By Brandon Tubeville Shortly after the mainstream media erupted in hysteria and neo-McCarthyistic attacks against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for having a routine conversation with the Russian Ambassador and for once having dinner with the President of Russia as part of an event, aging warmonger Senator John McCain recently announced that he had […]
Gun confiscation bill introduced in Georgia
Gun confiscation bill introduced in Georgia
Parsons Patrick November 29, 2016
Anti-gun witch Mary Margaret Oliver knew you wouldn’t be paying attention during the Thanksgiving holiday.
That’s why she pre-filed her so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” bill (H.B. 10) the day before Thanksgiving!
Hoping she could do so without a ruckus, she forgot that Georgia Gun Owners publicly exposed her and her anti-gun cronies at the Capitol within minutes of the bill’s introduction this past January.
That’s why I’m at the Capitol — right now — to let you know what’s happening with H.B. 10, that would ban dozens of firearms in Georgia, as well as .50 caliber ammunition.
Please click here to join me for a LIVE broadcast on our Facebook page (you have to be signed into Facebook; scroll to the LIVE video when you get on our page) from just outside Oliver’s meeting of anti-gunners today at the Capitol.
Georgia Gun Owners
Posted in 2nd Amendment in the News, Latest News
Tagged “assault weapons” ban, Constitutional Carry, Gun control, H.B. 10, Mary Margaret Oliver, Oliver Gun Ban, shared-news
Check out this witch of a gun confiscation/gun control freak:
Many people don’t know about the tragedies within the Probate Courts of this country, and guardianships. Mary Margaret Oliver is one of the DeKalb County, Georgia Probate Court appointed guardians for children and elderly. These “guardians” rob the elderly. I don’t know if she has been involved with robbing from children’s accounts, but I do know she has been appointed by Probate Court numerous times, and have talked with the people who have had to try to stop this woman (if you will) from stealing all of the accounts blind, and that was when she was appointed by the court as an administrator over a Will that named an executor of the estate. Since there was money within the estate, the Probate court decided that the county needed to appoint the administrator.
People yall be careful out there, and keep your families away from Probate Courts if you can. Also keep guardianships away from your elderly beloved family members. Our aunt was taken from all family, hidden from family and died a horrible death while being brainwashed to think family had not looked for her. The guardian of property took our names off of our accounts, delinked all of our Wachovia brokerage/savings/checking accounts, and began spending our money. In the end, there was nothing left out of the $600,000 taken from us.
Since the DeKalb County Georgia Probate Judge (Debra Rosh, clerk at the time) was involved, as was a DeKalb County Superior Court Judge (Hunter) and Wachovia of course, no one would sue them, not one single attorney would go up against these crooks.
That was when we were forced to learn about pro se litigation. Another long story.
That’s right, Mary Margaret Oliver.
Her HB is here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/MemberLegislation.aspx?Member=181&Session=23
They take the name “assault weapon” to a whole new level…
HerosComment17 hours ago They made him drink from their toilet too, see Mark Dice video Sailor Jerry Swallow3 hours ago yup, if it was a jig, the riots would going on for a year..worse then jews… Danksmoke Bong1 hour ago whoda thunk this would happen in Rahm Emmanuel and Obama’s Chicago. Ned Chil38 minutes […]
Although this article is about Hawaii, Georgia too, is a non-judicial foreclosure state. The state of Georgia has bent over backwards to see that the bank and their attorneys, who lie at every instance, never loses. We have been aiding in the battle against “the Bank with the most homes in the end wins”.
Very interesting outlook in this article.
Homeowners losing money in legal snarls surrounding non-judicial foreclosures
A previous version of this story listed that an interview subject, Lynn Noffsinger had purchased his title insurance policy from Fidelity National Title Insurance Company. He actually bought his policy from First American Title Company Inc. It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to correct promptly any incorrect information.
KAILUA-KONA — Foreclosed properties bought at auction often afford buyers a chance at a lucrative deal.
But if you’ve purchased a property anywhere in Hawaii that’s been through a non-judicial foreclosure, you may have acquired considerably less than you bargained for — or potentially nothing at all.
That’s because of several class action and individual action lawsuits that have been filed across every county in the state. The lawsuits allege the banks that administered mass foreclosures during and after the 2008 housing crisis using the non-judicial foreclosure process — meaning without the supervision of the court — did so without following proper procedure.
If a judge rules that a lender didn’t follow the highly specific power of sale outlined in the mortgage contract and supplemented by Hawaii’s non-judicial foreclosure statute part 1, then the sale is void and the property is returned to its original owner.
Such a determination by a judge doesn’t necessarily leave the current title holder on the street absent compensation, particularly if he or she holds title insurance. But it does place on the title company the burden of reimbursing the current holder the monetary value of the property outlined in the title insurance policy.
Because the number of lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of non-judicial foreclosures conducted in Hawaii over the last several years has recently skyrocketed and yet continues to climb, title insurers are wary of insuring future sales of any property that’s gone through the process, whether it was bought firsthand from the bank or secondhand from a private citizen.
When they are willing to insure, it’s not necessarily at fair market value.
“If the sale is void, that means when the bank sold the property to the new owner, the new owner got nothing,” said James Bickerton, an Oahu attorney who to date has filed nearly 60 lawsuits against financial institutions contesting the legitimacy of their foreclosure procedures. “So there are dozens and dozens of people sitting on property they thought was good because they bought it from a bank. That’s where the title insurance comes in. Title insurance companies have to step up and take care of it.”
Losing value on non-judicial foreclosures
Gretchen Osgood, principal broker and owner of Hawaiian Isle Real Estate, found out about the amended policies of title companies the hard way earlier this year. Her husband, Randy, purchased a unit at Kona Mansions from Bank of New York in 2013, as well as title insurance from Fidelity National Title and Escrow. The property had been through a non-judicial foreclosure in 2008.
More than three years after Randy purchased the unit for $72,000 and spent more than $10,000 to upgrade it, Osgood said the property’s face value has risen to around $160,000. The long-term plan has been to sell the unit for profit after utilizing it for several years as a rental — a typical tactic of real estate investors.
But when examining the process of sale, Osgood discovered no title company would offer to insure the property for any future buyer for more than $69,000 — the same amount Randy received on the policy he purchased in 2013 and nearly $100,000 short of the unit’s current market value.
