Trustee for a Deed of Trust
Opinion rules that a lawyer who has as trustee initiated a foreclosure proceeding may resign as trustee after the foreclosure is contested and act as lender's counsel.
Can a trustee who has initiated a foreclosure proceeding resign after it has become contested and then act as the lender's counsel in the foreclosure?
Yes. It has long been recognized that former service as a trustee does not disqualify a lawyer from assuming a partisan role in regard to foreclosure under a deed of trust. CPR 220, RPC 82. This is true whether the attorney resigns as trustee prior to the initiation of foreclosure proceedings or after the initiation of such proceedings when it becomes apparent that the foreclosure will be contested.
Where foreclosure is pending and the borrower files bankruptcy, can the trustee under the deed of trust resign as trustee and thereafter represent the lender in the bankruptcy proceeding and the foreclosure proceeding?
Yes. Just as a lawyer may resign as trustee and undertake the representation of the lender in a contested foreclosure proceeding, so also may a lawyer resign as trustee and undertake the representation of the lender in seeking to have an automatic stay lifted in a related bankruptcy proceeding.
Where the lender believes the borrower is in default but no foreclosure proceedings have been instituted, may an attorney serving as trustee in a deed of trust represent the lender in an amicable modification or loan workout agreement? Does such representation of the lender preclude the attorney from thereafter initiating foreclosure proceedings as trustee?
No, a lawyer serving as trustee may not simultaneously participate in the negotiation of a loan modification or workout agreement as attorney for the lender. RPC 82. An attorney serving as trustee may, however, draft and preside over the execution of documents evidencing a modification or workout agreement negotiated between the lender and borrower. Under such circumstances, the trustee would not be representing the interests of either and would be engaged in no partisan activity in conflict with the obligation to be impartial. It is possible that a lawyer who resigns as trustee to perform some partisan service for the lender, such as the negotiation of a modification agreement, may thereafter be reappointed as trustee and initiate foreclosure proceedings.
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