ND Newswire, April 10, 2013
Judy Fox has spent her career attempting to fix a judicial system that fails to serve the average citizen. It is what she is most passionate about.
A number of years ago, Fox and others at the law school had noticed an increase in the number of clients seeking assistance for mortgage foreclosures. This was not surprising. Earlier research done in the sociology department and law school showed that foreclosures had been on the rise in St. Joseph County since 2001. At the end of 2006, Indiana had the second highest home foreclosure rate in the nation. Fox wanted to explore the causes of this phenomenon.
Together with undergraduate and law students from Notre Dame, Fox worked in collaboration with the United Way of St. Joseph County and other community partners to examine the issue of foreclosures, debt collection, and predatory lending in St Joseph County.
The results of Fox’s research have been felt locally, statewide, and at the national level. To date, the city of South Bend has used the results of her community-based research to obtain several million dollars in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants. Funds are addressing abandonment and vacant property issues locally.
In partnership with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Fox provided testimony on her mortgage foreclosure research findings at state hearings in Indianapolis. That testimony contributed to a bill providing those in foreclosure the right to a mortgage settlement conference.“This means that if you are in foreclosure,” says Fox, “you are now entitled to sit down with bank representatives and discuss your situation.” Facilitators meet with those holding the loans and the homeowners in an attempt to reduce abandonment and help people remain in their homes.
Attorney General Zoeller says of Fox, “Professor Fox has really been a great asset for the state of Indiana, particularly in my office. The clinic she runs focuses on some of the cutting edge issues in consumer protection. Her work is about real people’s problems and she serves in areas where people are in real need.”
Fox’s recent research in debt collection, as presented in her article, “Do We Have a Debt Collection Crisis? Some Cautionary Tales of Debt Collection in Indiana” in the Loyola Consumer Law Review, is now having an impact at the national level. She has been asked to provide her data to a newly created federal agency, the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau, charged with writing federal rules on debt collection.
“Judy is one of the best advocates for working and low-income families that this community has,â€ says Dawn Chapla, director of Labor and Financial Stability at the United Way of St. Joseph County. “This kind of research changes lives in the community—it’s leveraging dollars, it’s gaining help for people, it’s allowing us to put in more programs to build better community—it’s just immeasurable.”
Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar Paul Mickan ’14, who began working with Fox during his first year of college says, “I was thrilled by the opportunity to assist a well-respected law professor at such an early stage in my academic career. Our collective work aimed to expose—and combat—the very real and growing problem of foreclosure fraud. Professor Fox’s work will help the vulnerable, the struggling, and others who often cannot afford to fight the false charges brought against them. She allowed me the incredible opportunity to actively participate in a high- powered research project at the onset of my Notre Dame career.”
“Seeing one client whose house we saved because we got an illegal garnishment corrected—that’s a huge reward,” says Fox. “There’s a double blessing in being able to do this work with students.”