Saw a great comment today by a lawyer who is struggling hard to solve a very difficult (and, now, expensive) estate administration problem involving title to real property. The problem was created by the now-deceased parents of his clients; those parents probably saved all of a few hundred bucks on lawyer fees by doing their own estate planning. The lawyer's comment: "You don't always get what you pay for, but you seldom get what you don't pay for."
Today we are happy to announce that Oregon has added another option for reporting suspected abuse of children and vulnerable adults. All our regular local hotline and reporting numbers will continue to take reports as usual, but we have added a single statewide number that provides another way to make these important reports. Oregon's abuse reporting hotline for children and adults, (855) 503-SAFE [855-503-7233], is up and running, and it provides callers with the ability to report suspected child abuse, elder abuse, abuse of people with physical or developmental disabilities, and abuse of people with mental illness or those experiencing a mental health crisis.
Callers will be directed that if the report is an emergency requiring immediate attention, to hang up and dial 911. If it is not an emergency, then callers will work through a simple phone tree to ensure their report gets to the right place for response, based on zip code and characteristics of the person they are calling about. Calls can be answered in English or Spanish. Once the calls are routed through the phone tree, they will be directed to local DHS or county offices for Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services, County Developmental Disability Programs (CDDP) or County Mental Health Programs (CMHP) for response. Not all areas of the state will have a live person to take reports after hours, and some locations will provide voicemail reporting options.
All local hotline and reporting numbers will continue to take reports as usual, and the new line adds a single call option for those who want to use it. Oregon's abuse reporting hotline for children and adults is the result of two legislative workgroups, one on child welfare and one on elder abuse, which recommended a single hotline option to simplify reporting for Oregonians who are not familiar with the abuse reporting process. Mandatory reporters are often well aware of local reporting and hotlines and are responsible for most of the reports we receive. Citizens who may only make one or two calls in their lifetimes can be overwhelmed by the seeming complexity of agencies and numbers from which to choose.
(855) 503-SAFE [855-503-7233] will solve that problem by providing a single phone number anyone can call from any community in Oregon!
When I first read about this, I was certain that I was reading a sly parody from "The Onion" or some other satirical publication. But then I found that the jokers behind this are deadly serious about it. In other words, General Mills has decided to promote itself to General LeMay and bomb the Constitution and your rights as an American to little super-sugarsaturated bits. General Mills has granted itself a license to break the law. The owner of grocery staples including Trix, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury, has quietly updated its terms of service to include a forced arbitration clause that eliminates its customers’ rights.
This means if you get salmonella poisoning from your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you will not be able to hold General Mills accountable in court, and if you are cut by Old El Paso salsa that contains chunks of glass, your access to justice is denied. And yes, these were real things that happened last year!
Forced arbitration clauses allow corporations like General Mills to kick customers out of court and funnel them into an un-American dispute mill that is rigged, secretive and final -- and that denies you ANY ability to appeal, no matter how abusive the process.
If General Mills is not accountable, their customers are not safe.
Take action now! Write to Congress to urge them to protect their constituents from the abusive practice of forced arbitration! And because we aim to help consumers around here, here's a helpful list of products you will want to avoid if you value your Constitutional rights as an American:
It's hard to get people to understand how they're being robbed and denied their rights when it happens without guns or violence. But a lot of times, companies rip off customers and exploit their workers unfairly, and it's not until you try to do something about it that you find out that the company has built itself an "Accountability Shield" that does to the civil justice system what Kryptonite does to Superman -- allows the bad guys to escape the consequences of their wrongdoing, and leaves the good guys weakened or flat-out defeated. Every story needs a hook to get and hold the reader's attention long enough for the message to be received. For a lot of guys, a story about hot young women being mistreated by their employer is a strong enough signal to get their attention, and then they can finally get the message. And, of course, young women, who are often mistreated horribly in the workplace, can understand that even the most superficially exciting jobs can really be terrible grinds -- made much worse by the arbitration clause that essentially lets the company get away with anything short of murder.
