University of Louisville Law Faculty Blog

Mortgage Crisis's Effect on Registry of Deeds


Earlier in the week, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial criticizing the Massachusetts Attorney General's lawsuit against banks that did not follow the law on foreclosure procedures. The essence of the editorial is that "processing errors don't necessarily rise to the level of deception and fraud." Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts AG, responded today with a letter to the editor in the WSJ. Her main argument: "The large banks fraudulently signed foreclosure documents, made deceptive and false promises to provide loan modifications and unlawfully foreclosed on homeowners without even holding the mortgages."

I am not posting to argue the merits of the editorial or the AG's case. It was the next letter that I found interesting, as a propery professor. As part of first year property, I always cover the real estate filing system in some detail. The idea is that by creating a public system for recording instruments relating to title to property, ownership to such property is made transparent and the process for transfering property is made more efficient. However, for the system to work effectively, it is necessary for the parties that utilize the system to file timely and accurate documents. Which leads me to the letter written by John L. O'Brien, Southern Essex District Register of Deeds:

Sloppy paperwork? No, fraudulent paperwork, and let's not blame Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley for prolonging the pain for homeowners. Let's blame the real culprits who have filed to date 31,897 fraudulent documents in my Registry of Deeds alone. I challenge anyone who comes to see these stacks of documents to honestly say that this crime scene is merely "sloppy" paperwork. The real pain for homeowners is the havoc that these lenders have wreaked on the chains of title and property rights.

The solution is not to allow the lenders that created a "cyber" registry for their own self-profit to be slapped on the wrist for using fraudulent documents and for failing to record assignments of mortgages. I have been fighting for the "little guy" and I am very happy that the Massachusetts's AG has chosen to do the same.

John L. O'Brien, Letter to the Editor, Wall Street Journal, 7-8 Jan. 2102: A14. Print.

As my students (hopefully) will recall, anything filed in the registry that causes confusion as to who actually has rights to the property is a "cloud on title," making title unmarketable. Since most buyers will only accept marketable title, such clouds make selling property difficult. If the banks' failure to accurately record mortgage assignments and to follow foreclosure procedures causes homeowners to have diffculty in selling their homes, this is in fact a terrible result which will dramatically interfere with the operation of the real estate market that has up until now been efficient and effective. While the banks' actions can be dismissed as merely sloppy paperwork, shouldn't such banks be held to account when that same sloppy paperwork dramatically depreciates the single most valuable asset owned by most people?

Warns Institute - Call for Manuscripts


Twenty-Ninth Annual

Carl A. Warns Jr. Labor & Employment
Law Institute

Call for Proposals and Manuscripts

The Twenty-Ninth Annual Carl A. Warns Jr. Labor &
Employment Law Institute invites you to submit a proposal to speak on a labor
law or employment law topic.  We are accepting proposals on important or cutting-edge developments on issues that are relevant to practitioners. Some suggested topics are: wage and hour issues involving independent contractors and the Internal Revenue Service, the Dukes decision and class actions in employment law, and issues involved in advising those engaged in
non-traditional service relationships, rather than traditional employment
relationships, about their contracts.   

The Institute will take place on June 21 & 22, 2012, at
the Downtown Marriott in Louisville, Kentucky. 
Attendees will be a nice blend of practitioners, public servants, and
professors.  If you are unfamiliar with Louisville, it is a great place to spend a few days.  More
information is available at

Proposals must be submitted by midnight Friday, December 30.  Based on your proposal, you may receive an invitation to speak at the Institute. Speakers at the Institute will also have the opportunity to submit a manuscript that will be published in the University of Louisville Law Review
Warns Institute Colloquium Issue, subject to space availability, a review of
quality, and entrance into and compliance with the University of Louisville Law
Review Author Agreement.  Manuscripts will be due March 1, 2011.  Selection of
manuscripts for publication will occur in April.  All speakers must ultimately have some type of written material, such as an outline, article, or work in progress to
include with the conference materials. 

Please submit your proposals to Ariana Levinson at and copy Elisabeth Fitzpatrick at  There is no page limit or standard format for proposals although a short succinct proposal is preferred.  You are welcome to send draft manuscripts in addition to your proposal, if you desire.


Win a Free Patent Bar Review Course


Gene Quinn, an LL.M. classmate of mine from Franklin Pierce Law Center (now known as UNH Law and the Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property), runs the web site As part of his efforts to be the top-rated IP website in the ABA Journal Blawg 100, he is running a promotion to encourage people to vote, where he is giving away 1 free PLI Patent Bar Review Course. If you are thinking of taking the patent bar, check it out here:

2011 Mental Health Speeches


2011 has been a busy year for me:  I have delivered 19 mental health speeches during the year.  Those include 9 to classes of nursing students spread among 4 different schools, 6 to occupational therapy students at 3 different schools, and 2 to social work students at U. of L.'s Kent School of Social Work.  I find talks to students in the medical field particularly rewarding as they let me make important points to the healthcare workers of tomorrow.



What the Awards Tell Us about Labor Arbitration of Employment Discrimination Claims

I had the pleasure of presenting my work in progress regarding "What the Awards Tell Us about Labor Arbitration of Employment Discrimination Claims" at the Sixth Annual Labor and Employment Law Colloquium at Southwestern Law School on Friday, September 16, and then, again yesterday at a University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law facutly workshop.  I received helpful comments and will post again when the manuscript is ready for public circulation.  For now, I am attaching my slides.

Recent Developments


I have been named to the Board of Advisors of the newly created Mental Health Law & Policy Journal.

To date in 2011 I have spoken about "Severe Mental Illness, Stigma, and the Value of Treatment" to nine groups.  They include nursing, social work, psychology, and occupational therapy students.

Chilling Trademark Dispute

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today about a trademark dispute in Louisiana. Apparently a group of snowball vendors have taken issue with another vendor's attempt to claim trademark rights in certain snowball flavors (a snowball is a shave ice treat). A perfect dispute on a hot summer day!

U of L land use planning & law students' urban tree plan basis for Louisville's Urban Forest Action Plan


Law & urban planning students in my Spring 2011 Land Use & Planning Law course prepared an Urban Tree Canopy Plan as a service learning project for the Partnership for a Green City, the Louisville Metro Parks Department, and Community of Trees, an association of government agencies, organizations, and individuals.  This plan and its recommendations will be a base from which Community of Trees develops an "Action Plan for Louisville's Urban Forest."  A meeting to consider my students' recommendations and to select recommendations for near-future action will be held Wednesday, June 22, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. at 415 W. Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Louisville, KY.  The students' Urban Tree Canopy plan can be downloaded at: 

This was one of 3 service learning projects prepared in the Spring 2011 offering of the innovative and interdisciplinary Land Use & Planning Law course at the University of Louisville.

Kissinger on China

There is an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal about his secret trip to China in 1971, and the challenges of US-China relations today.