Grant allows expansion of foreclosure project

December 12, 2012

More distressed homeowners will have help navigating the foreclosure mediation process through a program at Seattle University School of Law funded by a grant through the Legal Foundation of Washington.

The Foreclosure Mediation and Outreach Project (FMOP) received a $100,000 grant from the Legal Foundation of Washington's Home Justice Project, funded by the Washington State Attorney General's Office as part of the National Mortgage Settlement. The grant allows continuation of the important work started in in January 2012 to train law students to assist legal aid and/or pro bono attorneys representing homeowners in foreclosure mediations under the Foreclosure Fairness Act.  

A collaboration between the law school's Access to Justice Institute and the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic, FMOP was created in partnership with Northwest Justice Project, Columbia Legal Services, and Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association's Volunteer Legal Services. FMOP also trains law students to partner with community organizations and local agencies to design and implement community outreach plans to increase awareness about foreclosure mediation among vulnerable homeowners. 

With the new funding, law students will continue to reach out to homeowners in Pierce County, which has some of the state's highest foreclosure rates combined with disproportionately low numbers of foreclosure mediation requests and housing resources, as well as King County and Snohomish County. 

The law school will build on its partnerships with Northwest Justice Project and Columbia Legal Services by having their statewide foreclosure defense experts, Lili Sotelo and Bruce Neas, serve as adjunct faculty for the spring Mortgage Mediation Practicum. The practicum is the course component of FMOP, in which students are taught the substantive legal, procedural and ethical aspects of client representation in housing, mortgage lending, foreclosures, and mediation. Moreover, students learn invaluable aspects of community lawyering, social and economic justice.

"Collaborating with legal services organizations and housing counseling agencies allows us to leverage our resources and ensure we are not duplicating efforts," said Diana Singleton, director of the Access to Justice Institute.

Professor Bryan Adamson, who developed the project with ATJI, has taught the Mortgage Mediation Practicum and founded the law school's Predatory Lending Clinic, is thrilled with award.

"The grant increases our capacity to provide legal assistance to more homeowners in the continued housing crisis and provides valuable learning and professional development opportunities for law students in an area of both great need and opportunity," Adamson said.

Angeline Thomas '11 will continue as the attorney coordinator for the project. In just its first year, through outreach and collaboration with legal service organizations, housing counseling agencies, mediation centers, and community organizations, she and students hosted workshops and legal clinics for 53 distressed homeowners in Tacoma, Lakewood, Burien and South Seattle. In addition, to date, FMOP has trained 26 law student volunteers on how to represent homeowners in the mediation process; partnered those law students with 11 pro bono attorneys; co-sponsored trainings for over 40 housing advocates; and helped recruit 20 pro bono attorney volunteers.

Washington's new Foreclosure Fairness Act provides homeowners facing foreclosure the opportunity to be referred by a housing counselor or attorney to mediation with their lender to review available options to keep their home. A mediator helps the homeowner and the lender reach a fair, voluntary and negotiated agreement.

Several legal services agencies and Gonzaga University School of Law also received funds to work on foreclosure mediation.

Read more about FMOP.