“The reason you buy title insurance is to validate the title as valid so you can resell it. That’s why you pay for title insurance, and that’s why lenders require you to buy them title insurance as well,” Osgood explained. “Now, we don’t have the ability to get title insurance re-issued for this property for the face value of what we would sell it at. No buyer in their right mind would buy a property unless you can get title insurance for it, otherwise you could end up with a property you can’t resell, as we have now.”
Osgood added they could sell the property for $69,000 and lose part of their investment along with their equity. So the unit is technically re-sellable, but not at a price anywhere near what it would command on the open market.
Suzanne Patterson, who works at Kona Resort Properties, said word has been circulating within the real estate community about the concern since this summer, when issues arose for several brokers across the industry almost simultaneously.
One couple in Kona was served a lawsuit as they left their home one afternoon with their daughter on the way to her wedding.
“We were aghast by the fact this even happened,” Patterson said. “It’s a bad situation. These are local people, not cash buyers, but people getting loans. They are real people.”
One real estate agent who requested anonymity said the circumstances surrounding non-judicial foreclosures and the inability to insure them have created a major public relations crisis for the industry, as both title insurers and real estate agents are concerned about how these developments will affect buyer perception of the market.
For people with substantial portions of their finances tied up in one or several of these properties, the situation could become dire, especially if any issues arise demanding a sale of property to create cash flow.
“Lots of people won’t care,” Osgood said. “But for some, it will be catastrophic.”
Comparing judicial, non-judicial foreclosures in Hawaii
The differences between judicial and non-judicial foreclosures are stark, starting with the presence of a court authority in the process.
“In a judicial foreclosure, you have judicial supervision of how the transaction or foreclosure is being conducted,” said Robert Triantos, administrative partner in the Kona Office of the law firm Carlsmith Ball. “In a non-judicial foreclosure, it’s just the attorney going out there, publishing in the newspaper, holding the auction, sometimes extending the dates, maybe following the letter of the law, maybe not.”
Non-judicial foreclosures are not permitted in every state but have always been a staple of the real estate industry in Hawaii, said Bruce Graham, an attorney at Ashford & Wriston in Honolulu who also teaches a transactional property/real estate class at University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law.
The process of non-judicial foreclosure, which Graham characterized as essentially a reversion to the foreclosure process of 17th century England, became popular in the immediate aftermath of the housing crisis as financial institutions were foreclosing on a massive scale.
“Non-judicial foreclosures were more expeditious and less expensive than judicial foreclosures,” said Stephen Whittaker, Big Island real estate attorney and broker.
Triantos explained, however, that is no longer the case. The law in Hawaii was changed approximately two years ago, he said, making the judicial method considerably less expensive. The development has spurred a migration back to the judicial process, especially considering the position of title companies.
Triantos added it’s been roughly a year since most title insurance companies decided it wasn’t worth the hassle or the financial risk to insure properties that have been through non-judicial foreclosures in Hawaii.
“The title insurance companies are essentially saying they are not going to go back and investigate whether everything was done correctly,” Triantos said. “They are making a business decision. Whether that renders (the properties) unsellable — it probably does. But I’m not going to say it’s the title insurance companies that have put the properties in those positions.”
The only recourse for those who’d like to sell is to scour the industry for a title company that might be willing to insure a sale, sell at a substantial markdown or simply sit on the property until the statute of limitations to challenge the title expires.
Bickerton said the applicable statute is the same as the one dealing with the recovery of a property someone is occupying. While that issue is currently under legal review, he said one judge has already agreed with him on his interpretation.
If Bickerton is correct, the applicable statue of limitations to contest title is 20 years.
The catalyst for change
The Honolulu law firm Bickerton Dang has been the most prominent filer of lawsuits contributing to the change in title company policy.
As of Monday, the firm had filed 51 individual actions against banks challenging the legitimacy of foreclosures, at least 15 of which originated on Hawaii Island. Bickerton’s firm is also behind seven class action suits naming Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank as defendants.
The class action suits don’t directly involve title insurers, Bickerton said, as his clients in those cases are simply seeking damages against the banks.
The individual actions do involve title companies because the current owners of the properties are also named in the lawsuits, as the plaintiffs are asking for the return of their former properties.
Bickerton said that Fidelity National Title Insurance Company and First American Title Company Inc. are the most commonly named title institutions in his clients’ lawsuits.
He explained that title insurers haven’t done anything expressly wrong, but asserted the banks had no legal right to sell the foreclosed properties and title companies were an integral part of those sale processes.
Steve Gottheim, senior counsel for the American Land Title Association, explained Bickerton’s approach from a title company’s point of view.
“Plaintiffs’ attorneys try to basically name everybody they can possibly think of that has ever been connected to the mortgage in some way,” Gottheim said of lawsuits like those being headed by Bickerton’s firm. “The tactic from those attorneys is to name everyone and every company they can think of, make it as painful as possible, and see if any or all of them are willing to come to the table and pay the client(s) something to go away.”
How homeowners can be hurt at foreclosure auctions
The grounds for Bickerton’s filings are that lenders performed non-judicial foreclosures improperly, a claim that can be made for several reasons.
The most prominent reason, present in almost all 58 of Bickerton’s cases, is that lawyers enlisted by banks to handle foreclosures didn’t provide proper notice of the date and time of auctions.
When Bickerton’s clients granted power of sale to lenders in the initial contracts, the mortgages specified that if lenders reclaimed the properties by way of foreclosure, they were required to publish the date and time of auctions in general circulation news outlets in the counties where the auctions were to be held.
Bickerton said lawyers would regularly put up the initial notice, then postpone the auction and never republish the specific details.
He added a typical example involved an auction being slated for December. Then, at the auction, the bank’s lawyer announced the proceedings would be postponed until a later date but never published a circulated notice containing the new, pertinent information.
Bickerton said he is working on multiple cases where auctions were continued in that fashion as many as 12 or 13 times. He and his clients want to know why.
“The banks may have had other reasons, but it looks like it’s a possibility they were doing it to reduce the amount of buyer interest to (acquire the properties) for themselves,” Bickerton said. “You can see the temptation for the mortgagee to under-publicize a sale. They don’t have to let someone else get it if it’s a deal. Instead of selling it at a fire sale auction price, they can retail it and extract more value.”