I just had a call from a very nice person who needs caregivers around-the-clock, 365 days a year. One of these caregivers recently stole money from from my friend. My friend said it happened about six weeks ago, and that the person was no longer serving as a caregiver, so she was just going to let it go. I had to explain to her why it was so important that she call the police: Because other people looking to hire caregivers are going to look at the home-care workers' registry and look at the results of the criminal background checks, and if she doesn't file a police report about the theft, this caregiver will appear to have both a lot of experience and no problems in her background. My friend felt uncomfortable; the caregiver is young, and my friend doesn't see herself as vindictive. Basically, she does not want to get the other person in trouble. But of course, it's not my friend who is responsible for the trouble — the thief did that. My friend needs to report to protect others from this person and ultimately to protect herself by making sure that the system for background checks is reliable and complete. Someone who will steal from a disabled person getting 24 hour care is not someone who should be able to find work as a caregiver for other vulnerable people. So you're not being kind by overlooking abuse or thefts like this. Consider what you're doing to the person's next victim. My friend was also concerned that, because it would be her word against the caregiver's, she would not be able to prove that the theft occurred. I made two points about that:
one, it's not her problem to prove the case. That is a job of the police and the district attorney, not the crime victim.
Second, it turns out that the circumstances of the theft and what was stolen means that it is highly likely that the stolen property was fenced nearby, and it will be very memorable to whomever ended up with it -- meaning that it won't be that hard to prove that it was the stolen property in question.
Besides, punishing the thief isn't the issue here, or is at least not the main issue. The main issue is making sure that a person who preys on vulnerable people can't do so invisibly. The situation is the same with nonprofits. Many times when nonprofits are ripped off, the tendency among the members as to keep it quiet and not make a big fuss about it. It's also very appealing for the board to say that they were partially at fault for allowing the thief to rip them off, and therefore they don't want the bad publicity to their organization etc. etc. The big problem with this logic is the same as in my friend's case: when crime victims don't report crimes, the criminals are allowed to find new victims and victimize them, because they have no reason to know about the person's past. So, uncomfortable as it is, if someone rips you off, don't make it your job to help them cover it up. If someone abuses you or steals from you, whether you are an individual or as part of an organization, call the police. Let the police and the court system make the decisions on prosecution and any punishment that might occur if warranted. Bottom line: don't help criminals victimize other people by failing to report past crimes. UPDATE: A helpful assistant attorney general points out: "Great points, John. You might also tell your friend and others that they can call the Medicaid Fraud Unit at the Oregon Department of Justice if the care occurs at home and the provider is paid by the State, or if the theft or financial exploitation occurred in a Medicaid-funded facility [note that nearly all nursing homes and assisted living facilities accept Medicaid funding - JMG] whether or not the victim is a Medicaid recipient."
Thanks, AAG! You can reach the Medicaid Fraud Unit (MFU) at 971-673-1971.
This post examines a recently published book by an extraordinary law professor, Imre Szalai, who has gone back through the papers of the three men who drafted and lobbied for and pushed the Federal Arbitration Act. In painstaking historical detail, reviewing all sorts of primary materials, he establishes convincingly that the FAA was never intended to (a) apply to employment contracts at all; or (b) apply to take-it-or-leave-it contracts. This book is an important development in the historical scholarship on the Act, and demonstrates conclusively that the FAA has been distorted and mis-shaped by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent decades. The Act now covers millions of people and transactions that it was never intended to address.
The advocates of forced arbitration are literally on the wrong side of history – the Court’s decisions fly in the face of what the authors and supporters of this statute had intended.
Paul Bland Senior Attorney, Public Justice Of Counsel, Chavez & Gertler On Twitter @PblandBland
Maybe the only thing I can think of that's worse than losing a house to foreclosure is squandering a lot of money first on phony foreclosure rescue scams: the scams run by people who say that they can review your loan documents and find you all these reasons that you'll be able to poke holes in the lender's foreclosure case. If you think you got a different loan than you were promised, or that your loan was not the same on paper as it was represented to you, or the lender did something shady at closing, consult an attorney. But first, please, remember, the HUD-Approved Housing Counselors are FREE. And there is no magic sauce that anyone else has that is better than what the HUD-approved counselors can offer you as far as finding resources to help you with the more usual problem, which is too much debt for the money at hand. So if someone approaches you and offers you "help" on your crushing debt or foreclosure issue, don't give them any money, and if they give you suggestions or ideas, run them past the HUD-approved folks to see what they think before you try any of them.
