Friday, March 30, 2012

Judge Chernoff retirement ceremony

The Greater Lowell Bar Association held a retirement celebration for the Honorable Paul Chernoff yesterday at the Lowell Superior Court. Judge Chernoff, who has sat at the Lowell courthouse more than perhaps any other Superior Court judge over the past decade, had officially retired several years ago upon reaching age 70 but had been recalled to duty due to a heavy caseload and personnel shortages. Judge Chernoff was presented with proclamations by retired Supreme Judicial Court justice Judith Cowin on behalf of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and by Superior Court Chief Justice Barbara Rouse on behalf of State Senator Eileen Donoghue. State Representative Kevin Murphy and Lowell City Councilor Kevin Broderick, both practicing attorneys, were present with citations from their respective bodies.

In his farewell remarks, Judge Chernoff spoke eloquently and affectionately about Lowell. He said that with his seniority he could have opted out of sitting in Lowell for at least the last two decades but that he always chose to come here because of the lure of the staff and attorneys who populate the Lowell Superior Courthouse. He always felt like part of a family when he was in Lowell. He called the late Brian Dunigan, Michael Brennan and Joe Mahoney (all of the clerk’s office here) his three Irish brothers and went on to compliment judicial secretary Bonnie Dineen.

Judge Chernoff said that the court staff and the lawyers make Lowell different than anywhere else. He’s not sure why; perhaps people in Lowell “have a better understanding of the human condition.” He also said there is a “higher level of civility here than elsewhere” which was something he learned “at the knee of Elliot Cowdrey, Cornelius Kiernan and David Williams in the Lowell District Court” (where Chernoff frequently sat from his appointment to the District Court in 1976 to his elevation to the Superior Court in 1984).
As his final day of service neared, Judge Chernoff said the court officers frequently said he couldn’t leave because there were still too many cases to be disposed of. To that sentiment, Judge Chernoff turned to Robert Frost for a response, reading the first few lines of Frost’s poem, “After apple picking”:
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
As for his decision to leave now, Judge Chernoff said he had concluded he should leave before he started feeling burned out and before other people thought he was becoming burned out. He closed with a portion of another Frost poem which he said should be in the mind of all judges. The poem was “Fear of God”:
If you should rise from Nowhere up to Somewhere,
From being No one up to being Someone,
Be sure to keep repeating to yourself
You owe it to an arbitrary god
Whose mercy to you rather than to others
Won’t bear to critical examination.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Robot Revolution

When I was a kid my father used to say...someday machines will do the work that humans do now and there will be no jobs for any of us. It will be the end of civilization as we know it Anthony (he and my mother always called me Anthony).

Well, with all due respect to my father, society hasn't fallen apart yet...but it seems each day there is a new story about a machine or more specifically a computer-driven robot doing a job once done by a human.

Fortunately, computers weren't around during my father's days or he would have predicted the Milky Way was doomed, not just society. Trust me this guy could have written the scripts to the Terminator movies.

A company called Kiva Systems (no, not Skynet) is a leader in robot development. Kiva recently sold Amazon a machine, excuse me a computer-driven robot, that can maneuver around a warehouse and stock shelves.

Yikes! I can hear my father's voice now...I told you Anthony, it is only a matter of time before we're all jobless, living in caves, eating chickweed because of these things.

First, Roomba (built by iRobot) came along scurrying around, cleaning floors and eating lamp wires. And now professionals utilize robots to assist in medical procedures, dismantle bombs, assembly automobiles and more, more , more.

Where will the robotic revolution end...or will it. Is this really the beginning of the end of civilization as my father predicted?

Not according to Lawrence Summers...
Lawrence H. Summers, the economist, former Treasury secretary and former Harvard president, explained that society has been down this road many times before. The rise of the industrial revolution gave way to fears of extensive job loss, as did the automation of agriculture. But, he said, although these “adjustments were in some cases painful,” people always find new work (New York Times).

