Judge OKs Arizona lawmakers’ use of $50M from mortgage lending settlement


By Howard Fischer

Capitol Media Services/East Valley Tribune

State lawmakers did nothing wrong when they seized $50 million out of the settlement Arizona got with mortgage lenders, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain acknowledged that Attorney General Tom Horne signed an agreement spelling out how the funds specifically going to the state are to be used. These permitted uses include “to avoid preventable foreclosures” and to help prevent and prosecute financial fraud. And that agreement required the money be put into a “court ordered trust fund.”

But the judge said that did not place the funds off limits to lawmakers.

“The Legislature had the right to do what it in fact did — direct $50 million of the settlement to be put into the general fund so that it could be spent as directed by the Legislature,” Brain wrote.

Wednesday’s ruling is a setback for the advocacy groups who contended the money is needed specifically to help homeowners who were the victims of mortgage fraud.

But attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest who is representing the advocacy groups said an appeal of Brain’s ruling is likely.



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