Summary: April Charney, former Senior Staff Attorney at the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid office in Florida, discusses how she first became involved in foreclosure defense as a lawyer at Gulf Coast Legal Services, where she worked with clients impacted by redlining and predatory lending practices. Following this, she went on to work together with Lynn Drysdale to establish the Consumer Law Work Group for Florida Legal Services. With Lynn’s recommendation, Charney then joined Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) to further focus on fighting fraudulent foreclosure practices. The problems in the foreclosure market that Charney describes include force-placed insurance policies, which contribute to debt cycles for borrowers, and fraud by banks that do not have legitimate claims to mortgage notes. She laments that, despite years of advocacy, while loan underwriting has become stricter, the abovementioned underlying problems remain today, or have worsened. She provides three main reasons for the stalling of progress: the difficulty of resolving systemic issues with individual foreclosure cases, the limitations of software-based accounting practices in providing accurate documentation on mortgage note ownership, and the politicization of the issue in Congress. Charney shares her main strategy for foreclosure defense, pointing out illegitimate claims from lenders. She elaborates on how a successful class action lawsuit she brought against Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), a company that sued as plaintiff in many foreclosure cases at the time, is one of the actions she has taken to combat these illegal actions by banks in foreclosure courts. Furthermore, she reflects on efforts she has taken to educate the future generation of attorneys on foreclosure defense legal strategies. Through the lens of her established career in foreclosure defense, Charney offers continued advocacy in foreclosure reform as America ventures through the COVID pandemic and into the future.
Biography: April Charney is a former Senior Staff Attorney with the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA), Inc. Her work on behalf of consumers in foreclosure cases and her efforts to train other attorneys in foreclosure defense has been reported by numerous media outlets and publications, including Rolling Stone, NBC News, and the Tampa Bay Times. Before joining JALA as a consumer lawyer in 2004, Ms. Charney worked as a legal services attorney in Sarasota, Florida and in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Ms. Charney attended kindergarten through law school in South Florida, earning her B.A. in Political Science from Florida International University in 1977 and her J.D. from the University of Miami in 1980 at age 22. She is licensed to practice law in Florida since 1980 and in Arkansas since 1982.