News

Lawyers Comprise Large Number of Mortgage Fraud Cases

Lawyers make up a surprisingly large number of the defendants in civil and criminal mortgage-related fraud cases, according to the ABA Journal. Within a national database of 25,000 complaints about suspected mortgage fraud, more than 6,000 are against attorneys and law firms. The executive director of the State Bar of California called the involvement of lawyers a “huge” problem.

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HOA Claims Exemption from Honeybee Law

The homeowners association (HOA) of a Spring Hill subdivision told a resident he must remove a honey-producing beehive from his backyard because it violates a bylaw banning non-household pets as well as conducting business or trade from home, News Channel 5 reports. A Tennessee state law protects the rights of property owners to keep honeybees, but a lawyer for the HOA says the organization is not a form of government and is therefore exempt from that law. The case will go before the Tennessee Attorney General for an opinion.

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Former Memphis Attorney Pleads Guilty to Stealing from Clients

David J. Johnson, a Memphis real estate attorney who was disbarred last November, pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $1 million from client trust accounts. His plea agreement on federal wire fraud charges includes making restitution to all identifiable victims who suffered losses in the scheme. The wire fraud statute carries up to 20 years in prison, though federal sentencing guidelines likely will recommend something considerably less. He will be sentenced in November by U.S. Dist. Judge S. Thomas Anderson. The Commercial Appeal has the story

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Website, Hotline Explain Mortgage Settlement

With 49 state attorneys general and the feds reaching an agreement with the nation's largest loan servicers, as much as $25 billion in relief will be available to distressed borrowers and government agencies. Homeowners also have a new online resource to help them determine eligibility for relief under the settlement. General information for those struggling to keep their homes is available here or from a new hotline, which can be reached at (855) 876-7283.

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Bank of America Sues Nashville Bankruptcy Trustee

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America has filed a lawsuit against Nashville's Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee, Henry "Hank" Hildebrand, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The move marks an effort on behalf of the bank to put an end to a common defense tactic used by debtors and foreclosure judges in the aftermath of the mortgage meltdown. Known as "show me the note," the tactic forces a lender to offer up physical documentation that they actually own the mortgage. It's a method that has been successful in Nashville, where Hildebrand has become well-known for his efforts to force mortgage companies to produce the original note when filing a claim in bankruptcy proceedings.

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Chancellor Was Ready to Block Mosque Construction

If a federal judge had not overturned a partial injunction barring the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro from opening, Chancellor Robert Corlew III would have halted completion of the mosque, according to court documents filed last week. According to these documents, Corlew said he was preparing to order officials with the Rutherford County Building Codes Department to immediately stop construction of the center “for the reason that the structure is being built without a valid site plan…” Now that the federal court has asserted jurisdiction, the local court has suspended its involvement. Learn more in the Murfreesboro Post

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Judge Allows Access to Mosque, U.S. Sues for Occupancy Permit

A federal judge in Nashville ruled this afternoon that a Murfreesboro mosque may open in time for Ramadan, though he said the building must go through the normal inspection process. Attorneys for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro argued in court today that they were being held to a higher standard than other religious groups in seeking a construction permit for their building. Also today, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Rutherford County, claiming violations of a federal law that prohibits religious discrimination in land use and zoning decisions. The suit asks the court to force the county to issue a certificate of occupancy for the mosque. The county has refused to issue the certificate following a chancery court ruling that proper notice was not given for the mosque’s building permit. The Tennessean has the latest

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Planners Consider New Vote on Mosque

Planning commission members are exploring a new vote on construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro while they appeal a court ruling that stopped occupancy of the nearly finished mosque. A commissioner told the Daily News Journal that legal counsel indicated the body could revisit the matter any time as long as public notice is adequate. A judge in May overturned the commission's approval of the mosque because public notice wasn't sufficient. Meanwhile, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro intends to ask for a certificate of occupancy for the new mosque soon despite a court order banning the county from issuing the document. The paper has more on that issue

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Building the Mosque: Religious Land Use vs. Open Meetings?

