On December 3, 2012, Alexis F. Steinberg argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, Louisiana. She presented the crucial question of interpretation regarding the homestead provisions in the Texas Constitution, Article 16, Section 50.
The essential issue under discussion was whether a lien against a homestead made in violation of the Texas Constitution is void (legally unenforceable) or voidable (able to become void but not necessarily so). Steinberg argued that the lien against the Appellants’ property was not voidable, but rather void from the start (“void ab initio“).
This “void not voidable” issue was first raised in relation to Mosser Law’s clients in the District Court, where James C. Mosser, who tried this case in 2011, uncovered and explored the nuances of the homestead provisions in his pleadings and motions. After appealing the Court’s judgment, Mosser mentored and advised Steinberg as she prepared to bring her oral argument before the Fifth Circuit.
Mosser and Steinberg are aware that this issue could become persuasive for Texas courts and Texas citizens with void property liens. As Steinberg wrote in Mosser Law’s Brief for Appellants:
In the recent case Smith v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, the “court engaged in a detailed analysis of the plain language of the Texas Constitution; the nature of liens which are void from inception instead of merely ‘voidable’; and the Texas Constitution’s requirement of homeowner’s demand and lender’s opportunity to cure before a forfeiture. The Smith analysis should be applied here. The Priesters’ lien was void ab initio, not voidable.”
Because the lien was constitutionally void, the District Court should not have dismissed the case. This void versus voidable issue is material to Texas homeowners and to the legal interpretation of the state’s Constitution. If the liens are considered voidable, a four-year statute of limitations applies to a homeowner’s claims. However, if the liens are properly interpreted as void, a homeowner may bring a claim against a lender whenever the homeowner realizes the liens on his or her property violated the Texas Constitution.
Drawing on the plain-language interpretation of the Texas Constitution and pertinent case law, Steinberg presented her argument on this matter cogently and eloquently.
If you have Windows Media Player, you can listen to Steinberg’s argument here or by searching the Fifth’s Circuit’s Oral Argument Recordings Page for “Alexis Steinberg.”
Do you have an appeal? Find out by contacting Mosser Law.