Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2014

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High court rules that foreclosure program’s mediation records are not public record

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that mediation records are confidential in the case of a homeowner trying to save his property from foreclosure.

The court Thursday rejected the petition of the nonprofit Civil Rights for Seniors, which sought to examine all the records of Nevada’s Foreclosure Mediation Program, established in 2009, during the height of foreclosures.

The program allows residents who fall behind on their loan payments to negotiate with the holder of the deed of trust to hang on to their home.

The Foreclosure Mediation Program was approved by the Legislature and put under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court; it is now run by the Administrative Office of the Court.

The court ruled that the records contain highly sensitive personal and financial information, "and to expose them to the public would have a chilling effect on open and candid Foreclosure Mediation Program participation, undermining the Legislature’s interest in promoting mediation."

The senior group asked for records so it could evaluate the performance of the program and gather information about cases so it could contact homeowners. It cited Nevada’s Public Records Law in requesting access to the information.

The court administrator provided some data but declined the request for more records. The administrator said the rules of the program, which were approved by the court, deemed the records confidential and not subject to the Public Records Law until one of the parties files a civil suit.

The court, in upholding the decision of District Judge Todd Russell of Carson City, said the rules of the mediation program state that “all documents and discussions presented during the mediation shall be deemed confidential and inadmissible in any subsequent actions or proceedings except in an action for judicial review.”

The court also held the records are not court documents subject to open inspection.

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