A Chicago court has placed 1,700 foreclosure cases handled by the Fisher and Shapiro
law firm on hold after the firm voluntarily reported issues tied to hundreds of affidavits in the foreclosure cases.
Fisher and Shapiro disclosed that hundreds of affidavits associated with some of the firm's foreclosure filings had been altered without the knowledge of the original affidavit signers.
All of the impacted cases were stayed by the Circuit Court of Cook County in early March, according to court records.
"The affidavits were altered in such a way that included changing the content of the original affidavit by removing the signature page and reattaching the signature page by the affiant to the altered content," the court said in its ruling. "The alteration of the contents in the affidavits included, but were not limited to, adding attorneys' fees and costs, adding in insurance costs, inspection costs, preservation costs, and/or taxes incurred on the property."
Fisher and Shapiro released a statement Monday, saying "Senior management and partners of the firm discovered a flaw in the firm’s preparation and filing of prove-up affidavits."
In response to the discovery, "The firm promptly put all of its affected files on hold and brought this matter to the attention of the appropriate parties including the Circuit Court of Cook County. We have successfully remediated the affected files in other counties since early February and will continue to do so until the affected files are corrected," the firm added.
As part of the court's stay, the Bannockburn, Ill.-based law firm will have to notify all parties impacted by the stays. However, the delay does not mean the foreclosures will not take place.
In fact, the court said, "Fisher and Shapiro shall present a motion to vacate judgment of foreclosure and sale, a motion to vacate judicial sale if a sale has occurred, a motion to vacate confirmation of a sale upon proper notice to all parties in the foreclosure case."
Once the firm files motions to vacate those proceedings, the court said the firm "may also present a motion for entry of new judgment of foreclosure and to reset the redemption date upon proper notice to all parties."
Daniel Lindsey, supervisory attorney for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, said his organization is checking to see if any of its cases are impacted by the order.
Lindsey said to the firm's credit "at least the firm brought the issue to the attention of the court."
He added, "it has a similar flavor to robo-signing," but it is not the same thing. Rather than having a servicer sign hundreds of affidavits all at once, this case involved a situation where affidavits would reach the firm, and once they arrived, attorneys added in information related to costs and other administrative details.
Fisher and Shapiro added that it's "following the Order of the Circuit Court of Cook County and will do so until all affected Cook County files are resolved."
Write to Kerri Panchuk