April 21, 2014

Prima Facie Case and Burden of Proof

In Court, a prima facie case is, in plain English, the completion of a party’s burden of proof. That means if you are seeking AFFIRMATIVE relief from the Court, then you have the burden of proving your case. In order to prove your case you must present evidence. Your evidence must conform to the legal requirements or elements of your lawsuit. So for example if you want to prove a case for damages, you must prove a duty, breach of duty and damages related to the breach of that duty. If you want to prove a case for breach of contract, then you must prove up the contract, the breach of the contract and the damages from that breach. If you are seeking to have the court make the other party do something, like pay you damages, then you are seeking affirmative relief.

In judicial states, there is no issue of who has the burden of establishing a prima facie case. In non-judicial states the issue is muddled because the borrower is required to file a lawsuit even  though it is the “lender” or “creditor” who is seeking affirmative relief. For reasons expressed below, it is my opinion that the prima facie burden in ALL states lies with the the party presuming to be the “lender” or “creditor.” So in all situations in all courts, federal or state, bankruptcy or civil, the burden is on the party seeking to enforce the note or foreclose on the property because when all is said and done, the party actually seeking affirmative relief is the party seeking to recover money or property or both.

Legally, tactically and strategically, it is a mistake and perhaps malpractice to ignore this point because it is at the threshold of the courtroom that the case might be won or lost. If you ignore the point or lose the argument, you are stuck with going beyond the simple position of the homeowner — denial of the claim of the opposing party. Even the petition for temporary restraining order should be translated as the homeowner’s denial of the claim of of the “creditor” and a demand that the creditor prove up its claim.

In other words, once a homeowner denies the claim, the case automatically becomes judicial simply because the parties are in court. At that point the court must adjust the orientation of the parties such that the party claiming affirmative relief becomes the plaintiff and the homeowner becomes the defendant notwithstanding the initial pleading that brought them into court.

The essential legal question is first, what is the prima facie case, and who has the burden of proof? The party seeking affirmative relief is the party seeking to enforce the note and deed of trust (mortgage). That would be the beneficiary under the deed of trust and the party to whom the note is payable. The note is payable legally and equitably to the investors if the securitization of the note was successful. The beneficiary is also the investors, making the same presumption. The party seeking negative relief (i.e., seeking to avoid the enforcement) is the homeowner who may or may not be considered a “borrower” or “debtor” depending upon the outcome of a presentation of facts that include an accounting of ALL receipts and disbursements related to or allocable to the specific loan in question.

It is obvious that in plain language, the party initiating a non-judicial sale is seeking affirmative relief and that in cases where there is an adversary judicial proceeding, the homeowner wishes to deny the claim of the creditor. In non-judicial states where the sale is essentially a private sale NOT based upon judicial proceedings, the mistake made by judges and lawyers alike is that they become confused by the fact that homeowner brought the suit to stop the sale.

That homeowner lawsuit is actually in substance no more than a denial of the claim by the alleged beneficiary under the deed of trust. In practice, the error is compounded by making the homeowner prove a “case” based upon the homeowner’s denial. In effect, this practice presumes the existence of a prima facie case by the alleged creditor or beneficiary, which is a denial of due process. Due process means that first you make a claim, second you prove it and ONLY AFTER the claim and the proof does the opposing party have ANY obligation to offer ANY proof.

Further compounding this error in process, many such states have rules that prevent the homeowner from contesting an eviction (unlawful detainer, writ of possession) even though that is the FIRST TIME the case has been in court. In effect, the Court is making the presumption that legal process has been completed, and giving the Private Sale the status of a judicial order — and then inappropriately and without realizing it, applying the doctrine of res judicata or collateral estoppel in a case where there was no other proceeding, order, adversary hearing or any hearing on law or fact.

Therefore, in my opinion, the party who must establish a prima facie case is the party assuming the position of “creditor” or substitute lender, notwithstanding the apparent orientation of parties in the pleadings. Or, the prima facie case of the homeowner would consist of a denial that the opposing party is a creditor or that any money is due or that a default has occurred. Thus the burden would shift to the party actually seeking affirmative relief anyway. The prima facie case for the party seeking affirmative relief would require the following elements:

  • Establishment of the originating transaction
  • Establishment of chain of title as to homeowner
  • Establishment of chain of title as to obligation
  • Establishment of chain of title as to note
  • Establishment of chain of title as to deed of trust or mortgage
  • Establishment of chain of securitization documents
  • Establishment of acceptance of subject loan into each successive loan pool
  • Establishment of true party in interest and standing
  • Establishment of 1st party payments
  • Chain of 1st party payments step by step to the true party in interest
  • Chain of 3rd party payments step by step to the true party in interest
  • Establishment of allocation of 3rd party payments and receipts to subject loan
  • Accounting for all receipts and disbursements from all sources
  • Establishment of default date
  • Establishment of current status of the loan
  • Establishment of balance due
  • Establishment of encumbrance and status
  • Allocation of encumbrance to the property (if encumbrance covers future payments other than principal and interest — like taxes and insurance payable to 3rd parties, then the court must allocate a monetary value to the encumbrance for the benefit of the beneficiary)

The above elements would only be satisfied by the Court’s acceptance of testimony and documents with adequate foundation to be admitted into evidence. It would require actual persons with actual knowledge based upon personal observation, participation or experience with whatever aspect of the transaction is within the scope of their direct examination proffered by the party seeking affirmative relief. By virtue of the confusing panoply of documents, events and facts applicable to a securitized loan, it is my opinion that no legal presumptions would apply with respect to the obligation, note, encumbrance or default.

Hence, non-payment by the payor shown on the note would not give rise to the presumption of a default because of the explicit reference to third party payments, insurance and credit enhancements in the securitization documents. The party seeking affirmative relief would be required to proffer the testimony of a competent witness (probably someone from the investment banker that created the securitization chain and/or someone from the trading desk of the investment bank) that would provide a record and status of third party payments, receipts and disbursements allocable to the loan pool in which the subject loan was securitized. Failure to do so would lead to the conclusion of a failure of proof, or, in the court’s discretion, requiring the homeowner to cross examine each witness offered by the party seeking affirmative relief with the following question: “So you don’t know whether any third party made payments that would offset losses or principal in the loan pool, is that right?”

Filed under: CDO, CORRUPTION, Eviction, expert witness, foreclosure, Forensic Analysis Workshop, GTC | Honor, Investor, Mortgage, Motion Practice and Discovery, securities fraud, Securitization Survey, Servicer, STATUTES, trustee, workshop Tagged: adversary judicial proceeding, AFFIRMATIVE RELIEF, BREACH, BURDEN OF PROOF, damage, duty, evidence, judicial, negative relief, non-judicial, orientation of parties, prima facie case

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