See Dad, no need to worry...and besides I like chickweed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & Tax Stamps

Today's email brought a press release from my Essex South colleague John O'Brien in which he asks the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to immediately file suit against mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to collect unassessed deeds excise taxes on property formerly owned by the two entities. 

Massachusetts imposes an excise tax on the sale of real estate.  The tax is assessed at the rate of $2.28 per $500 in sales price.  Payment of the tax is the responsibility of the person signing the deed (i.e., the seller).  However, property owned or purchased by a governmental entity is exempt from this tax.  A 1991 Department of Revenue ruling (DOR ruling 91-2) held in relevant part:

Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and Ginnie Mae are not "agencies" of the United States government, and, thus, do not come within the express exemption from the Deeds Excise as provided by G.L. c. 64D, § 1. Nevertheless, the transfer of realty by written instrument by all three federally sponsored corporations as part of their statutory obligations as secondary market facilities are exempt from the Deeds Excise because of the exemption from state and local taxation provided to each by federal statute. Moreover, the Deeds Excise cannot be imposed on the grantee where the grantor is one of the three federally sponsored corporations mentioned above.
Today's request by Register O'Brien is based on a recent holding in a case from the US District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan (Oakland County v Fannie Mae, et al - Case #11-12666) in which a county in Michigan sued the two federally created mortgage entities on the grounds that they were liable for payment of the deed excise tax.  The Federal Court in Michigan held that even though the federal legislation creating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac specifically exempted them from "all state and local taxes", such language does not apply to transfer taxes like the deeds excise tax and that Fannie and Freddie were indeed liable.

O'Brien estimates that since the 1991 DOR ruling, Fannie and Freddie have avoided the payment in $4.2 million in deeds excise tax to the Commonwealth.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Need A Recommendation? I Recommend Jybe

Every so often I come across a cool new smartphone App. This morning I found a brand new one called new? Jybe was launched yesterday that's how new.

Jybe gives the user suggestions from other "local" Jybe users on various topics of interest.

OK since Jybe is so new and me being me...I signed up this morning to check it out.

Once I completed the registration process Jybe presented me with three "topics of interest", Dining, Movies and Books. I tapped "Books" just to see what would happened. Twenty eight book categories appeared and I was asked to indicate which of these I liked. I checked off...Biographies, Computers, Cooking and Dining, History, Home and Garden and Literature.

After entering the types of books I liked I clicked "Recommend" and got the following recommendations: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson recommended by Bill Jones and 7 other (Bill Jones is a fake name), Good Omens by Neil Gaiman recommended by Mary Jones (fake name again), Bossypants by Tina Fey recommended by Tom Jones (no not the singer, its a fake name too) and six other others.

I love Tina Fey. Her book Bossypants has intrigued me for a while, so after I read it I'll write a Jybe recommendation. Then when you sign up for Jybe and look for book recommendations you'll see Bossypants recommended by Tony Accardi (yes, this is my real name).

I like the Jybe concept. Yes, it reminds me of Yelp (real name) which also offers recommendations... but here is the big difference between Jybe and Yelp. Jybe uses a set of personalized criteria (likes and dislikes) that customize the recommendations for the you the user.

I'd call Jybe a good find...see if you agree.

Give Jybe a try

Monday, March 26, 2012

Stats thru Week 3 of March

We still have another week in March but I thought it might be useful to look at the stats through three weeks of the month and compare them to the same time last year.  I looked at the period from March 1 through March 23 for both 2011 and 2012.  Here is what I found:

Deeds - in 2011 there were 257; in 2012 there were 346; an increase of 35%

Mortgages - in 2011 there were 636; in 2012 there were 903; an increase of 44%

Foreclosure Deeds - in 2011 there were 23; in 2012 there were 38; an increase of 65%

Orders of Notice - in 2011 there were 53; in 2012 there were 70; an increase of 32%.

as for the orders of notice, here's there breakdown by community:

Billerica - 5
Chelmsford - 3
Dracut - 9
Tewksbury - 7
Tyngsborough - 2
Westford - 3
Wilmington - 7
Lowell - 35

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Act to increase transparency in Massachusetts Land Records

House Bill 3934 , titled "An act to increase transparency in the Massachusetts land record systems to protect the property rights of homeowners and businesses" now resides in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary where a public hearing was held back on February 28, 2012.

