Thursday, May 10, 2012 | 6:17 p.m.
CARSON CITY — A district judge has ruled that records of the state’s foreclosure mediation program are not open to public inspection.
District Judge Todd Russell said this program was placed under the Nevada Supreme Court and the state’s public records law does not apply to the court.
Civil Rights for Seniors, a nonprofit group, filed suit saying it wants to inspect the records to determine if the program has had any success.
The Legislature created it in 2009 during the time Nevada led the nation in foreclosures. It establishes a chance for a homeowner having trouble paying his mortgage to meet with the lenders and with a mediator to determine if there are alternatives to losing the home.
Judge Russell said the judiciary “as a separate branch of government, has the inherent authority to manage its own records and dictate their disclosure.”
Philip A. Olsen, attorney for the senior group, said at this point an appeal is planned to the Nevada Supreme Court. It’s ironic, he said, that the court system is set up to protect the rights of the public “but we don’t have the right to know what the judicial branch is doing.”
Olsen said the seniors group doesn’t want to know the social security number and the tax information of the homeowner. “We want to find out if it (the foreclosure mediation program) is working and if the administrator is following the law.”
Judge Russell said even if the public records law applied, the rules of the program dictate that “all documents and discussions during the mediation shall be deemed confidential.”
“A homeowner’s right to privacy in the foreclosure mediation program exists until a petition for judicial review is filed in the district court,” Russell said. “There is a strong and compelling need to protect the privacy expectations of parties within the mediation process.”
But Olsen said the identity of the homeowner enters the public record once a foreclosure is filed with the county.
Alicia Johnson, a private lawyer representing the mediation program, maintained it was under the wing of the Supreme Court that ruled the records are confidential.