John O'Brien, Essex official wants to sue over mortgage mess

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John O’Brien, Essex official wants to sue over mortgage mess

John O’Brien, Essex official wants to sue over mortgage mess

Common Wealth Magazine-

John O’Brien is a national folk hero to anti-foreclosure activists. The Southern Essex Register of Deeds has garnered national attention by accusing big banks of acting like a “criminal enterprise.” After an audit revealed widespread flaws in banks’ handling of mortgage paperwork, O’Brien likened his Salem registry to a crime scene.

So when a New York law firm began soliciting local registries to join a class action lawsuit against an embattled mortgage clearinghouse, O’Brien should’ve been the first to sign on. He wasn’t. O’Brien was told he didn’t have the authority to join the effort. Deed registries in Norfolk, Bristol, and Plymouth counties are now pushing ahead with the case, while O’Brien is left standing on the sidelines.

O’Brien’s inability to sue over mortgage paperwork filed in his own registry highlights a quirk in Massachusetts state government. The state eliminated most of its county governments more than a decade ago, even as it retained some of the trappings of county government. District attorneys and sheriffs are still elected at the county level, for example, but they’re funded by the state. The consolidation of county governments also left the state’s 21 registries of deeds intact.

[COMMON WEALTH MAGAZINE]

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