The purpose of the bill which was filed by Representative Michael D. Brady of Brockton, will make it a legal requirement for a lender to record an assignment of mortgage within 30 days of the assignment being executed.  Although most assume all real estate document must be recorded, that's not the case.  Our recording system is a voluntary one and if someone with an interest in property chooses not to take advantage of the protections of the recording system, that's their right.  But as a practical matter, almost all documents are recorded relatively promptly. 

The main objective of this bill, it appears, is to curtail the operation of MERS in Massachusetts.  MERS (which stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc) was created in the late 1990s as a central holding facility of mortgages for its member banks.  It was in response to problems that arose during the real estate collapse of the early 1990s when easily negotiated promissory notes often left behind the mortgage of real estate.  MERS was designed to hold the mortgage as a trustee for whichever lender or investor ended up with the note.  The system seemed to work quite well as long as the real estate market was healthy, but in the aftermath of the bubble bursting of 2007-08, many have latched onto MERS as part of the problem.  This bill seeks to remedy that perceived problem.  I'll try to keep track of the measure and report on its progress as it works its way through the legislature.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mass Memories Road Show visits Lowell on Saturday

The Mass Memories Road Show is a statewide community history project sponsored by UMass Boston.  A group of archivists from the university assisted by local volunteers, is in the process of visiting every city and town in the Commonwealth to allow residents to share historic photographs with the project.  Photos are immediately scanned with the original never leaving the custody of its owner who is also asked to complete a photograph information worksheet listing things such as the names of those shown in the picture, its location and the date it was taken.  All of this information and the digital images of the photos will then be made available to all on the Mass Memories website.

This coming Saturday, March 24, from 10 am to 3 pm, the Road Show will be in Lowell at the Tsongas Industrial History Center which is located within the Boott Cotton Mill Museum at 115 John Street.  Those wishing to participate should bring no more than three photos that depict you, your family, your home, your neighborhood - anything about Lowell or its people that you would like to share.  The event is free and open to the public, so even if you don't have any photographs you should stop by and mingle with others interested in the history of this city.   

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Public access to government records

There's a great story in today's Globe about Jay and DeLene Holbrook, a seventy-something couple from Oxford, Massachusetts who have spent the last 30 year collecting, organizing and microfilming the vital records of every city and town in the Commonwealth.  Mr. Holbrook was a historical demographer who began the project as part of an academic assignment and then continued it as a business with his spouse's assistance.  They would persuade town clerks, one-by-one, to allow them to borrow their books and then take the books to a commercial microfilming service where the records would be photographed.  In return for the loan of the books, the Holbrook's would provide each town with a free copy of that town's microfilm.  Recently, the Holbrooks sold their collection to which has converted the records from microfilm to digital images and has integrated them into the Ancestry database. 

While it's true that the original version of these records are (or are supposed to be) freely available to the public for review and research at each town hall, having them indexed and available online as digital images adds tremendously to their value. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Four types of Notarial Acts

A customer came to the registry on Friday wanting to make "a notarized copy of [his] driver's license."  He explained that he was applying for a mortgage and the lender required this.

The most common act by a Notary Public is to take an acknowledgement - that is, after identifying the person and witnessing his signature, then ascertaining whether the signature was a voluntary act.  There are three other acts that can be accomplished by a Notary.  Besides the Acknowledgement, there's the Jurat.  With the Jurat, the person signing the document also swears or affirms that the contents of the document are true and accurate.  The third notarial act is Signature Witnessing.  In this case, the Notary affirms that the person who purports to have signed the document was in fact the person who signed it.  The fourth Notarial Act is Copy Certification.  Here, the Notary makes a copy of a document and then certifies that it is a "true, exact, complete, and unaltered copy" of the original.