Osgood explained that banks are allowed a credit up to the face value of what is still owed on the mortgage, plus penalties and interest for non-payment. That typically allows banks a credit large enough to claim the property at auction, particularly if they’re only bidding against themselves with what Osgood characterized as “monopoly money.”
This can create a problem for borrowers who defaulted because it tends to drive auction prices down. In judicial foreclosures, those which are overseen by a court of law, lenders can often seek a deficiency judgment if the amount the property sells for is less than the amount the bank is owed.
At first glance, that wouldn’t appear an issue for a non-judicial foreclosure, because generally the security, or the reclaimed property itself, satisfies the debt. Plus, there’s no legal entity to render a deficiency judgment because there was no court presiding over the process.
Even in such cases where there were no monetary consequences for a borrower due to an unfairly low auction price, the foreclosure may still be voided simply because proper protocol wasn’t observed, creating grounds for a lawsuit.
But Bickerton explained there tend to be actual monetary damages for many of his clients despite going through non-judicial foreclosures because they took out second mortgages on properties the initial lenders later reclaimed.
“I’ve got a lot of clients where the second mortgagee went after them for the deficiency because that lender is not getting paid,” Bickerton said. “The first bank is the only one that bid on the property because the auction date was not publicized. The bank bid what it was owed, acquired the property, and then the second bank says, ‘What about me?’ The junior bank then turns around and goes after borrower. They are allowed to do that because the debt hasn’t been paid.”
Bickerton said the notion that auctioneers must publish postponements as well as initial auction details is being challenged currently in the Hawaii Supreme Court based on a case argued last year. The seven class action lawsuits his firm has filed are on hold until that ruling is handed down.
More potential pitfalls
But there remain other methods lenders used that Bickerton claims didn’t fit the specifications outlined in both Hawaii law and the specific mortgages, so all individual actions his firm is handling are moving forward.
One such issue is providing sufficient notice of a foreclosure and the subsequent proceedings. The law states a physical notice must be posted on the property at least three weeks before its sale, and the language of the mortgage may require more notice and in a different form.
Bickerton mentioned one case on Hawaii Island he recently took up in which the final public notice was published on Nov. 2 for a Nov. 3 auction. Final publication notice is supposed to be published at least two weeks prior to the date of auction.
The physical notification of the borrower, which was supposed to be posted on the property three weeks prior to any auction, wasn’t posted there until Nov. 10, a week after the auction had concluded.
“That’s quite common, that sort of sloppiness,” Bickerton said. “Banks just treated people very, very poorly, not really recognizing that these are contractual powers that people have granted them that they have to honor. Banks need to step up and solve this problem they created.”
Another potential issue can be holding an auction for a property in a separate county from the one in which the property is located, because this can also produce the effect of driving down the price at auction.
Business strategy for the title companies
The alleged missteps of lenders during non-judicial foreclosures and the resulting lawsuits have combined to create hesitance on the part of title insurance companies to insure the resale of properties that have been through the process.
First and foremost, it’s a financial risk. Title insurers not only pay out claims if a title is successfully challenged by a former title holder, but also pay to represent the current title holder in legal proceedings.
“In title insurance, about 80 percent of your dollar is spent upfront so the title company can review the title, understand what some of the risks are and try to fix those risks before you even buy the property,” Gottheim, senior counsel for the American Land Title Association, said. “So only a smaller portion of the dollar is really available to cover claims.
“When you have the increased potential risk of somebody coming back and challenging the ownership of the home because of a foreclosure that there wasn’t a good view into, it can create some challenges on the pricing dynamic and the economics of that policy.”
Gottheim explained the better the title insurer’s understanding of the foreclosure process, the more effectively it will be able to represent a policy holder in any potential legal challenges.
Acquiring a good view into a foreclosure proceeding can be riskier and more difficult to accomplish if the process wasn’t overseen by the courts.
People who challenge title based on improper foreclosure proceedings rarely win their properties back, Gottheim said. But even if the title company never has to pay out a claim, just the process of defending title in court can be pricey.
“The easier it is for a title company to know what happened in that foreclosure, the easier it is to get lawsuit kicked out early at a lower cost,” Gottheim said. “The less we know about that process, the more expensive it becomes.”
The result of these risks, as Triantos explained, has been title companies making the business decision over the last year not to insure such properties — or not to do so at more than the value of the policies currently held, which may be substantially less than the properties would command on the open market.
But such practices may have existed even before the last year. While going through a purchase process for a condo at Kona Bali Kai six years ago, Lynn Noffsinger noticed something curious in the fine print on his First American title insurance policy. His agent at the time, Osgood, negotiated its removal from the contract.
“He was reviewing title policy offered to him during escrow. In the exclusions section, the company listed a foreclosure as an exclusion,” Osgood said. “It was in about eight-point type in the generic template part of the title policy. His diligence is how we discovered it.”
Marcus Ginnaty, media relations manager for First American, said his company “evaluates non-judicial foreclosures on a case-by-case basis in order to consider the unique circumstances of each foreclosure when considering whether or not to offer a title insurance policy.”
Fidelity representatives did not return a request for comment on their current title policies in regards to properties that have been subject to non-judicial foreclosures.
As for those who hold title to properties that have been through non-judicial foreclosures, and who wish to alleviate themselves of potential litigation as well as the anxiety surrounding whether their title may one day be contested, Gottheim explained they are simply in a tough spot with limited recourse.
“It can become a challenge. There’s not a lot of good options for them at that point,” he said. “If they’re not able to get title insurance up to the amount that would cover (the property’s) worth, a lot of times what becomes difficult is thinking about their next steps.”
Emails reveal judge coached district attorney on prosecuting Fannin Focus publisher
Document: Weaver emails
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. — A judge coached a prosecutor to arrest a local reporter, emails show.
Communications obtained through an open records request reveal Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver gave District Attorney Alison Sosebee advice about prosecuting the publisher of the Fannin Focus newspaper, as well as his lawyer.
Weaver sent Sosebee a state code section that could be used against the publisher, Mark Thomason, and his attorney, Russell Stookey. Weaver also told Sosebee how to cross examine some potential witnesses in the case.
The advice came after Thomason tried to see the cash flow for Weaver’s publicly funded bank account. Sosebee presented a case to a grand jury, which on June 24 indicted Thomason and Stookey on charges of identity fraud and attempt to commit identity fraud for their efforts to access documents pretaining to Weaver’s operating account. The grand jury also indicted Thomason on a count of making false statements, in reference to a records request he filed.
