Ballard Spahr LLP: Arizona High Court Rejects ‘Show Me the Note’ Claim in Foreclosure Litigation

By members of the Consumer Financial Services Group

Arizona's non-judicial foreclosure statutes do not require the beneficiary to prove its authority or "show the note" before a trustee may commence a non-judicial foreclosure, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled.

The May 18, 2012, decision in Hogan v. Washington Mutual Bank, N.A. et. al should have a significant impact on pending and future mortgage foreclosure-related litigation in Arizona, as it flatly rejects a legal theory frequently advanced by borrowers in an attempt to avoid foreclosure.

Sitting en banc, the court was asked to decide whether Arizona law permits a trustee to foreclose on a deed of trust without the beneficiary first having to show ownership of the note that the deed of trust secures. This legal theory, often referred to as the "show me the note" theory, is commonly employed by delinquent borrowers against both trustees and beneficiaries in an attempt to prevent trustee's sales from moving forward.

The Hogan case involved two parcels of property, each subject to a 2004 deed of trust. When the plaintiff went into default under those deeds of trust, separate notices of trustees' sales were recorded, with Washington Mutual and Deutsche Bank named as the beneficiaries. Neither beneficiary was an original lender.

The plaintiff filed suit seeking to enjoin the trustees' sales unless the beneficiaries proved that they were entitled to collect on their respective notes. Both the trial court and the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiff's claims, holding that Arizona's non-judicial foreclosure statute does not required presentation of the original note before commencing foreclosure proceedings.

In a case of first impression, the Arizona Supreme Court also rejected the plaintiff's "show me the note" claim, holding that nothing in Arizona's non-judicial foreclosure statutes mandates that a beneficiary of the deed of trust must show possession of, or otherwise document its right to enforce, the underlying note prior to the trustee's exercise of the power of sale.

Instead, the court held that the "only proof of authority the trustee's sale statutes require is a statement indicating the basis for the trustee's authority."  The court noted that "[r]equiring the beneficiary to prove ownership of a note to defaulting trustors before instituting non-judicial foreclosure proceedings might again make the mortgage foreclosure process ... time-consuming and expensive, and re-inject litigation, with its attendant cost and delay, into the process."

The court also rejected the plaintiff's theory of liability under Arizona's Uniform Commercial Code.  The plaintiff argued that before a trustee's sale can go forward, the trustee under the deed of trust is required to demonstrate its authority to collect on the underlying note. The court held that the theory failed because the trustee is not attempting to collect on the underlying note and Arizona's Uniform Commercial Code does not govern liens on real property.

Ballard Spahr's Consumer Financial Services Group is nationally recognized for its guidance in structuring and documenting new consumer financial services products, its experience with the full range of federal and state consumer credit laws throughout the country, and its skill in litigation defense and avoidance (including pioneering work in pre-dispute arbitration programs). The group includes the firm's Mortgage Banking Group, which combines broad regulatory experience assisting clients in both the residential and commercial residential mortgage industry with formidable skill in litigation and depth in enforcement actions and transactions.

The Consumer Financial Services Group also produces the CFPB Monitor, a blog that focuses exclusively on important developments from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. To subscribe to the blog, use the link provided to the right. For more information, please contact CFS Group Practice Leader Alan S. Kaplinsky at 215.864.8544 or kaplinsky@ballardspahr.com; Mortgage Banking Practice Leader Richard J. Andreano, Jr., at 202.661.2271 or andreanor@ballardspahr.com; John G. Kerkorian at 602.798.5408 or kerkorianj@ballardspahr.com; Stanley D. Mabbitt at 602.798.5456 or mabbitts@ballardspahr.com; Jeffrey S. Pitcher at 602.798.5462 or pitcherj@ballardspahr.com; or Craig C. Hoffman at 602.798.5437 or hoffmanc@ballardspahr.com.


Copyright © 2012 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
www.ballardspahr.com
(No claim to original U.S. government material.)

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author and publisher.

This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

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