Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Much Mortgage and Foreclosure Crisis Do You Teach?

I teach a lot of M&F crisis -- or at least I think I do.  Property is (for the time being, at least) a two-semester, 6-credit odyssey at William Mitchell, so I have time I can devote to the crisis, and I seem to be spending more and more time on it.  This semester, we'll devote close to 3 weeks to mortgages, foreclosures and evictions, as the conclusion of our section on real estate transactions. 

It seems to me that the M&F crisis is the property law issue of the day, and we'd be remiss in not adding it to the property law curriculum.  The students obviously know it's out there and are very curious.  It's relevant, timely, compelling and a great teaching tool.

The problem is that for those of us whose background isn't in the mortgage and housing-finance industry, there's a lot to learn, and it can be difficult to find good class materials.  I'm learning, and slowing piecing together some good usable materials (a case here, a primer there, a newspaper article there, etc.), and would be happy to share if anyone is interested.

I teach it in several pieces:

(1) what a mortgage is; the history of the secondary and tertiary mortgage markets in the U.S.; the mortgage-backed securities crisis;

(3) the foreclosure process generally;

(4) the current foreclosure crisis, and flaws in foreclosure proceedings; and

(5) eviction.

I've also been linking up with Mitchell's Community Development Clinic (run by Professor Diane Dube, resident adjunct extraordinaire), bringing people from the clinic into the classroom, and sending interested students into the clinic, and through the clinic into local public interest groups working on the front lines of the crisis. It's an opportunity for them to do good work, in both senses.  And in addition to the obvious benefit of some practical experience for the students, it's my hope that some can find work in foreclosure law after graduating -- sadly, one of the very few growth areas for the legal profession at the moment. 

I'd love to hear your ideas on how, and how much, to teach about the crisis.

Mark A. Edwards

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I would love to see your materials. I did 2 classes last year but clearly need to expand. I used a bankruptcy case to supplement the casebook last time, but now I'm going to use Ibanez and I'm still thinking about what else to add (considering one of Peterson's pieces on MERS), so hearing what you did would be very helpful to me. I'm likely to ask them to listen to Return to the Giant Pool of Money, from This American Life, and write a reaction paper about the property aspects based on the other things they've learned in the course.

Posted by: Rebecca Tushnet | Jan 28, 2011 2:19:01 PM

I've tried working in the crisis where I can, including discussing the case of Save Florida Homes, Inc. and Mark Guerette while discussing adverse possession. In Real Estate Transactions last semester we spent several weeks discussing these issues.

I suggest two additional sources for materials: (1) the Congressional Oversight Panel has a number of reports on various aspects of the crisis -- -- I used the executive summaries in Real Estate Transactions and they were great; and (2) the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission released its report this week and you can download it for free -- I haven't gone through the FCIC report yet, but I suspect that the executive summary would work for students.

Posted by: Tanya Marsh | Jan 29, 2011 1:58:50 PM

Hi Rebecca and Tanya -- I'll email you the stuff I have!

Posted by: Mark A. Edwards | Feb 1, 2011 8:01:37 PM

I'd also love to see the mortgage materials, Mark, and appreciate those suggestions, Rebecca and Tanya.

FYI, I had started compiling the following materials:

1. (on loan modifications)
2. The Saturday Night Live show on the MBA foreclosing on its own property
3. Excerpts from "Racial Segregation and the American Foreclosure Crisis," Jacob S. Rugha and Douglas S. Massey
4. Definitely one of the Massachusetts cases


Posted by: Annie Decker | Feb 3, 2011 12:33:26 PM

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