Foreclosures in Paradise: Will the Supreme Court Review Hawaii’s Flawed System?


Among the many state systems governing foreclosure in this country, Hawaii has particularly draconian — and nonjudicial — process. It’s based on a law that dates back to 1874, a statute that was a key mechanism used to take land away from native Hawaiians and whose history is riddled with fraud. Although Hawaiian law also allows for judicial foreclosures, the nonjudicial process — when no judge is involved in the proceeding — is much more commonly used.

But for those suffering under Hawaii’s foreclosure system, the question is: Can there be any relief?

Suzanne Bonds is a Hawaii resident who was unbelievably exploited by the state’s foreclosure process in 2004, but all her efforts to challenge what happened were rejected by Hawaii’s courts. Now, her attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Given the massive foreclosure tide swamping the nation, and the fact that the judiciary is regularly confronting fraud even in states where a judicial process is required for a lender to take a person’s home, a hard look at the fairness of systems in the less-protective nonjudicial foreclosure states is crucial.

Bonds’s petition was submitted on Jan. 22, 2011, and the other side has 30 days to file a brief urging the high court not to take the case. Gary Victor Dubin, Bonds’s lawyer, doesn’t expect the court to decide until late March whether or not it will take the case. If it does, a decision on the merits could be a year after that.

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