The emails obtained this week provide a behind-the-scenes account of how the judge and prosecutor worked together in the case against Thomason and Stookey. They also reveal the nature of the relationship between Weaver and Sosebee, who once worked for the judge and her husband.
“For the DA to take this without much of an investigation and turn it into a criminal indictment is really disturbing,” said Bob Rubin, president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “It certainly gives the appearance that the DA was doing the judge’s bidding.”
Thomason’s indictment in late June drew national media attention. First amendment organizations condemned the charges, saying Sosebee overstepped her authority in punishing a reporter for a records request. On July 18, at Weaver’s request, a judge granted a motion to not prosecute the case.
Since then, Thomason has filed a complaint against Weaver with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the organization that oversees misconduct by Georgia judges. Weaver is the chairwoman of that organization. Also, multiple sources say, the FBI is investigating the circumstances surrounding Thomason’s and Stookey’s arrests.
Stookey and Thomason said they plan to file civil lawsuits against Weaver, as well as Fannin County.
“They’ve gotten away with doing this kind of crap for years there,” Stookey said. “There is nobody in that crowd that is smart. It is absolutely the dumbest crowd that I have seen. Maybe they’ll learn from this.”
Roots of the case
The cases against Stookey and Thomason began last summer, when they sued a court reporter. In April 2015, Superior Court Judge Roger Bradley used a racial slur for African Americans from the bench. Thomason wrote that others in the room that day claimed sheriff’s deputies had also used the racial slur, though that did not appear in the court reporter’s transcript.
Thomason and Stookey sued for an audio recording of the hearing. A judge ruled against them, saying that the transcript seemed consistent with an audio recording of the hearing that she heard. The court reporter, Rhonda Stubblefield, then sued Thomason’s newspaper, the Fannin Focus, for $1.6 million. She later dropped the complaint.
Then, the two sides fought about attorneys’ fees. Stookey and Thomason said Stubblefield’s lawyer admitted that Weaver paid for Stubblefield’s legal defense with taxpayer money. Stubblefield is not a county employee, making the lawsuit a private case.
On June 1, Thomason issued subpoenas for access to Weaver’s operating account, which is funded by taxpayers in Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties. On June 13, Thomason filed a records request for checks from Pickens County to Weaver’s account. He wrote in the request that he had reason to believe the checks had been cashed illegally.
That same day, emails show, Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones forwarded Thomason’s request to Weaver. Weaver then forwarded it to Sosebee, as well as a district attorney’s office investigator.
On June 17, Weaver emailed Jones and carbon copied Sosebee, multiple sheriffs, a GBI agent and commission chairmen for other counties. She said she had already requested a criminal investigation against Thomason for the records request he sent.
“The allegations that I or anyone in my office have ‘illegally cashed checks’ are absolutely false,” Weaver wrote.
The next day, she sent emails to Sosebee’s personal account. Around 10 a.m., she told Sosebee that the key to the criminal case is Thomason’s statement in the records request that the checks had been cashed illegally. She also told Sosebee to question Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss about giving copies of checks to Thomason — which Thomason then used to subpoena her operating account.
Weaver added: “Stookey needs to be questioned about how he got (a copy of) the check and his continued efforts to get more checks.”
Later that day, Weaver’s law clerk sent her an email with a state code section about the proper process for getting bank account information through a subpoena. The clerk told Weaver that the person issuing the subpoena needs to alert the owner of the bank account.
Weaver forwarded the message to Sosebee, with a note: “Stookey was required to give me notice and did not.”
Stookey denied this, telling the Times Free Press that he called Weaver’s assistant when the subpoenas had been issued. He said he left a message and didn’t hear back from Weaver.
“I find it amazing that Judge Weaver has the audacity to use her judicial authority to direct her constituents how she wants things done,” Thomason said upon learning about the emails.
Sosebee and Weaver did not return calls or emails seeking comment for this story. The two have been close for years. In 2001, after she graduated from law school, Sosebee worked as Weaver’s law clerk. A year later, she began to practice law with Weaver’s husband, George Weaver. She ran for district attorney in 2012, and George Weaver donated $1,000 to her campaign.
“She’s clearly influencing the district attorney,” Stookey said of Brenda Weaver.
In one email, Brenda Weaver wrote that she had been in contact with a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent about Thomason and Stookey’s requests for bank account information. But on Wednesday, GBI Director of Public Affairs Scott Dutton said his office declined to look into the case because FBI agents are already investigating “the entire situation.”
Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2016/aug/04/emails-reveal-close-relationship-between-judg/379467/
Al Butts and his wife thought they were becoming homeowners when, in 2011, they moved into their Decatur, Ga., residence.
“It sounded too good to be true, because it was such an achievement for me,” Butts said. “They said, ‘This is your house.’ ”
The too-good-to-be-true part could be right.
The Butts didn’t have a mortgage loan on the home but rather something called a “land contract,” a little-known form of lending marketed to people who can’t get regular financing.
People with a land contract put money down, make regular payments plus interest, and pay taxes and insurance. If they make payments all the way to the end of the contract, they will own the home. If they don’t they can be evicted and lose everything they put into it.
That’s what could happen to Butts and his wife, who this summer got an eviction threat after some late payments.
“It’s a 30-year contract. You could make payments every month and lose it in year 29,” said Kristin Tullos of Decatur Legal Aid, which is representing the couple as they try to stay in the home.
Georgia, like most states, does not regulate land contracts, which are also known as “contract for deed.” Critics generally do not argue that they are illegal. But they say companies offering them target credit-starved, minority neighborhoods and deceive consumers. The deals typically carry interest rates well above those for mortgages.
Fueled by housing crisis
The practice was fueled by the housing crisis, which put millions of homes on the market at huge discounts while also savaging consumers’ credit ratings.
No one has recent numbers, but 3.5 million people bought a home through a land contract in 2009, according to the U.S. Census. “Evidence suggests that land contracts are making a resurgence in the wake of the foreclosure crisis,” a recent report from the National Consumer Law Center said.
Equity firms and real estate companies bought thousands of depressed properties as investments, renting them until the market made a resale lucrative.
A small group of companies have added “contract for deed” deals as a profitable variation aimed at minorities, according to the group’s report.
Dallas-based Harbour Portfolio Advisors — the name on the Butts’ deed — is one of the largest with an estimated 6,700 properties in five states.
