State courts committee to consider new foreclosure rules for lawyers

A committee that sets rules for Maryland's courts is scheduled to meet Friday to debate whether lawyers who filed legal documents in foreclosure cases without actually having signed the papers themselves should be required to defend their work in court or risk having the cases dismissed.

At issue are hundreds of foreclosure cases in which "corrective affidavits" were filed by two attorneys who apparently allowed others to sign their names to court documents.

Improperly signed affidavits could call into question the validity of the foreclosure process as well as the integrity of deeds on homes taken back by lenders or sold at auction.

Judge Alan M. Wilner, who chairs the Maryland Court of Appeals Special Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, wrote Thursday in a memo to committee members that "preliminary audits have shown that hundreds of such bogus affidavits have been filed in Maryland circuit courts. The judges are alarmed at this development."

Wilner and other judges crafted a proposed rule that would allow a court to order an attorney who had filed a corrective affidavit to appear before the court to attest to the facts in the case under penalty of perjury. Borrowers and homeowners would have an opportunity to question the attorney.

Several borrowers have teamed up to file a class-action lawsuit against one of the lawyers, Jacob Geesing, and his Bethesda-based firm. Geesing and the second attorney, Hunt Valley-based Thomas P. Dore, filed corrective affidavits to remedy paperwork that was apparently signed by others in the lawyers' stead.

Montgomery County Circuit Court's administrative judge, John W. Debelius III, who helped draft the proposed rule, said in an interview Thursday that about 400 of the court's 6,000 pending foreclosure cases involved corrective affidavits filed by the two attorneys.

Debelius said he did not know yet whether other lawyers had also filed similar affidavits, but he added, "You're talking about, potentially, a problem on a very large scale."

The number of foreclosures in Montgomery County has jumped in recent years — so much so that the court's civil division is overwhelmed with cases, Debelius said, adding, "It's a monster that's taken over the courthouses."

Prince George's County has undertaken a review of 14,500 pending foreclosure cases to see whether corrective affidavits have been filed in them, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

After the rules committee meets and discusses the proposed rule, the measure goes to the Court of Appeals for consideration.

The court could accept the proposed rule or make changes before accepting it, or it could deny the rule.

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