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Archive for the "Appellate" Category

South Carolina Supreme Court Sides with Innovation in Real Estate Lending Law

A strongly worded decision from the South Carolina Supreme Court has surprised many real estate lawyers and lenders by firmly validating a new competitor that has become a gamechanger in the marketplace.

The case Boone v. Quicken Loans centered on whether internet-based residential refinance closings by Quicken Loans and Title Source constituted the unauthorized practice of law.

South Carolina requires a lawyer to close residential real estate transactions, but laws vary in other states where lawyers may have limited involvement and professional title abstractors or a title insurance company are permitted to handle closings.

The five steps that South Carolina lawyers must supervise in a residential closing were established in the 1987 state Supreme Court case, State v. Buyer Services Company. Those steps where a lawyer must be involved meaningfully are document preparation, title search, closing, recording and disbursement.

But in its ruling, the state Supreme Court cited an earlier opinion that said its duty is to protect the public, not lawyers:

"[T]he policy of prohibiting laymen from practicing law is not for the purpose of creating a monopoly in the legal profession, nor for its protection, but to assure the public adequate protection in the pursuit of justice, by preventing the intrusion of incompetent and unlearned persons in the practice of law."

In the Quicken case, the high court found that lawyers were involved in the internet-based transactions and used their professional judgment in each step. The declaratory judgment reversed the special referee’s decision earlier that said no lawyer was involved in a way that protected the interests of the borrower.

The court noted the existence of significant federal regulations, such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Truth in Lending Act and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which provide consumer protection. It said requiring more attorney involvement would not benefit the public or justify the increase in costs, which in turn could result in a reduction of consumer choice and access to affordable services.

Eminent Domain in South Carolina: What Happens When the Government Wants Your Land?

South Carolina property owners and businesses have taken notice of recent actions across the state where the government is using eminent domain authority to clear the way for roads, infrastructure and other public uses.

Although a state constitutional amendment in 2006 prohibited the use of eminent domain for economic development, eminent domain is on the table for other uses and has been viewed as a bargaining tool for municipalities to accelerate the sale of coveted land.

Negotiations to acquire property for a library and museum in Myrtle Beach are continuing after the city council in February allowed the city manager to use eminent domain, if necessary, to force the sale of two downtown parcels.

In April, the Charleston City Council authorized the use of eminent domain to acquire the site of a former supermarket for a new intersection and park. One month later, the city reached an agreement with the developer to purchase the 2-1/2-acre site for $3 million.

And plans for Interstate 73, which aims to connect Myrtle Beach to North Carolina and up to Michigan, could involve more right-of-way acquisitions across South Carolina.

Businesses Collecting Purchased Debt Get Relief In Supreme Court Ruling

A June 12, 2017, U.S. Supreme Court ruling means businesses have less to worry about from regulations designed to protect consumers from abusive and deceptive practices when attempting to collect their own debts.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) authorizes private lawsuits and weighty fines to deter the wayward practices of debt collectors. In the high court’s view, “debt collector” refers to a third-party servicer collecting debts on behalf of a creditor. A bank or other provider that originates a loan and tries to collect the debt itself is not a debt collector and therefore is not bound by the FDCPA.