Calls from the AJC to Harbour over the past several weeks were not returned, but earlier this year, a lawyer for Harbour told the New York Times that the company’s business model is “to purchase unproductive residential properties and sell them to other people who will make them productive again.”
Local attorneys say there’s no indication Harbour set out to exploit minorities. But in choosing low-income, foreclosure-afflicted areas and appealing to people who cannot get traditional mortgages, Harbour ends up with a clientele that is largely black.
In metro Atlanta, Harbour had 94 properties, in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton and Rockdale counties, the report said. “The common theme is that land contracts were being sold predominantly to borrowers of color.”
Shut out of mortgages
From the 1930s to 1950s, when blacks were shut out of many mortgage programs, land contracts were often the most common form of home-buying. But the contracts did not fulfill their promise then — and still don’t, the Law Center report concluded.
“Then, as now, homeownership through these deals was often a mirage, and buyers lost their homes, their down payments, their sweat equity, and the money they paid for repairs, maintenance, insurance, and interest,” the report said.
For depressed areas, the impact is not all bad — it puts people into houses that might otherwise be vacant, said Deirdre Oakley, sociology professor and housing expert at Georgia State University.
But for people who aspire to own a home, it isn’t a good deal due to the risk and interest charged, she said.
A big motive for buying a home is to build equity — to gain wealth as the property value rises. With a contract for deed, the consumer only gains if he or she completes the full payment schedule and becomes the owner.
“They are basically like renters but also paying interest and insurance and taxes and paying for repairs,” Oakley said. “You are giving them a chance to own a home, but you are not giving them much of a chance.”
For the deal to be at all fair, customers need to know exactly what they are getting into, said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, a national real estate research firm.
“They target people who are less informed. They are often taken advantage of,” she said.
Al Butts doesn’t claim to be blameless, but he feels misled.
‘Flim-flam from the git-go’
“I told them right up front I was on a fixed income, and I have made up every payment I’ve been late on,” he said. “The way I think of it, it was a flim-flam from the git-go. It was like we were their cash-cow.”
Irene Cole and her husband thought they were buying an East Point home from Harbour in 2013 for $49,000. They put $1,500 down, agreed to a 9.9 interest rate on the rest and started paying $605.92 a month.
“We were told that the house was ours,” Cole said.
Their land contract was sold, however, and they dealt with a series of other companies. They had a disagreement with one about which bank account the company was taking money from — when it came from the wrong account, there wasn’t enough money.
Later, they missed some payments but say they weren’t sure who to send a check to.
Now, they’ve received notice that their house is scheduled for a foreclosure hearing. They are working with attorneys at Legal Aid to fight the foreclosure.
They first sought to refinance through Home Safe Georgia, a state program aimed at helping people avoid foreclosure.
“But when we went to Home Safe Georgia,” Cole said, “they said we can’t help you because you don’t own the property.”
© 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency
The Supreme Court is allowing the different States to pass and uphold gun ban laws.
Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to Connecticut, New York weapons ban
Washington Post Report
The Supreme Court declined Monday to review bans on a lengthy list of firearms that New York and Connecticut have classified as “assault weapons,” the latest example of the justices turning down an opportunity to elaborate on an individual’s right to gun ownership.
With an emotional debate about gun control reigniting across the street at the Capitol, the justices without comment said they would not review lower-court decisions upholding the laws.
Connecticut’s ban was expanded shortly after a gunman used one of the military-style semiautomatic weapons on the list to kill 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012.
The decision Monday was not a surprise, as the justices have previously declined to review other lower-court decisions that uphold bans passed by cities and states. Maryland, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New, Jersey as well as many cities and towns, have similar laws. None of the legal challenges to them have been successful in lower courts.
These prohibitions were enacted after a federal ban expired in 2004. Attempts to revive the federal ban have failed, although advocates are trying in the wake of the massacre at an Orlando nightclub that left 49 victims dead.
Trump Names 11 SCOTUS Picks, Bypassing Big Law
The Republican presidential contender identifies 11 state and federal judges, but no litigators.
Marcia Coyle, The National Law Journal
May 18, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures while speaking to the press in New York City, after his five-state super Tuesday win. April 27 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures while speaking to the press in New York City, after his five-state super Tuesday win. April 27 2016.
Presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump’s list for potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees is heavy on federal appellate judges and former clerks for conservative justices and light on big names in politics and private practice.
Trump’s list of 11 potential nominees doesn’t include several conservative judges who have been on Supreme Court watch lists in the past, including U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Janice Rogers Brown, Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton and Fifth Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen.
Trump’s list, released Wednesday, doesn’t include any nonjudges. Other names floated in the past as possible nominees for a future Republican president included former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, now a partner at Bancroft, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Also not on the list: Trump’s sister, Third Circuit Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, although that was no surprise. Trump has praised his sister as “brilliant,” but said he wouldn’t consider nominating her to the Supreme Court because of the conflict of interest. He’s also said that the two share “different views.”
Related: Texas’ Most Prolific Judicial Tweeter Makes Trump’s Shortlist
Trump’s list drew praise and criticism depending on where the commentator sits on the political spectrum.
“The [Supreme] Court needs more justices who will base their decisions on the law, not politics, even under pressure, especially since the next president is likely to determine the direction of the court for a generation,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, said.
“It is also heartening to see so many Midwesterners and state court judges on the list—they would bring a valuable perspective to the bench, particularly since they have already served on a court of last resort in their own states,” she added.
Miranda Blue of People for the American Way noted: “It looks like Trump has, true to his promise, picked potential justices who would advance the conservative efforts to skew the federal courts far to the right.”
Senate Judiciary chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in statement, “Mr. Trump has laid out an impressive list of highly qualified jurists, including Judge Colloton from Iowa, who understand and respect the fundamental principle that the role of the courts is limited and subject to the Constitution and the rule of law.”
So who made the list?
Judge Steven Colloton, 53, joined the Eighth Circuit in 2003. Colloton is a former clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He was appointed by President George W. Bush. He previously served with independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
Before joining the appellate court, Colloton was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.
Colorado Supreme Court justice Allison Eid is a former Clarence Thomas clerk. She took her seat on the state high court in 2006, leaving her position on the faculty of the University of Colorado Law School, where she taught constitutional law, legislation, the law of politics, first-year torts and advanced torts.
