Sheriff John Green has spent 37 years in law enforcement. But these days he’s best known around Philadelphia for the law he won’t enforce, reports the Wall Street Journal. With the economy soft and thousands of Philadelphians delinquent on their mortgages, Sheriff Green this spring refused to hold a court-ordered foreclosure auction. His move raised eyebrows on the bench and dropped jaws among lenders and their attorneys, who accuse him of shirking his duty to enforce legal contracts. It also prompted a sweeping, court-endorsed deal that aims to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Even as Congress moves forward with a federal plan that could insure up to $300 billion in refinanced mortgages, Green’s unilateral approach has pushed Philadelphia to the leading edge of local responses to the national crisis. His 241-person sheriff’s department is the armed wing of Philadelphia County courts, charged with transporting prisoners, securing courtrooms and auctioning off foreclosed properties at sheriff sales. In a city beset by poverty and crime, Green has emerged as an unlikely blend of lawman, politician, spiritual leader and social worker.
A dozen or more desperate homeowners appear in the sheriff’s lobby each day, seeking solace and counsel.