Proof that foreclosure mediation can be applied in a variety of settings: the Illinois Supreme Court recently approved local court rules for foreclosure mediation programs to begin in Peoria County, Illinois, and Madison County, Illinois.
Peoria County in central Illinois has a population of 182,495. With 900 foreclosures last year, Peoria has already had 180 foreclosures filed this year. The Peoria program follows the Will County program, where every filed foreclosure pays an additional filing fee, which funds a mandatory pre-mediation conference. At this conference, a court administrator (in Peoria, a court-employed attorney), reviews borrower’s documents and determines whether mediation is appropriate. Mediators will be judges or attorneys with at least five years of real estate law experience.
Madison County, just outside of the St. Louis metro area, has a population of 269,282. The county courts approved 1549 foreclosures in 2010 and 1400 are pending this year. A twelve person committee made up of banks, homeowners, court staff, and mediators (a key to developing a mediation program that some recent foreclosure mediation taskforces have missed!) developed the program. Madison County will rely on a program coordinator in a local legal aid office to screen borrowers’ cases for appropriateness of mediation. Unlike Peoria County, mediators will be required to go through an approved training and can be attorneys or community members with mediation experience.
Chief Judge Michael Brandt of the 10th Circuit (where Peoria is located) recognized that successful mediation programs in other areas of law, specifically, family and civil, triggered confidence that mediation could be a helpful process in the foreclosure context, too. Indeed, foreclosure mediation, which now has some iteration in 27 states, follows a long line of many states’ historically successful court mediation programs.
In discussing the Peoria program, Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride said, “This is an important step forward for those who have suffered the effects of our nation’s economic crisis in Peoria. The Supreme Court has a keen interest in programs that have the strong promise of achieving timely and lasting resolutions to tough problems.” We can all hope this means Illinois is ready to usher in a new era of developing mediation programs to meet the legal needs of low-income Illinois residents, even after the foreclosure crisis has abated.