Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Disobeying Evictions?

The New York Times reports that a broad civil disobedience campaign is growing among homeowners, community leaders, and some politicians throughout the Upper Northeast to support families in their attempts to refuse court orders to vacate their homes following sheriffs' sales.

Organizers have been creating vast networks via text messages, web sites, and phone trees to alert neighboring homeowners, and the media, when an eviction has been scheduled and when deputies are on the way. Volunteers will summon friends and relatives to converge at the site to occupy the house in an attempt to block the eviction. People have already started to attach themselves to their porches to attract attention. A central theme in these protests seems to be a willingness to be arrested. Some police departments are arresting people and some are not.

The Times links to the websites of several of these organizations. They appear organized and very well funded. Over the past several weekends, these campaigns have drawn nearly 500 participants to separate protests in New York and four other cities. Certain people speculate that the number of volunteers will reach into the tens of thousands within weeks. Sit-ins are scheduled in upcoming weeks for New York, Los Angeles, and more than twenty other cities across the country hardest hit by foreclosures.

This movement can't be good for the economy at large. If banks cannot repossess their collateral, how are they supposed to survive. We can't continue to bail out the banks forever. Eventually they will have to start making their own money in order for the economy to rebound.

County sheriffs need to get creative in thier attempts to combat this civil disobedience movement. They can't arrest everybody, but they can't arrest nobody either, like the Sheriff of Cook County did (or did not do) in a recent publicity stunt. It is not up to local sheriffs to decide which court orders to obey and which ones to disobey.

Maybe the banks should dispatch hundreds of volunteers out to these people's doors on the first of every month to demand mortgage payments.


Matt Duco said...

I would take issue with you calling what Tom Dart did a publicity stunt. Through his actions he brought about a real solution to a real problem. The problem was that renters of property were not a party to foreclosure proceedings, thus no requirement to give notice of the foreclosure proceedings to them. This meant that on a day's notice a renter of an apartment could be evicted, which can obviously cause a great deal of problems. Such as not having anywhere to live or store your belongings. And this wasn't a problem effecting just low-income persons, or people not paying their rent. In fact, my girlfriend, also a lawyer, paid a security deposit and rent on a condo only to learn about 3 months after living there that it is going to be foreclosed on. The only reason she knew about it being foreclosed? Because Dart reached an agreement with justices of the Illinois courts for orders to be issued to give notice to renters of pending foreclosure proceedings. I know your comment there was just a side note, but thought to address it. Otherwise I agree with what you were saying.

Michael W. Huseman said...

Good point. I acknowledge that he may have eventually improved on the system. But he did it through publicity. I saw news conferences in the streets that were somehow attended by national media members. Anyway, maybe I was tough on him. This is a tough problem to deal with.

Thanks for the input.

Michael D. Wong said...

That is interesting - but I think the even more surprising take is that of the organization Take Back The Land that is based in Miami Florida. As many know foreclosures are occurring at a rapid pace throughout the United States, but perhaps not as much as in Miami. Often times entire condos buildings are empty except for one or two units.

One organization has taken it upon themselves to question, what is the point of allowing perfectly good apartments, condos and houses to be left empty to be looted, vandalized and simply not used when there is such a high demand.

The organization has taken to placing homeless people with people-less homes and to this point the individuals or corporations that own those homes have not objected. In part it is because the people provide a security that the home is not being vandalized or gutted for valuables items such as air conditioners, copper wiring etc…

More interesting is that if corporations and individuals are willing to let squatters live in their places why didn’t they reconsider allowing the individual they evicted or foreclosed on to re-negotiate their loan to an amount they could pay per month?


Brett Geiger said...

I don't think you were hard enough on him. Public officials should not be using civil disobedience as a way to change public policy. If the sheriff doesn't obey court orders when he feels they are unjust, how can we expect anyone else to? He shouldn't be fixing an imperfect system by acting like a vigilante. Just my two cents.