If we all took the law into our own hands based upon our personal beliefs, what would happen? I'd venture to guess that we'd either have chaos, or a bunch of us would end up in jail, or a little bit of both.

That's why I get upset when law enforcement refuses to enforce legitimate laws and court orders. The police and sheriffs aren't in place to make personal decisions about the laws. Sure, they exercise their own judgment on a certain level each day, but they don't get to completely disregard laws and court orders whenever they feel like it.

That's not stopping the Cook County Sheriff's Office. They've decided that they're not going to evict tenants of properties which have been foreclosed, even with proper documentation and the laws on the side of the banks. Sheriff Tom Dart says he's just making the mortgage holders (the banks) accountable. He's quoted as saying, "These mortgage companies only see pieces of paper, not people, and don't care who's in the building."

What gives him the right to make the determination that the tenants should or should not be evicted? Nothing, really. The law is not on his side on this one. Yes, I feel sorry for tenants who get evicted from a property because of a foreclosure if they've been good tenants and have paid their rent. But whether we feel sorry for them is not the question. A lawful court order for eviction means the tenant should be evicted, and the sheriff oversees it.

While the sheriff may think he's helping people, he actually might be hurting people indirectly. Anything that gets in the way of a bank taking possession of a property might cause banks to make fewer loans. They depend on foreclosure as a part of the loan process, and law enforcement's failure to help carry out the legal action may have a negative effect on loans.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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