New opinion — Third Circuit rules against deeds recorders in fee-suit appeal

Montgomery County, Pa. Recorder of Deeds v. Merscorp — civil — reversal — Barry

In an appeal involving a battalion of heavy-hitting amici, the Third Circuit today ruled against a county deed recorder who sought millions in unpaid recording fees from an electronic mortgage-loan registration system. When homeowners transfer a mortgage interest, they have to record the transfer with the county and pay a fee. But banks and mortgage lenders figured out a way to avoid paying those fees when they transferred mortgage interests. A county recorder sued, arguing that the industry end-run around recording fees violated Pennsylvania law, and a district court agreed. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that Pa. law does not require all land conveyances to be recorded.

For appellate junkies, the most notable feature of the case was the impressive talent involved on behalf of various amici. Local firms involved on the industry side included Reed Smith, Fox Rothschild, K&L Gates, while amici on the recorder’s side included a long list of legal aid and consumer groups. In all, forty one lawyers in all appeared on the briefs!

Joining Barry were Chagares and Krause. Arguing counsel were Robin Brochin for the electronic registration system and Joseph Kohn for the county recorder.