SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - "They're foreclosing illegally here in Utah.” Those were the words of St. George Attorney John Christian Barlow spoken in early June. Barlow at the time had appeared before a Federal Judge arguing that the banking giant, Bank of America, was foreclosing illegally in the State of Utah. The Southern Utah Attorney believed that because B.O.A. was not a registered business or corporation in the state, they lacked authority to do business here.
Barlow had succeeded in getting a 5th Circuit Court Judge to agree with him. As a result, the judge imposed an injunction on all Bank of America foreclosures. Weeks later, the case went before a Federal Judge where B.O.A. argued that they were regulated by federal, not state laws. Federal Judge Clark Waddoups heard the case, and threw out the injunction therefore Bank of America’s foreclosure company (ReConTrust) was allowed to foreclose once again.
After the decision, ABC4 got a tip about the case and started digging. Our tipster said that Judge Waddoups may have a conflict of interest in hearing the B.O.A. cases. Why? Because Judge Waddoups' old law firm represents Bank of America.
We checked into Waddoups background. and found that the Federal Judge did work for Parr, Brown, Gee & Loveless for nearly 30 years. ABC 4 also found that Waddoups, as of 2008, drew a pension from the law firm.
ABC 4 placed a call to the firm, but they wouldn’t comment if the former firm partner had ever handled B.O.A. cases.
But Colin Winchester, executive director of the Judicial Conduct Commission, says Waddoups should have at least disclosed his prior dealings. Winchester oversees state judges and says there is a rule of thumb with conflicts of interest. “If it offends the average soccer mom, or working dad or vise versa then that’s what counts, not the opinion of the judge,” said Winchester.
ABC 4 contacted Judge Waddoups, U.S. District Chief Justice Tena Campbell, and Bank of America but no one had a comment.
Since ABC 4's investigation first began, Barlow appealed his case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. On Tuesday, August 30, 2010, Barlow and Bank of America are scheduled to be back in front of Judge Waddoups once again.