Summary: Karen Brown is the Director and Managing Attorney of the Home Defense Program of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and has been with the organization since the early 1990s. In this oral history, Brown describes her career in anti-predatory lending work. She explains how the legal theories and litigation strategies used in predatory lending cases evolved over time, recounting how lawyers used the Federal Truth in Lending Act, state usury laws, and even the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations [RICO] Act in litigation against predatory lenders in the 1990s. Brown then explains how she and other Atlanta Legal Aid colleagues became involved in efforts to enact the Georgia Fair Lending Act (GFLA) in 2002and how the subsequent amendments weakening that legislation hurt Georgia borrowers during the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis. Finally, she discusses Atlanta Legal Aid’s response to the massive wave of foreclosures in the Atlanta metropolitan area following the crash and how state and federal programs to assist distressed homeowners were hampered by overly restrictive eligibility criteria.
Biography: Karen Brown currently serves as the Director and Managing Attorney of the Home Defense Program with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. Brown started working with Atlanta Legal Aid in 1990, when she started as staff attorney with its Senior Citizens Law Project. Then, in 1996, she joined the Home Defense Program, becoming managing attorney in 2006 and its director in 2010. In this role, she represents elderly, disabled, and low- and moderate-income homeowners facing the loss of their homes, targeted for predatory mortgage lending or servicing practices, and/or wrongfully denied loan modifications. Brown was selected as the 1998-1999 John Heinz Senate Fellow with the United States Senate. During her fellowship, she worked for U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Karen Brown graduated from Smith College and received her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law.