For more details about these Notarial Acts and for examples of the verbiage used when affixing them to documents, see THIS pamphlet produced by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mid-month statistics

With March half over, it's time to look at recording statistics for the first two weeks of the month.  Deeds were up 14% when compared to the first two weeks of March 2011, going from 177 to 202.  Mortgages were up nearly twice that, rising from 423 to 539, a 27% jump.   There was no change in foreclosure deeds with 22 in both time periods, but orders of notice, the document that initiates a new foreclosure, doubled, jumping from 27 to 54.

The early March 2012 orders of notice were distributed as follows:
  • Billerica - 3
  • Chelmsford - 3
  • Dracut - 7
  • Lowell - 23
  • Tewksbury - 6
  • Tyngsborough - 2
  • Westford - 3
  • Wilmington - 6

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Defective Acknowledgements - Missing Notary Stamp

For several years I've been writing about defective acknowledgements caused by the omission from the acknowledgement clause of the printed name of the person whose signature was being acknowledged.  Several bankruptcy courts have held that such an omission invalidates the acknowledgement which in turn voids the document that was purportedly acknowledged.  In the Bankruptcy Court context, this usually involves a mortgage being voided, leaving the lender as an unsecured creditor.  No Massachusetts state appellate court has decided this issue as of yet so it seems that these bankruptcy decisions serve as precedent.

The March 12, 2012 issue of Mass Lawyers Weekly, however, reports (not available online) that a Superior Court judge recently ruled that the omission of the printed name of the notary public and of the notary's seal did not invalidate the acknowledgement, notwithstanding that such admissions violate Executive Order 455 which controls the performance of notaries in Massachusetts.  Unlike the bankruptcy court decisions which seem a bit extreme (who else's signature would it be that was being acknowledged other than the person whose signature came immediately before the acknowledgement clause?), this decision seems to me to be the appropriate one.  We'll watch for any indication that this decision is being appealed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Act clearing titles to foreclosed properties

This week's issue of Banker & Tradesman has a front page story about Senate Bill 830, "An Act clearing titles to foreclosed properties."  This bill, filed by State Senator Michael Moore of Worcester, addresses the Ibanez problem.  In Ibanez, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that an entity conducting a foreclosure must have the subject mortgage assigned to it prior to the commencement of the foreclosure proceeding; any foreclosure conducted pre-assignment would be void.  Since this holding was contrary to a fairly widespread practice in the conveyancing business, there are many previously-foreclosed properties out there with defective titles.  This bill would retroactively ratify those defective foreclosures but only if the property owner fails to file an action in court disputing the foreclosure within 90 days of the recording of the foreclosure deed or the effective date of the law, whichever is later.

The full text of the bill, which seems to be working its way successfully through the legislative process, is as follows: 

SECTION 1. Section 15 of Chapter 244 of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding the following second paragraph:

Such affidavit shall be conclusive evidence in favor of a good faith purchaser for value at or subsequent to the foreclosure sale that the foreclosing party identified or referred to in such affidavit or the foreclosure deed to which it relates as the holder of the foreclosed mortgage is the holder of the mortgage for purposes of such foreclosure unless the holder of the equity of redemption under the mortgage files an action in Superior Court, Land Court or Housing Court to invalidate the sale for lack of title in the foreclosing party within 90 days from the date of recording of such affidavit and records a memorandum of lis pendens pursuant to chapter 184, section 15, within 30 days of the commencement of such action.

SECTION 2. The provisions of this act shall apply to such affidavits recorded before, on or after the effective date of this act, provided, however, that, as to such affidavits recorded before the effective date of this act, the holder of the equity of redemption shall have a period of 90 days from said effective date to commence such action.

