Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Soldiers' & Sailors' Civil Relief Act

While dodging bullets around the world, creditors may be conducting a rear assault on our military personnel's assets at home. The Congress came to the rescue in 1918 with the Soldiers' & Sailors' Civil Relief Act, which was amended in 1940 during the Second World War.

The Act is intended to provide unbothered personal serenity and security in order to promote military efficiency; and to assure that soldiers and sailors are not materially disadvantaged in prosecuting or defending legal actions. Judges can stay a legal proceeding if a serviceperson's ability to prosecute and defend an action is impaired by active duty. (So far no judge has enforced a stay to promote military efficiency)

The Act specifically provides relief in matters of rental and installment contacts, foreclosures and termination of insurance. In addition, maximum rates of interest (including service charges, renewal charges, fees, etc.) are set. Even divorce and annulment cases have been suspended.

A 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case demonstrates the problems the Act can cause. In Conroy v. Aniskoff, a property was sold by tax foreclosure, but the Court held that all statute of limitations are suspended. Since the right of redemption continues until active service is terminated, a member of the armed forces could show up years after the sale and demand to redeem the property.

The Conroy case may apply to ordinary foreclosures. And, failure to comply with this provision of the Act can result in imprisonment for one year and/or a fine. Help ... Congress!

*** For more information about the Soldiers' & Sailors' Civil Relief Act or to seek legal counsel for pending litigation, please contact Gross & Romanick by filling out their online form, emailing law@gross.com, or calling 703-273-1400.