Before teaching, she also practiced commercial and appellate litigation in the Denver office of Arnold & Porter.
Judge Thomas Hardiman, 50, who joined the Third Circuit in 2007 just 3 1/2 years after taking his seat as a district court judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Hardiman’s ruling that a jail policy of strip searching all arrestees does not violate the Fourth Amendment was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012. In 2013, he dissented from his court’s decision upholding under the Second Amendment New Jersey’s law requiring applicants for licenses to carry handguns in public to show “justifiable need.”
“Those who drafted and ratified the Second Amendment were undoubtedly aware that the right they were establishing carried a risk of misuse, and States have considerable latitude to regulate the exercise of the right in ways that will minimize that risk,” he wrote in Drake v. Filko. “But States may not seek to reduce the danger by curtailing the right itself.”
Related: Third Circuit Judge Among Trump’s Supreme Court Picks
And he also dissented in a 2013 decision holding that a public school violated the First Amendment by banning students from wearing bracelets inscribed with “I [love] boobies” sold by a breast cancer awareness group.
Judge Raymond Gruender, 52, became U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri in 2001 and served in that position until his confirmation to the Eighth Circuit in 2004.
Gruender has written opinions holding that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 did not give female employees the right to insurance coverage for contraceptives used solely to prevent pregnancy.
He dissented from a panel ruling that upheld an injunction striking down a South Dakota law requiring abortion providers to inform patients that an “abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” When the case was heard en banc, Gruender, writing for the full court, upheld the law as constitutional on its face.
Judge Raymond Kethledge, 49, sits on the Sixth Circuit and is a former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy. He joined the appellate court in 2008 after practicing law as a corporate attorney and former counsel to Ford Motor Co.
Trump’s list also names a number of state supreme court judges.
Joan Larsen was named to the Michigan Supreme Court by Gov. Rick Snyder in September 2015. Larsen is a former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. She worked in the George W. Bush Department of Justice in 2002-2003 and then joined the University of Michigan School of Law as an adjunct professor and special counsel to the dean.
When appointed to the state court, Larsen said she would be a “strict constructionist,” explaining, “I believe in enforcing the laws as written by the Legislature and signed by the governor. I don’t think judges are a policy-making branch of the government.”
In March, at a memorial for Scalia, Larsen recalled Scalia as a “fundamentally happy man” who would sing in his chambers and whistle in the corridors of the court. Larsen remembered one time when she made a mistake citing Webster’s Third New International Dictionary in a draft opinion.
Scalia, a critic of that tome, called her out. Larsen said she had used that edition because it was in the justice’s front office. Scalia said the dictionary had been put there as a “trap laid for the unwary.”
Trump also named a judge with a well-known pedigree in Washington legal circles. Thomas Rex Lee, son of former Solicitor General Rex Lee, joined the Utah Supreme Court in July 2010.
Lee is a former Clarence Thomas clerk who specialized in trademark litigation when in private practice. He served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Division of the U.S. Justice Department from 2004 to 2005.
Lee has been called a pioneer in “corpus linguistics” to determine ordinary meaning and has applied that in an opinion. He also has argued in the U.S. Supreme Court, representing Utah in Utah v. Evans, a 2002 challenge by the state to the Census Bureau’s use of “hot-deck” imputation, a statistical method.
Judge William Pryor of Alabama joined the Eleventh Circuit in 2004 despite considerable controversy over his nomination. He was criticized by Senate Democrats in the 108th Congress who called him an extremist for such statements as referring to the Supreme Court as “nine octogenarian lawyers” and saying that Roe v. Wade was the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”
President George W. Bush installed Pryor using a recess appointment to bypass the regular Senate confirmation process. He received Senate confirmation on May 23, 2005, after Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, announced an agreement between seven Republican and seven Democratic U.S. senators, the so-called Gang of 14, to ensure an up-or-down vote on Pryor and other nominees.
On the bench, Pryor specially concurred in an unanimous panel decision enjoining the secretary of Health and Human Services from enforcing the contraception insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act against Catholic television network EWTN. That case was one of the petitions pending in the high court until the justices ruling Monday in Zubik v. Burwell.
In 2009, Pryor led a unanimous panel upholding Georgia’s photo ID law as a voting requirement.
Another former Clarence Thomas clerk on the list is Minnesota Supreme Court associate justice David Stras, 41. Stras joined that court in 2010. He taught at the University of Minnesota Law School for six years prior to his appointment.
Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Sykes, 58, of Wisconsin, is well-known in conservative circles and has been called by some liberal groups as the most conservative judge on Trump’s list. She is a former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Her more recent opinions include supporting a voter ID law and expanding the ability of religious objectors to limit their employees’ access to contraceptive insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She also wrote an opinion in 2011 holding that the Second Amendment prohibited Chicago’s ban on firing ranges
Sykes spoke about her clerk-hiring practices at a conference in Milwaukee in 2014. “I don’t want to be fighting with someone all year,” Sykes said about hiring a clerk whose views are different than hers. “I don’t only hire Federalist Society members” as clerks, she said, but there has to be “some general philosophical fit.”
Another state supreme court justice is well-known to the Twitter community and someone who has actually criticized Donald Trump. Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, 49, worked on the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and transition team. In the White House, Willett served as special assistant to the president and director of law and policy for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
In 2003, Willett returned to Texas to become state deputy attorney general for legal counsel in the office of newly elected Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, where he served until he was appointed to the state high civil court in 2005.
Circuit judges’ financial disclosure forms
We’ve compiled below some of the recent financial disclosure forms of judges on Trump’s shortlist:
Steven Colloton of Iowa: 2014 and 2015
Raymond Gruender of Missouri: 2014 and 2015
Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania: 2014 and 2015
Raymond Kethledge of Michigan: 2014 and 2015
William Pryor of Alabama: 2014 and 2015
Diane Sykes of Wisconsin: 2014 and 2015
Zoe Tillman contributed to this report.
I have come to realize the extent of the judicial corruption permeating this country’s court system. It is not only in Georgia, Georgia is just worse than most other states. It is all over the whole country. It was bad enough prior to foreclosure hell, but has escalated during foreclosure hell began.