Even cities with strict design standards that can reject a McDonald’s from building its golden arches can’t reject the architectural designs that are part of a place of worship, Nashville attorney George Dean said in explaining legal rights of religious architecture. Dean provided expert testimony for the Rutherford County government in defense of a lawsuit for approving the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s mosque plans in 2010. He talks about weighing religious land use rights against the open meeting meetings law, which is at the heart of the legal dispute over if the facility can open.  The Daily News Journal has the story

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Free Training on Mortgage Settlements July 16

Learn about the mortgage settlement process in Tennessee at a free, one-hour webcast July 16, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee and the Tennessee Attorney General's Office. The seminar, produced by Matt Pulle and Jeffrey L. Hill, will provide an overview of the issues surrounding the settlement, information on the benefits of the settlement — including benefits to military personnel — what attorneys need to know about the settlement, and information about the resources available through the Attorney General’s office. Learn more or register for "Pro Bono: Mortgage Relief for Pro Bono Clients."

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Judge: Mosque Cannot Open During Appeal

Chancellor Robert Corlew refused Monday to suspend an order that blocks the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro from getting a certificate of occupancy, The Daily Herald reports. Corlew turned down county attorneys who wanted him to put his injunction on hold and allow the mosque to be used while they appeal the order to a higher court. The fix, Corlew says, would be to have another planning commission meeting to approve the project. Corlew issued the injunction in mid-June after ruling that county officials did not provide sufficient public notice for a May 2010 meeting where the mosque’s construction plans were approved. The county has argued that it treated that meeting like any other and has appealed Corlew’s ruling to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. WPLN has more

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Resolution Would Honor Convicted Attorney

A proposed resolution being considered by the Sevier County Bar Association would honor Sevierville attorney Jerry Kerley, who now faces prison for his role in a $6 million mortgage fraud scheme. On the same day Kerley was suspended from the practice of law, an associate of his presented Sevier County Bar Association members a resolution to declare Kerley "an upstanding member of the bar." The resolution was deferred at the bar's June meeting to be taken up at its July meeting, according to the association's secretary-treasurer Alex Johnson. The News Sentinel has the story

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Firm Sued in Decades-Old Property Sale

Nashville attorney Cecil Sims Irvin has sued the Bass Berry & Sims law firm as well as attorney Wilson “Woody” Sims for malpractice, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty -- all tied to a 1985 Williamson County land sale. Irvin alleges the transaction occurred without proper family permission and without professional land evaluation. Bass, Berry is represented by Darrell Townsend, a partner at Howell & Fisher. The Nashville Post has more

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High Court: Families Cannot Sue Quicken Loans Over Fee

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that three families cannot sue a mortgage company for allegedly charging them a loan discount fee without giving them a lower interest rate. The high court's decision tosses out lawsuits filed in 2008 against Quicken Loans Inc. in Louisiana. The Times-News has this AP story

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Foreclosure Funds Being Diverted to General Budget Use

As part of the $25 billion settlement negotiated between states and five major banks over abuses in their mortgage and foreclosure processes, the states received $2.5 billion to help homeowners and mitigate the effects of the foreclosure surge. A new report from a housing group, however, found that only 27 states have devoted all their funds to housing programs, while 15 states say they will use all or most of the money for other purposes. Read more in The New York Times

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TODD MARSH, ET AL. v. LARRY A. STORIE, ET AL.

Todd Marsh and Kari Marsh (“Plaintiffs”) sued Larry A. Storie (“Storie”) and First Tennessee Bank National Association (“First TN Bank”) with regard to, among other things, ownership of real property which had been the subject of both a tax sale and a foreclosure sale. After a hearing, the Trial Court entered an order on January 4, 2011 granting partial summary judgment dismissing First TN Bank from the case, and certifying the judgment as final as to First TN Bank pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02. Plaintiffs appeal the dismissal of their claims against First TN Bank. We affirm.

Attorney 1: 

J. Myers Morton, and George W. Morton, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Todd
Marsh and Kari Marsh.

Attorney 2: 

Gordon D. Foster, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, First Tennessee Bank National
Association.

Judge: 
SWINEY