Arizona Housing Bubble - Sell Your House or Go To JailAs more and more homeowners are unable to sell their home, they’re beginning to face hard choices. Face foreclosure? Short sale? Completely abandon the home all together?

Well, in a sad twist, there’s now another option: Go To Jail.

I just got a call from my brother a few hours ago, from jail. My brother has never been in trouble before, so I was totally shocked when I got the automated collect call message. The reason he is jail is even more shocking- he failed to sell his house.

He just went through a nasty divorce which left him cash poor but equity rich, so as part of the divorce, there was a list of debts that would be paid off when the house was sold. It turns out that one of the debts was for a lawyer appointed by the state for their children. The judge called a hearing to find out why the house wasn’t selling. (the house has been on the market for eighteen months now) My brother came in with evidence showing house improvements, listings with realtors, open houses, and price reductions, but it was to no avail. Six months in the slammer for contempt of court, or until I can wire him the money to pay off the lawyer.

I was wondering if you have ever heard of anything like this before.

Reading one of my favorite sites this morning, I couldn’t help but blink when I read that and re-read the whole thing.

Essentially this is debtor’s prison, which was all but done away with in 1833. Although much like the RIAA lawsuits, few people can afford representation to fight the state on it, so it’s likely it’ll stick.

As another commenter pointed out:

It’s debtor’s prison, but in the legal arena he is going to jail for contempt of court. Six months sounds like a very long time, which makes me think that’s there’s more to the story than what’s presented. For example, the judge has held him in contempt before and decided to up the sentence to get him to obey. He might have also done something to frustrate the sale. On the other hand, you could have a rogue judge. Happens all the time in divorce court, which seems to bring out the worst in people including judges. Assuming that the facts presented are all there is, and this judge has abused his discretion: appeal the contempt. But it’s very hard to win an appeal, and expensive. The higher court will bend over backwards to uphold the trial judge. If his decision is correct under any theory, they can uphold him. This guy is just screwed. He should have known better than to get married. My advice. Beg borrow of steal the money to pay the lawyer and get out of jail. Drop the price of the house to a point where it will sell quickly. Obviously the place is overpriced for this market. Take the money pay off the debts, and get a better lawyer if necessary. Formulate a strategy for dealing with this case. Don’t play fair, but appear to be playing fair. Don’t remarry.

You will not be able to make a public issue out this. The press won’t touch it, mainly for political reasons. Outrageous things happen to husbands and fathers every day in family law court and it gets no publicity. Arrest an illegal Mexican for working under 15 bogus social security numbers and the ACLU will come to his aid. The press will scream “xenophobe,” “racist,” and so on. It’s all politics and men don’t know how to play the game. The women’s groups lobby the legislature and they get what they want. The men won’t do it. This is what happens to them.

It’s a sad day when injustice, passes for justice.

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1 Comment »

2007-11-08 13:14:03

[...] this along to see if we can’t drum up some publicity for this poor guy. He tried to sell his house, made improvements on it, and had proof of it all. Why should he be sent to jail for contempt if he’s made every effort to try and appease the [...]

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