In a city where everyone lives on top of each other, like New York, mass transit was possible. But this is Arizona, and we’re becoming so spread out they refer to us as a smaller L.A. What an embarrassing legacy for Phoenix Democrat Mayor Phil Gordon – a failed mass transit system.

The O’Connor House—a shadowy group of elites intent on stripping Arizonans of their rights -Is Coughlin behind this?

The Arizona Republic gave former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s “O’Connor House Project” primo coverage on what the Republic billed as a “government reform effort” pushed by a “broad-based group.”

In reality, this shadowy group is committed to stripping Arizonans of their rights and taking us back to the old days where our Legislature was captive of Big Money Special Interests. Let’s look at what the O’Connor House has in mind when it talks about “reform.”

·Stripping Arizonans of our democratic rights to vote for Superintendent of Public Instruction and state Treasurer

·Getting rid of term limits

·Getting rid of Clean Elections

·Doubling the length of state senate terms to four years

·“Reforming” primary elections to make them less partisan

“Allowing candidates to pay a “fee” to get on the ballot rather than collect signatures

All of these “reform” efforts have a common theme: the O’Connor House people don’t like the kind of people who are elected by Arizonans, especially now that we have removed Big Money from the electoral process for state elections. They much prefer the old days when candidates for public office had to supplicate themselves to liberal business interests. They want a return to those days when the Special Interests could simply buy the Legislature and ensure that conservative ideas were squelched.

They want to get rid of term limits and increase the length of state senate terms simply for cost saving reasons. Term limits make the process of buying politicians more expensive because they have to keep buying new elected officials as the old ones get termed out. And the longer terms are, the less often these Special Interests have to pony up. It’s amazing how transparent they are about it—they even want Big Money Special Interests to be able to buy spots on the ballot for candidates.

These ideas are way out of the Arizona mainstream. Term limits are popular with everyone except politicians, lobbyists, the media, and other elites. If anything, the public would want to make our term limit laws stricter. It’s laughable to think that given the current state of things, voters are going to take seriously a proposal to abolish term limits, or to increase the terms of legislators.

It’s also important to question who exactly is behind this group—it’s website does not name the members or funding sources. But clearly this group appears to be espousing some of the same radical ideas espoused by left-leaning uber-lobbyist and friend of Brewer Chuck Coughlin in a recent Republic column.

Coughlin proposed abolishing Clean Elections and term limits. His article also included this gem: “Taxpayer funding [through Clean Elections] removes any market test for candidates to justify themselves in front of centrist-based business.” Who anointed these Big Money businesses this way? When did we ever agree that these Special Interests should occupy some special position that allowed them to veto candidates they deemed unworthy or insufficiently liberal?

The O’Connor House has injected itself and its liberal agenda into our political process, which is of course their right. But we have a right to know who is a part of this group and who is funding it. We call on the O’Connor House to release the following information:

·A clarification of the role that Chuck Coughlin is playing in the group, and full disclosure of any arrangements, formal or informal, with Coughlin or his firm, HighGround, to handle lobbying or ballot efforts for any of these ideas

·A list of members of this group

·A list of all contributors to this group, along with the amounts contributed

In addition to the liberal, anti-democratic principles being espoused by the O’Connor House, we call on them to embrace openness.

Supervisors want deputy county attorneys to swear a loyalty oath to unelected DAVID SMITH?

A m e r i c a n P o s t – G a z e t t e

Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Supervisors want deputy county attorneys to swear a loyalty oath to unelected DAVID SMITH?

submitted by a reader

This is unbelievable. The County Supervisors continue to spiral out of control, trying to take over the offices of other county officials in power grabs, and are overspending their budgets by millions of dollars while forcing 15% cuts to law enforcement and other county agencies. Now, they are telling deputy county attorneys – who work for and report to the County Attorney, not the Supervisors – to take a loyalty oath to their unelected county manager, David Smith. Smith is currently under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office. The loyalty oaths would require the deputy attorneys to consult with Smith instead of their bosses in the County Attorney’s Office regarding legal issues! Even our SOLDIERS serving the country aren’t required to take a loyalty oath to the president. This is bizarre because the Supervisors and their manager Smith are not the bosses of these employees, they are in a separate county agency, the County Attorney’s Office.

County Attorney Andrew Thomas filed an objection in court, saying, “It was an obvious attempt to continue carving up the civil division and to amass power at the expense of the taxpayers,” Thomas said. “And so far, they have gotten away with it.”

In another recent power grab, the Supervisors set up their own “shadow county attorney’s office,” slashing the budget of the County Attorney’s civil division by 1/3 and hiring away some of their employees. They hired a 35-year old green attorney to run their shadow county attorney office and are paying him around $175,000/yr – a lot more than even the County Attorney makes. It is obvious that the Supervisors are trying to dismantle the County Attorney’s Office and put that office underneath them. But that’s not the type of government we have. If the voters want a County Attorney that is appointed by the Supervisors, they can change the system of government. But so far they haven’t, and they would prefer to elect the County Attorney, Sheriff, etc.

The question is, who do you want advising the county on civil issues? The County Supervisors (most of them are Republicans but they always side with the Democrats when it comes to spending and social issues like promoting diversity) and their manager David Smith, who have proven time and time again that they are spending out of control, or the County Attorney, who was elected to the position by the people and has a proven record of fiscal responsibility?

