Is The Citimortgage Opinion Flawed For Not Requiring Proof Of Assignment Documents?
November 03, 2012
This is my final post about the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion in Citimortgage v. Barabas, 2012 Ind. LEXIS 802 (Ind. 2012). Here are my other three: 10-26, 10-19, 10-12. The Court’s decision to grant Citimortgage’s motion to intervene was understandable in that it preserved the senior lien. Based upon the Court’s ruling, a logical outcome would have been to set aside the trial court’s judgment and resulting sheriff’s sale. But that’s not what happened.
Result. The Court didn’t simply remand the case to the trial court - to the prejudgment stage - for further proceedings with Citimortgage as a party. The Court dispensed with a “do over” and instructed the trial court to amend its judgment “to provide that ReCasa took the [real estate] subject to Citimortgage’s lien.” What I believe this means is that the litigation (for now) is over but that Sanders, the third-party purchaser, owns the real estate subject to the Citimortgage lien (of an undetermined amount). Junior mortgagee ReCasa didn’t lose – Sanders did
Absence of proof. A more curious aspect of the Court’s analysis was the fact that there was no hard evidence of Citimortgage’s lien. From what I can tell in reviewing all of the Citimortgage opinions, there was no proof of the date upon which Citimortgage acquired the lien or, in other words, when Citimortgage became Irwin’s assignee. The Court appears to have assumed, based perhaps on the 2009 mortgage assignment, that Citimortgage was the mortgagee at the time ReCasa filed the suit in 2008.
Against the grain. Setting aside the trial court’s judgment is one thing, but it’s an entirely different matter to effectively grant Citimortgage its own judgment. This outcome seems to cut against law that has developed in this country over the last several years mandating that lenders/mortgagees actually prove that they hold the mortgage at the time of the filing of a foreclosure claim. As I noted back in November of 2007, a famous opinion from a federal court in Ohio emphatically held that an institution filing a foreclosure suit must have proof that it owned the note and held the mortgage on the date of the filing of the foreclosure complaint. This means that the real party in interest must produce, and typically must include as exhibits in its pleadings, chain of assignment documents linking the original lender/mortgagee to the holder of the debt at that time. Without such documentation, the party lacks standing to file a lawsuit or, in the case of a junior lien holder, to assert a claim in a lawsuit, which is what Citimortgage did. In the Ohio case, District Judge Boyko lectured: “unlike Ohio State law and procedure, as the Plaintiffs perceive it, the federal judicial system need not, and will not, be forgiving in this regard.” In footnote 3, he flatly rejected plaintiff’s “judge, you just don’t understand how things work” argument.
Seemingly, the Indiana Supreme Court bought the “judge, you just don’t understand how things work” argument in Citimortgage. Or, to be fair, perhaps the Court knows how things work. Either way, a compelling contrast exists between Judge Boyko’s uncompromising order dismissing plaintiffs’ cases and the Indiana Supreme Court’s pragmatic decision recognizing Citimortgage’s purported lien.