I just got a call from an Oregonian who has owned a home in a lovely part of Oregon for over 40 years, but the third refinance, from 2008, has turned out very badly for this person; monthly income under $600, monthly mortgage $1300. The only thing that could make this difficult situation worse, in my opinion, is wasting the few remaining dollars at hand on phony foreclosure rescue schemes (which also wastes the energy that should be used in preparing a transition to a more affordable situation, if the money needed to maintain the present home is not assured). Thus, the letter below.
Thanks for your call to discuss the problems you are having maintaining payments on your refinanced home. I’m very sorry to hear of your situation, and I certainly wish I had a good suggestion for you; however, you told me that you had already exhausted assistance from the hardest hit funds and that your monthly income is far less than the monthly payment on your loan.
I want to warn you again about people who prey on those facing foreclosure problems; they offer lurid tales of fighting off banks, but these success stories are always impossible to actually verify. Frankly, except for HUD-approved housing counselors (whom you have worked with at NEDCO in Springfield), my opinion is that people who offer to solve your debt/foreclosure problems in a way that doesn’t involve catching up the payments are shady or worse. So tread carefully, and know that, at the end of the day, if there was a way for ordinary people to keep houses for long without paying the mortgage notes, banks would have their minions in Salem and Washington DC fix that at warp speed. So if someone asks you for money to show you the inside secrets that are supposedly going to help you keep your house without making all the payments, I would call the Oregon Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline at 877-877-9392 (especially if they have taken money from you).
In the meantime, this confirms that you called to consult with me but that you did not hire me, that we have not met, and that I am not your attorney and did not give you any legal advice. If you feel I can be of service to you in the future, I would be pleased to help you after discussing an engagement agreement at that time.
This case illustrates the shortcomings, even the dangers, of the once mighty global secondary mortgage loan market, with its arcane methods of doing business, conceived by ambitious, super-sophisticated, big-brained, short-sighted financiers and their lawyers, who did not realize that they were creating a Frankenstein for everybody involved except the lawyers. Based on the number of somewhat similar cases pending in various federal and state courts, the roof has come crashing down, and its restoration remains in doubt.
In the complicated world of the high risk mortgage industry as it existed at all times here pertinent, the answer to a question as simple as “who is the owner of a mortgage?” is not always apparent from a review of the land records where the real property is located. In fact, the term “owner” may mean “a hundred owners” involved in a joint or divided undertaking or investment where the original homeowner-borrower is unaware of who the “real” “owners” are. This complexity is exacerbated when the “owner” or “owners” begin to split up and transfer the mortgage and note willy-nilly, often effectuating the transfer by simply endorsing the note in blank, affixing an allonge to it, and assuming that the mortgage security and right to foreclose will pass with the note by operation of law.
Duke v. Nationstar Mortg., L.L.C., 893 F.Supp.2d 1238, 2012 WL 3852121, N.D.Ala., August 30, 2012
John Gear Law Office LLC and Salem Consumer Law; John@JohnGearLaw.com and SalemConsumerLaw.com. My office is in the Security Building in downtown Salem at 161 High St. SE, across from the Elsinore Theater, a half-block south of Marion County Courthouse, just south of State Street. I'm in Suite 208B. There is abundant, free, on-street parking throughout downtown. I am only licensed to practice law in Oregon. This site may be considered advertising under Oregon State Bar rules.------ I don't give legal advice on this site. I'm not your attorney unless we have met in person and you have hired me by entering into a representation agreement with me. While I do want you to consider me when you seek an attorney, you should not hire any attorney based on brochures, websites, advertising, or other promotional materials. All original content on this site is Copyright John Gear, 2010-2014.
John Gear Law Office LLC; 503-339-7787; John@JohnGearLaw.com. My office is in Suite 208B of the Security Building in downtown Salem. That's at 161 High St. SE, across from the Elsinore Theatre, just a block south of Marion County Courthouse. There is abundant, free, 2-hour on-street parking throughout downtown. #### #### #### Lawyerly fine print: Licensed in Oregon. This site may be considered advertising under Oregon State Bar rules. There is no legal advice given or intended on my site. I'm not your attorney unless we have met in person and entered into a representation agreement; while I hope you will consider me when you seek an attorney, you should not hire any attorney based on brochures, websites, advertising, or other promotional materials.