SECTION 3. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the division of banks shall adopt regulations to provide the holder of equity of redemption with notice of any rights granted pursuant to Section 1 of this Act. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The other day I was heading out for an all day appointment, so I checked my iPhone's charge...oh no, only 20% left. I know, I know I should have checked it the night before, but I didn't think of it (hey, you can't remember everything).

Have you ever faced a similar experience? (I'll bet you have)
Well, relief might be right around the corner.

A Massachusetts based company named WiTricity has developed a "wireless charger".

Here is how it works... You plug WiTricity's remote charger into a 110 AC outlet somewhere in your house, the living room, kitchen etc. Then while you're sleeping your smartphone wirelessly connects and recharges itself. I'm not kidding.

Wow, this is the best thing I've heard of since easy spread butter.

Why am I so excited? because WiTricity's remote charger just doesn't charge, it can charge other "appropriately equipped" devices also.

"Appropriately equipped"?

Yes, I said appropriately equipped. This means devices that have installed magnetic coils compatible with WiTricity's charger. OK, the science on how this thing works is over my head, but I'll try...its something about one magnetic field connecting to another oppositely charged magnetic field and inducing (how do you like that scientific term) an electric current. So the WiTricity charger has one of these fields and the device being charged has the opposite field...and when they meet your phone gets charged. I told you, way too complicated for me (my head hurts).

Imagine the possibilities here...just think of the household devices that could be recharged like this making life much easier for about fire/smoke detectors that recharge themselves, TV remote controls that do, flashlights, laptops, iPods, home tools, etc...and how about this one (you're going to think I'm crazy), but how about an electric car that wirelessly charges itself while sitting in your driveway.

Watch for this...I think its going to be big.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Homes of Jack Kerouac

Today is Lowell native and author Jack Kerouac's 90 birthday. Kerouac was born on March 12,1922. I must admit I never really "got" Kerouac until recently, but it was passages like the one below from On the Road that ensured that when I got Kerouac, I got him good.

"the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Below are several homes owned or inhabited by Kerouac in his life time.

This is 9 Lupine Rd in Lowell, the house Kerouac was born in.

When Jack was four years old his family moved this home located at 34 Beaulieu St in Lowell.

In 1957 Jack Kerouac moved to 1418 Clouser Ave in Orlando Florida.

Jack's second house in Florida is pictured below, located at 5155 10th Ave North in St Petersburg, Florida.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Merrimack Valley Housing Report

The Merrimack Valley Housing Report (MVHR) is a monthly electronic newsletter co-written by UMass Lowell and the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds that began publishing in 2008.  The MVHR regularly reports on residential and housing trends, statistics and real estate news in the Merrimack Valley.  To receive this free electronic publication, send an email to David Turcotte at

The March issue was just emailed to subscribers yesterday and eventually will be available on the web as is the January 2012 edition and all previous issues.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I Can't Resist! The New iPad

Last night as I considered today's blog topic, I made up my mind that I would not do the obvious...I would not write about the new iPad. No! No way! Not going to do it!

But...if you follow this blog on a regular basis you know I am a little bit (shall I say) enchanted with Apple products and the company's, I am salivating to write about the iPad, but I won't...Honest, instead I'll just post the official Apple (New)iPad Trailer.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Year to date deed statistics

I calculated the number of deeds recorded for each town in the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds district for January and February 2011 and 2012 and show the numbers below along with the percentage change.  The first number is Jan+Feb 2011, the second is Jan+Feb 2012:

Billerica - 77 - 73 - down 5%
Carlisle - 11 - 20 - up 80%
Chelmsford - 80 - 91 - up 14%
Dracut - 86 - 89 - up 4%
Dunstable - 4 - 6 - up 50%
Lowell - 195 - 204 - up 5%
Tewksbury - 66 - 82 - up 24%
Tyngsborough - 28 - 28 - no change
Westford - 63 - 62 - no change
Wilmington - 63 - 69 - up 10%

Monday, March 05, 2012


Over the weekend I discovered a really cool new smartphone app called HeyTell. HeyTell allows a user to record a message and send it to another HeyTell user. It is kind of like "voice texting" (hey, is that an oxymoron?). I downloaded HeyTell but realized I didn't know anyone else that was a HeyTell user, so I downloaded it to my wife's iPhone to try it out.

