Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Judge Kuhl Orders County to Speed Up Recording
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Conny B. McCormack must comply with a statute requiring that reconveyances of deeds of trust be recorded within two business days of their receipt, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl has ruled.
The ruling is likely to aid in “breaking the title companies’ monoply” on up-to-date title information, plaintiff’s attorney Donald W. Ricketts said Friday.
In a Feb. 8 ruling, Kuhl granted a summary judgment and writ of mandate sought by Ricketts’ wife, who sued the county recorder for allegedly failing to stamp and record reconveyances within the statutory time limit.
The writ of mandate compelling adherence to the time requirement was stayed until March 7, by which date the parties must submit either joint or separate plans for the county’s compliance with the writ.
Kuhl’s ruling stems from a July 2004 suit in which Ricketts, of Santa Clarita, alleged McCormack was not carrying out her duties in a timely manner as required by Civil Code Sec. 2491(c).
Sec. 2491(c) requires the recorder to stamp and record a reconveyance or certificate of discharge within two business days from the day she receives them, provided they are in recordable form and accompanied with the required fees.
Donald Ricketts said his wife’s concern over the issue was due to her discovery that a reconveyed deed of trust to which she was entitled after paying off her debt was not recorded in a timely fashion. The recorder’s Sec. 2491(c) violation came to light during the course of another lawsuit filed by his wife against Washington Mutual Bank in October 2003, he explained to the MetNews.
That action—one of numerous similar suits that were coordinated as the Reconveyance Recording Cases, Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding No. 4411—charged Washington Mutual with filing reconveyances tardily in violation Sec. 2491(c). While reviewing Sec. 2491(c), the plaintiff’s attorneys came to realize that the county recorder was also noncompliant with the portion of the statute pertaining to its reconveyance recording duties, Ricketts said, adding he did not represent his wife in that suit.
In her suit to compel the recorder’s compliance with Sec. 2491(c), Deborah Ricketts brought a summary judgment motion supported by evidence that reconveyances she tracked were not recorded in time.
Granting the motion, Kuhl noted in her written ruling:
“Defendants do not dispute that the reconveyances tracked by Plaintiff were not stamped, indexed, and made publicly available within the two-day deadline articulated in Section 2941(c).”
The Office of County Counsel declined to comment on the ruling.
Donald Ricketts said Kuhl’s decision is a first step in ensuring the timeliness of recordings, an “extremely important” issue.
“The whole point of the recorder’s office is to help someone buying property understand what the state of the title is on the property at that moment, and without anybody being able to get a reading on what the state of title is, no one could safely convey or buy property,” he said, noting that the timeliness problem persists with regard to all types of documents, not just reconveyances.
Currently, he said, the county recorder’s office permits one title company, Property Insight, to come in at the end of each business day and copy everything that has been submitted over the counter or by mail that day. The documents are indexed overnight and sent to title insurance companies so that they can issue title reports—for very high fees—by the opening of business the next morning, he said.
“If you could do it from the county records as you’re supposed to do it, then the title companies would not have a monopoly on timely information, and other companies could come in and do title searches and compete with the title companies for the information,” he asserted. “Even though this is not very sexy stuff, it is significant.”
One week after Kuhl’s ruling, various other plaintiffs—represented by Donald Ricketts—brought a class action against the county recorder seeking penalties pursuant to Sec. 2941(c), which assesses $500 for each violation. The plaintiffs seek $200 million in penalties for the nearly 400,000 reconveyances that were allegedly not filed on time within the past year, and about $16.6 million per month for continuing violations until the county complies with Sec. 2941(c).
That case is Conner v. McCormack, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC366355.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company