Would he take credit for a good rain?

A m e r i c a n P o s t – G a z e t t e

Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona

Smith and Wilson

Taking potshots at elected officials

He was born in Illinois, Land of Corruption, and blew into town in 1994, direct from New York, ready to take on the Arizona hayseeds. His name is David Smith. You might know him as the County Manager of Maricopa County, but there are those who believe Smith is the second coming of Bernie Madoff. However, no one has ever seen Smith and Madoff together – sort of like Superman and Clark Kent, but with bad guys.

The big question is, what does the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors think of their hero? Smith has used his well-honed, east coast, smoke and mirrors tricks for years to pull the wool over the eyes of his “small town” bosses. When the economy in the county turned around in the mid-nineties, Smith took the credit, but it was the normal uptick in the business cycle that did the heavy lifting, not anything that he did. Is it possible that the BoS is finally beginning to realize that Smith might be a clone of Bernie, the master of all Ponzi schemes, Madoff?

Quick to take advantage of his “hero” status, Smith embarked on a program of writing plans, policies and procedures with little, or no, input from the other elected officials, the ones that do the actual “hands-on” work for the citizens of Maricopa County.

The Supervisors let Smith spend big bucks to get name brand accounting and management consulting firms to put their names on his work so each would have a pedigree, and, of course, each and every plan would result in big money savings. Next, he persuaded the supervisors to adopt the plans along with numerous resolutions to allow him to enforce them.

Smith and his deputy, Sandi Wilson who is also the head of the Office of Management and Budget, do not hesitate to blackmail the elected officers to force them to accept his way of doing things. (OMB is often referred to around the County Complex as “Sandi Wilson and her goons”.) This is the same Sandi Wilson that called members of the legislature “abusive parents”. Smith prefers “Somali Pirates” when referring to members of the legislature.

Smith has used (abused) this power to take over functions of other agencies that are the responsibilities of duly elected officers, causing them to unite and begin to push back. Several lawsuits have been filed against the Board, and the light may have come on. The county is a mess, and the Board seems to be catching on that Smith is the cause.

The cure requires a rather simple decision; does the Board want to accept the dysfunctional situation that has existed for most of the past year as the new normal, or do they want to get the County back on a harmonious track? If it is the latter, then they have to unload Smith and Wilson.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio considers run for Governor?

A m e r i c a n P o s t – G a z e t t e

Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona

Joe Arpaio already has earned a nationwide reputation for being America’s toughest sheriff. In a meeting this past Friday afternoon , the Sheriff discussed the possibility of his running for governor. While it’s too early for an official announcement because of campaign finance laws, Arpaio did suggest the possibility of a run for the highest office in Arizona. The stars are in alignment. He has the funding, support of the conservative base, and the timing is right.

There is no doubt the “toughest sheriff in the world” would bring the same no nonsense, cost effective approach to the governor’s office and budget negotiations. Arpaio would never even consider a tax increase until all the fat was cut from bloated state agencies. He would get every department off their high fat diet, and onto lean, green bologna, just as he has done running his no-fat Sheriff’s department.

The list of wanna be’s for governor increases with the clear scent of Governor Brewer’s political blood in the air. Few genuine contenders exist, and the Sheriff presents a formidable challenge. Stay tuned for updates!

County Supervisors caught spending astronomical funds on separate outside legal counsel Tom Irvine

The Arizona Republic’s Craig Harris, a much more objective reporter than Yvonne Wingett who has developed a way-too-cozy relationship with the Supervisors, has written an article covering how much money the Board of Supervisors has thrown at their separate, outside legal counsel Tom Irvine (pictured above). The word downtown is that the Supervisors use Irvine, a Democrat and former attorney for the Democrat Party, instead of the civil attorneys in the County Attorney’s Office who are by law the Board’s attorneys, because he tells them exactly what they want to hear.  If they want to build a $340 million Taj Mahal court tower in the midst of a recession in order to buy off the judges, forcing other county agencies to cut 15% of their budgets to pay for it, he will give them the legal approval to hide behind.

Of course, he doesn’t come cheap. The Republic reports he charges up to $340/hr.  His law clerks and legal assistants charge the county $175/hr. Unbelievable. The Board has paid Irvine’s law firm nearly $1.2 million in legal fees over the last year, the second highest-paid firm by the county! The only firm that received a higher payout last year was a firm that handles indigent defense.  Even the court tower’s project manager Abe Thomas thinks his fees are a bit excessive.  Assistant County Manager Kenny Harris admits that they didn’t need to hire the highest-paid attorneys to take minutes at meetings for projects of this sort.  We doubt they even need an attorney to manage a court tower project, which should be handled by technical people, not lawyers.  We suspect they’re paying Irvine our tax dollars so he will continue to help them defend their indefensible court tower against the wiser advice of the County Attorney’s counsel who they fired because they didn’t like their legal advice in regards to following the law.

More problems with the Board of Supervisors: County Manager David Smith

Cactus Alliance has an interesting post on how County Manager David Smith is responsible for much of the county’s current financial mess; the other elected officials countywide are unanimously fed up with him.