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Sheriff willing to face contempt charges, but judge wants to talk first

Thursday, October 09, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

By suspending foreclosure evictions, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart stuck his finger in the eye of Cook County judges who order evictions and banks that want to clear out foreclosed homes and put them back on the market.

Dart said he's willing to face contempt-of-court charges for not following eviction orders, but Cook County Judge Dorothy Kirie Kinnaird, who heads the Chancery Division, said she won't take that step just yet.

"It seems he has communicated more to [the media] than he has to the court," she said. "I want to find out what issues they are having."

Dart told reporters that about one-third of foreclosure evictions affect renters who say they had no idea about the property's status.

Kinnaird said she wants to find out why Dart is suspending all foreclosure evictions when only one-third of them involve renters who have not received notice. Kinnaird and Dart are to meet this afternoon.

Dart said his office will resume foreclosure evictions if lenders provide an affidavit saying they have given those affected by the pending eviction at least 120 days' notice, as required by state law.

Several mortgage lenders and the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association declined comment. But what's certain is that mortgage lenders don't want to play landlord to foreclosed buildings.

JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman Christine Holevas said that while they actively work with the government to keep people in their homes, they're not interested in owning or renting out foreclosed properties.

"We are not landlords. It is not our business," she said. "That's pretty straightforward."

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