Me: I just put HeyTell on your phone
Her: What is HeyTell?
Me: Its a voice texting service
Her: Isn't that an oxymoron?
Me: Lets try it...I'm going into the living room and then I'll send you a HeyTell message
Her: OK
Me: (Holding my iPhone with the HeyTell app open, I say) "Testing, testing HeyTell".
Her: (Shouting to me from the kitchen) I heard it beep, but how do I get the message off this thing?
Me: (Shouting back) Press the small yellow banner across the top of the phone with my name in it.
Her: (Shouting) I don't see a yellow banner.
Me: (Shouting) Try opening the HeyTell app to see the yellow banner.
Her: (Shouting) OK ,I see it. I'll press it (I can hear my voice) "Test, testing HeyTell". Now what?
Me: Say something back.
Her: (Shouting) "Something back".
Me: Very funny. (A few moments later from the living room) I've got your message. I'll send you another one. (Speaking into HeyTell) "Hello, this is your Supreme Leader Bill Parcells. I am calling from the hydro-graphic planet Albacore in the galaxy known as Bumble Bee. (I wait) Did you get it? Did you get my message on HeyTell?

For a about a minute I heard nothing...just silence. What's going on, I thought...then all of a sudden my phone rang. It was my wife.

Me: (Surprised) Hello?
I've got an idea.
Me: What?
Her: Rather than wasting all this time sending HeyTell messages back and forth, I thought I would just call you, so you could tell me what life is like on Albacore, "Bill" or should I hang up so you can phone me? "Bill".
Me: But...
Her: You do have my telephone number don't you, "Bill", or do people on Albacore just send each other HeyTell messages?
Me: No, Albacore is an advanced civilization...they use their phones for calling too.
So, Albacorians are an advanced civilization and they use their smartphones to call other Albacorians?
Me: Yes
Her: Then just call me, "supreme leader".

Friday, March 02, 2012

Lowell Tweet-Up Tomorrow

Are you interested in learning more about Twitter, the social networking site that allows you to "Tweet" updates 140 characters in length?  If yes, there's a Tweet-Up tomorrow, Saturday March 3, 2012 from 10 am to noon at Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC), the public access cable TV and technology organization in the city of Lowell.  The event is at LTC headquarters at 246 Market Street, right next to the Lowell National Park Visitor Center. 

Whether you want to sign up for Twitter but are having difficulty doing it for yourself or you are an experienced Twitter user looking for a chance to brainstorm with like-users, tomorrow's Tweet Up will have something for you.  It's free, open to the public and there's no preregistration required.  Just drop in and mingle and chat.  If you pick up some Twitter tricks, great.  If not, you'll at least get to spend some time with some interesting folks who like discussing social media and its multitude of uses. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

February recording statistics

Mixed news from February's recording statistics: deeds and mortgages are up compared to a year ago, but so are new foreclosures.  The number of deeds recorded in February 2012 rose 34% from February 2011 (288 in 2011 to 385 in 2012).  Mortgages were up even more, rising 38% (774 in Feb 2011 to 1069 in Feb 2012).  Foreclosure deeds stayed about the same (23 in 2011 vs 24 in 2012) but orders of notice rose 47%, climbing from 53 in 2011 to 78 in 2012. 

The positive news continues, more or less, when February 2012 is compared with January 2012.  Deeds rose 13% (342 in January to 385 in February), mortgages rose 3% (1039 in Jan vs 1069 in Feb), and foreclosure deeds dropped 37% (38 in Jan down to 24 in Feb).  Only orders of notice were troublesome.  They rose 41%, from 46 in January to 78 in February.