Civil Justice Inc.
Mortgage Assistance Relief Services - Proposed Rulemaking, Rule
Federal Trade Commission Office of the Secretary Room H-135 (Annex W) 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20580 Re: Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rulemaking, Rule No. R911003) APPLICATION OF MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE RELIEF SERVICES TO LICENSED ATTORNEYS As the lead public interest legal services agency in Maryland on predatory real estate matters, I am writing to you concerning the above proposed rule. Specifically I would like to address the application of Mortgage Assistance Relief Services to Licensed Attorneys. I support the attempt to regulate in this area but do not support the draft execution. We have seen, unfortunately, attorneys who have facilitated hundreds of these scams and if they had acted as attorneys are expected to act, the scam would not have occurred. That said the attorneys involved are almost always NOT Maryland licensed attorneys but are from Florida or California. We have encouraged the development of a foreclosure defense bar in Maryland that has grown from no more than ten attorneys in 2008 to over 100 now. These attorneys are providing bona fide services which are making a difference saily some on a pro bono basis and some on a low bono basis. I am concerned that the FTC's proposal to regulate attorneys may actually harm homeowners and consumers are presently drafted. But I do not think the FTC should simply just ignore regulating attorney services in this area all together since many states, like Maryland, have been very slow to react to attorney abuse. As a middle ground I would suggest that the final rule expressly exempt from coverage legal services by an attorney within the scope of his/her state license(s). In this way Florida attorneys scamming Maryland residents will be covered by the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services definition since they are not authorized to be a Maryland attorney (unless actually barred in Maryland). Under Maryland Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act, I have litigated this issue specifically as to other professionals and attorneys and the Court has agreed that the professional is only exempt when acting with the scope of his license. This is so because to say otherwise mean the license is a "license to steal." This common sense reasoning should be acceptable to the state and national bar groups as certainly they will not support lawyers stealing from homeowners since the privilege to have a license to practice law does no authorize theft. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Phillip Robinson