Judith L. Fox, clinical professor of law at the University of Notre Dame Law School, is the recipient of the 2013 Rodney F. Ganey, Ph.D., Faculty Community-Based Research Award, which is given annually by the Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns. The award, in the amount of $5,000, honors a Notre Dame faculty member whose research has made a contribution in collaboration with local community organizations. Fox has practiced consumer law for 20 years and has an extensive record of scholarship and community-based work in foreclosure law and debt collection.
Fox has worked with both undergraduate and law students from Notre Dame in collaboration with the United Way of St. Joseph County and other community partners to address the issues of foreclosures, debt collection and predatory lending in St. Joseph County.
The results of Fox’s research have been felt locally, statewide and at the national level. To date, the city of South Bend has used the results of her community-based research to obtain several million dollars in Housing and Urban Development grants. Funds are addressing abandonment and vacant property issues locally.
In partnership with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Fox provided testimony on her mortgage foreclosure research findings at state hearings in Indianapolis. That testimony contributed to a bill providing those in foreclosure the right to a mortgage settlement conference. “This means that if you are in foreclosure,” said Fox, “you are now entitled to sit down with bank representatives and discuss your situation.” Facilitators meet with those holding the loans and the homeowners in an attempt to reduce abandonment and help people remain in their homes.
“Professor Fox has really been a great asset for the state of Indiana, particularly in my office. The clinic she runs focuses on some of the cutting-edge issues in consumer protection. Her work is about real people’s problems and she serves in areas where people are in real need,” Zoeller said.
Fox’s recent research in debt collection, as presented in her article “Do We Have a Debt Collection Crisis? Some Cautionary Tales of Debt Collection in Indiana” in the Loyola Consumer Law Review, is now having an impact at the national level. She has been asked to provide her data to a newly created federal agency, the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau, charged with writing federal rules on debt collection.
“Judy is one of the best advocates for working and low-income families that this community has,” said Dawn Chapla, director of Labor and Financial Stability at the United Way of St. Joseph County. “This kind of research changes lives in the community — it’s leveraging dollars, it’s gaining help for people, it’s allowing us to put in more programs to build better community — it’s just immeasurable.”
Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar Paul Mickan, a Notre Dame junior who began working with Fox during his first year of college, said, “I was thrilled by the opportunity to assist a well-respected law professor at such an early stage in my academic career. Our collective work aimed to expose — and combat — the very real and growing problem of foreclosure fraud. Professor Fox’s work will help the vulnerable, the struggling, and others who often cannot afford to fight the false charges brought against them. She allowed me the incredible opportunity to actively participate in a high-powered research project at the onset of my Notre Dame career.”
“Seeing one client whose house we saved because we got an illegal garnishment corrected — that’s a huge reward,” said Fox. “There’s a double blessing in being able to do it with students.”
Fox received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Notre Dame in 1993. Prior to joining the law school faculty in 1997, Fox was the deputy director of Berrien County Legal Services in St. Joseph, Mich. She serves on the advisory board of the Indiana Foreclosure Legal Assistance Program and on the predatory lending committee of the Bridges Out of Poverty Initiative, and is a member of the National Association of Consumer Lawyers. She has received numerous awards for her work in consumer protection law, including the Bellow Scholar Award from the American Association of Law Schools and the St. Joseph Valley Project Community Achievement Award for Social Justice. She was also named Crutchfield Professor of the Year by the Notre Dame Black Law Students Association.
The Ganey Award is funded by local entrepreneur and philanthropist Rodney F. Ganey and is awarded by Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. The center facilitates community-based learning, research and service for Notre Dame undergraduates, graduate students and faculty. Since 1983, more than 15,000 students and hundreds of faculty have been engaged in its courses, research and programs.
For more information about the Ganey Award, visit socialconcerns.nd.edu/faculty.