While neighborhoods are full of empty, and boarded up houses, the news media has come to largely ignore the fact that foreclosures have not really subsided and by no means have foreclosures gone away, it has become an acceptable fact of life. Nevertheless, corruption with the court systems has continued to grow. One of the major things that fed that corruption, after extreme all out greed, was the foreclosures. It became a feeding frenzy. There have been so many investigations about the housing bubble burst, and the fall of the economy, that the internet is chocked with the investigations. Not one of those investigations spoke of one of the most incredible truths…The way the courts handled the foreclosures.
A few websites talked about the problem with the courts, but not one state or federal investigation told one of the major problems. Some of the stories are mind boggling! Bank of America was said to have foreclosed on a borrower who had paid their loan off, because the payoff had been $1.00 short. The court allowed it to happen. People whose homes had been paid off for years, foreclosed upon, when they owed no one a dime on the home. The courts still allowed it to happen. Not all of the paid off homes, but even one, was too many.
The next thing that fed the judicial corruption, was the fact that the attorneys who had been representing the banks and who had moved on to other types of clients, were not told they could not continue they way they had in the foreclosure cases. All of the lies, the falsification of real property documents, forgeries, creation of non-existing real property records and loan documents. All of the nasty, low down things that those attorneys had been allowed to get away with in foreclosure hell, has spilled over to contaminate every kind of lawsuit in the courts. No one had told those attorneys that they could only break the law for free when it came to foreclosures. No one told those attorneys that they are expected to go back to pretending to follow the law, or making things look like they were on the up and up.
The courts, having allowed the attorneys to break the law without fear, and the judges that rubber stamped the lawsuits, granting every suit in favor of the banks, have caused justice to be hidden in every kind of lawsuit in the courts. It was too easy. Hell, lets face it, Supreme Court of Georgia began creating and making law. The Georgia General Assembly did not make the laws, the Supreme Court did it for them, and the laws the Surpreme Court created, were in favor of the banks.
Apparently, the Supreme Court was so against a borrower ending up with a free house (or an affordable loan, which is what most of the borrowers sought), the appellate courts made rulings that have become precential case law, when the court was following no laws at all. No, we could not have a borrower, who had bent over backwards attempting to make their payments to banks who were refusing the payments, causing loan defaults, end up in the end with a loan that they could actually pay for. None of those loans were ever meant to be paid for 30 years, and ending with the satisfaction of the debt. The loans were meant to default within the first 5 years. Rather than follow either real esatate law, or contract law, which either one would have halted the illegal acts of the banks and their attorneys, the Courts twisted the laws. When the laws could be twisted no further, the Courts made new laws.
In the meantime, the case law from these twisted and the court created laws became precential. The more cases, that were based on these illegally created laws, went into the court’s records, the more case law was twisted and convulated, to the point, where the laws are unrecognizable. Now, every wrongful foreclosure case that has to go into the courts, has to fight against the case law that came from years and years of bad and illegal rulings that have become precedential.
It is like the dominos effect, and there is no turning back from it. To be right there, fighting with people and attorneys throughout foreclosure hell, enlightened me. I watched as the corrupt courts, went on to become so corrupt, that they literally changed what laws stated, and created laws to make it easier for foreclosures to take place. Not once did even one judge, try to stop what was happening. The only honest judge in Georgia was when Amy Totenberg became a Judge at The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. She went against all of the bad rulings. She fought like gangbusters against the case law the opposing attorneys were using against the borrowers. I am not sure, but it looks like that she too has fallen into the same old grind. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them.
The contamination of every kind of lawsuit within the courts, has made justice impossible for everyone, except those who have enough money to buy the attorneys and the courts. It is a sad day in this country.
After all almost One Hundred years ago, in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 48 S. Ct. 564, 72 L. Ed. 944 (1928), decided June 4, 1928. A case in which Mr. Justice Brandeis, Mr. Justice Holmes, Mr. Justice Butler, and Mr. Justice Stone dissented.
‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.’
‘No person * * * shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.’
The well-known historical purpose of the Fourth Amendment, directed against general warrants and writs of assistance, was to prevent the use of governmental force to search a man’s house, his person, his papers, and his effects, and to prevent their seizure against his will. This phase of the misuse of governmental power of compulsion is the emphasis of the opinion of the court in the Boyd Case. This appears, too, in the Weeks Case, in the Silverthorne Case, and in the Amos Case.
‘The Fourth Amendment is to be construed in the light of what was deemed an unreasonable search and seizure when it was adopted, and in a manner which will conserve public interests, as well as the interest and rights of individual citizens.’
‘Every person * * * who shall intercept, read or in any manner interrupt or delay the sending of a message over any telegraph or telephone line * * * shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.’
Mr. Justice BRANDEIS (dissenting):
‘We must never forget,’ said Mr. Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 407 4 L. Ed. 579, ‘that it is a Constitution we are expounding.’ Since then this court has repeatedly sustained the exercise of power by Congress, under various clauses of that instrument, over objects of which the fathers could not have dreamed. See Pensacola Telegraph Co. v. Western Union Telegraph Co., 96 U. S. 1, 9, 24 L. Ed. 708; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. North Dakota, 250 U. S. 135, 39 S. Ct. 502, 63 L. Ed. 897; Dakota Central Telephone Co. v. South Dakota, 250 U. S. 163, 39 S. Ct. 507, 63 L. Ed. 910, 4 A. L. R. 1623; Brooks v. United States, 267 U. S. 432, 45 S. Ct. 345, 69 L. Ed. 699, 37 A. L. R. 1407. We have likewise held that general limitations on the powers of government, like those embodied in the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, do not forbid the United States or the states from meeting modern conditions by regulations which ‘a century ago, or even half a century ago, probably would have been rejected as arbitrary and oppressive.’ Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U. S. 365, 387, 47 S. Ct. 114, 118 (71 L. Ed. 303); Buck v. Bell, 274 U. S. 200, 47 S. Ct. 584, 71 L. 1000. Clauses guaranteeing to the individual protection against specific abuses of power, must have a similar capacity of adaptation to a changing world. It was with reference to such a clause that this court said in Weems v. United States, 217 U. S. 349, 373, 30 S. Ct. 544, 551 (54 L. Ed. 793, 19 Ann. Cas. 705):
‘No person * * * shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.’
‘Here we are concerned with neither eavesdroppers nor thieves. Nor are we concerned with the acts of private individuals. * * * We are concerned only with the acts of federal agents, whose powers are limited and controlled by the Constitution of the United States.’
Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means-to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal-would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.
For those who agree with me no distinction can be taken between the government as prosecutor and the government as judge. If the existing code does not permit district attorenys to have a hand in such dirty business it does not permit the judge to allow such iniquities to succeed. See Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U. S. 385, 40 S. Ct. 182, 64 L. Ed. 319, 24 A. L. R. 1426. And if all that I have said so far be accepted it makes no difference that in this case wire tapping is made a crime by the law of the state, not by the law of the United States. It is true that a state cannot make rules of evidence for courts of the United States, but the state has authority over the conduct in question, and I hardly think that the United States would appear to greater advantage when paying for an odious crime against state law than when inciting to the disregard of its own. I am aware of the often-repeated statement that in a criminal proceeding the court will not take notice of the manner in which papers offered in evidence have been obtained. But that somewhat rudimentary mode of disposing of the question has been overthrown by Weeks v. United States, 232 U. S. 383, 34 S. Ct. 341, 58 L. Ed. 652, L. R. A. 1915B, 834, Ann. Cas. 1915C, 1177, and the cases that have followed it. I have said that we are free to choose between two principles of policy. But if we are to confine ourselves to precedent and logic the reason for excluding evidence obtained by violating the Constitution seems to me logically to lead to excluding evidence obtained by a crime of the officers of the law.
(Photo Courtesy of Southern Co.)
Nuclear Reactor Approved in U.S. for First Time Since 1978
But no nuclear renaissance appears to be imminent, despite the go-ahead to build and operate two new reactors in Georgia
By David Biello on February 9, 2012 73
Years of shifting and smoothing Georgia red clay paid off today, as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted to allow construction of two new nuclear reactors (pdf) at the Plant Vogtle nuclear power station near Augusta. Atlanta–based utility giant Southern Co. will soon have permission to complete construction and operate two AP1000 type nuclear reactors designed by Westinghouse.
But what were initially lauded as the first reactors of a nuclear renaissance when proposed are more likely to be the exceptions that prove the rule of no new nuclear construction in the U.S. Only this twin set of reactors in Georgia, another pair in South Carolina and the completion of an old reactor in Tennessee are likely to be built in the U.S. for at least the next decade. “We won’t build large numbers of new nuclear plants in the U.S. in the near term,” says Marvin Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group for the nuclear industry.
The problem is twofold: electricity demand in the U.S. is not growing and natural gas, which can be burned to generate electricity, is cheap. As a result, utilities are building more natural gas–burning turbines rather than more expensive nuclear power plants.
“Today, you ought to build gas,” Fertel admits. But “you don’t want to build only gas.”
That may become even truer as old coal-fired power plants are forced to retire by new pollution rules and/or natural gas prices rebound. Given the long lead times required to gain permits and actually build a nuclear power plant, however, five new reactors may be as many as the U.S. will see erected during this decade. “If they are built, I suspect all of them are post-2020,” says Fertel of other reactor applications awaiting NRC review.
In fact, the only reason utilities in Georgia and South Carolina are building the new reactors is because the governments in those states have allowed them to pre-charge customers for their cost. Southern Co. is already charging customers $3.73 per month for the reactors’ construction, expected to cost roughly $14 billion, and may receive a more than $8-billion loan guarantee from the federal government. In the absence of a national government policy that puts a premium on electricity generation that results in fewer emissions of greenhouse gases, there is little incentive to build nuclear power plants in the U.S. “If we get back to the carbon discussion, that will have an effect on new plants that are built,” argues Bill Johnson, CEO of Progress Energy, one of the utilities filing for a construction license but with no plans to actually build a nuclear power plant in the near future. “Nuclear can’t compete today.
Other than the Watts Bar unit No. 2 in Tennessee, which will simply be the completion of a reactor that started construction in the 1970s, the four new plants will all employ a novel design—the AP1000. They will be the first to employ so-called passive safety features, or technology that kicks in with or without human intervention. In the case of the AP1000 that means cooling water sits above the reactor core and, in the event of a meltdown like the ones at Fukushima Daiichi, will flow via gravity into the core to cool it with the automatic opening of a heat-sensitive valve.
Furthermore, although the thick steel vessel containing the nuclear reactor is encased in a shell of 1.2-meter-thick concrete, that shell is itself surrounded by a building that is open to the sky. Should the concrete containment vessel begin to heat up during a meltdown, natural convection would pull cooling air inside.
The NRC initially rejected that open-air building for a lack of structural strength. The U.S. regulator argued that it would not withstand a severe shock such as an earthquake or airplane impact because it was initially planned to be built from prefabricated concrete and steel modules to save money.
The NRC approved a modified design (pdf) in December that employs more steel reinforcement, among other changes. Nevertheless, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko voted against approving the license for the two reactors at Vogtle today unless they incorporated a “binding obligation that these plants will have implemented the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident before they operate.” The commission also required more inspection and testing of the explosive-opened valves that would allow venting in case of an accident.
Already, the Shaw Group facility in Lake Charles, La., a nuclear equipment supplier, has begun churning out gear for the new nuclear power plants. A “mini skyscraper,” in the words of Westinghouse CEO Aris Candris, has been built at Vogtle to allow for final assembly of the modules that will reach the site by truck or rail. “Both sites are as ready as you can be,” he adds. “Rebar is sitting outside the hole ready to go.”
A global revival of interest in nuclear power technology remains underway, despite the April 2011 meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. China is already building four AP1000s and more than 20 other reactors currently—and many other countries are considering new plant construction, from the Czech Republic to India.
But in the U.S., even just to maintain the current fleet of 104 reactors, which provide 20 percent of the nation’s electricity supply, would require building as many replacement reactors by 2030. In fact, nuclear power production may shrink in the U.S. before it grows. Aging reactors, even with life extensions of another two decades, will begin to drop off the grid in coming years. “Twenty years is the blink of an eye for 100 gigawatts. The time is now to begin to deploy new nuclear,” says David Christian, CEO of Virginia-based utility Dominion Generation, although his company has no plans to do so before the end of the decade. “We’re in danger of missing that window.”
The epitomy of stupidity and embaressment for Georgians who know better. Plus, we have to help pay for it. They call it investment! I don’t invest in my own death. How fucking stupid are these people? Every nuke plant in this country is failing, or will soon be. The life has expired, and all ours’ with it. Mankind will be extinct.