Philly sheriff stops foreclosure sales...at least for a while

Most people feel like they can't do anything to stop the overwhelming foreclosure crisis -- even if they do feel sympathy for homeowners. Buyers are going on bus tours of foreclosed homes, hoping to scoop up bargains. A Florida production company is making a foreclosure reality show.

Philadelphia Sheriff John Green, profiled today by the Wall Street Journal's Michael M. Phillips, decided he would try to do something on his own to keep people in their homes.

The sheriff's job is to auction off homes that the court orders. The judge was supposed to handle the merits of the case. But back in 2004 and again this year, Sheriff Green just stopped doing the foreclosure sales. He wanted to buy enough time to sit lenders down with homeowners to work out a solution. His campaign website says he has saved thousands of people from foreclosure.

The WSJ piece (subscription required) chronicles how his effort started as a lone desperado move, but then picked up the imprimatur of a council resolution -- facing questions about whether his actions had been legal at all, ever. Earlier this year home lenders didn't want Congress to allow bankruptcy judges to be able to rewrite the terms of mortgages, so you can imagine how displeased they were that a sheriff was taking matters into his own hands.