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A sheriff temporarily halts evictions

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: The big foreclosure news of the day is that there really isn't any. Everybody's trying to digest what might happen next. Whether banks are going to be forced to take back some, or maybe all, of the mortgage bonds they packaged up and sold off in the run-up to the credit crisis.

Also, what to do about the foreclosures that've been stopped. Bank of America says it's going to get going with some of its foreclosures again after a brief nationwide pause.

Tom Dart, the sheriff in Cook County, Ill. -- and as such the person responsible for evicting people who've been foreclosed on -- isn't having any of it. Yesterday he said he's not going to throw anybody out of their homes until banks can prove the foreclosures are legitimate.

Good to have you with us.

Thomas Dart: Thanks for having me on.

Ryssdal: About how many foreclosure files do you have sitting in your office right now that you're just holding on to?

Dart: Oh, about 1,500.

Ryssdal: And you just don't believe the documentary requirements have been met for those by the banks?

Dart: You know, the thing that's been interesting about this -- a couple years ago, we stopped the foreclosure proceedings here in Cook County because it was absolutely clear that the banks were not notifying people that were physically in the houses that they wanted me to empty out. This latest cessation is because the banks themselves have come forward and told us that in their haste to get through these foreclosures have done things in a way where they aren't completely sure that it was done properly. And that's where I find myself scratching my head, because all I'm asking is just send me an affidavit that you're willing to put your name on saying that these foreclosures that you've given me, that you've done them properly. If you've done that, I'm fine. I'll move ahead, but just let me know that they're legal, please.

Ryssdal: You've singled out Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and GMAC Allied Financial. Have you heard from them since you announced this stopping?

Dart: I believe our attorneys have had some conversations with them. You know, they obviously aren't happy with me, but when I've done this in the past, the banks have not been terribly thrilled with me either.

Ryssdal: I don't imagine that you're out there actually doing these foreclosures and evictions, but your deputies must come back and tell you stories about putting people out.

Dart: Unfortunately, I do a lot of the evictions myself. I have been at the door, I have been in these people's living rooms. And I'll never forget the one family -- I went in, and they were literally having their dinner. And they were all sitting around; there were three little kids, a mother and a father, and then all of the sudden, here I am, standing next to seven deputies, all dressed in black with battering rams, in their living room. The children are crying, and I'm sitting down with these people, and they're showing me paperwork after paperwork showing they've paid all their bills, they've paid everything. That's where we finally two years ago got to the point where we just stopped. It was just, the injustice was unbelievable.

Ryssdal: So what's next?

Dart: Well my strong hope is that the banks will let me know that they have done a thorough analysis, and all the cases and all the files they have sent toward my office, there's no legal concerns. In which case I can go ahead and resume the proper foreclosures. But, one of the things that we did when all this thing exploded over two years ago is that I brought on, hired a social worker. Now as opposed to me sitting with the families trying to work out options, I now have a social worker who's out there trying to get people in substitute housing, trying to do it in a way that I believe has a little bit of humanity attached to it.

Ryssdal: Tom Dart, the sheriff of Cook County, Ill. Sheriff, thanks very much for your time.

Dart: Thank you so much.

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Great story, and kudos to Sheriff Dart for choosing to do the right thing here. But, I have to ask: how about making a phone call before you ram in someone's door next time? Might save you some embarrassment from interrupting another dinner next time?

Here's a question for the sheriff?

* what about all those evictions you carried out with battering rams and guns before all this mortgage fraud hit the fan?

You going to give those homeless families their homes back?

Law enforcement has been the stooge of banking corporations and their lawyers and in the process have become criminals themselves.

This story made me sick.

Just, honest, humane... Dart for mayor.

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