Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fixing erroneous marginal references

Here's an issue that has popped up twice in the past 48 hours under nearly identical circumstances.  A homeowner called and explained that a long ago mortgage had been paid off also long ago but that no discharge of the mortgage was easily located on the registry computer system.  With some digging, we found a discharge for the mortgage on record, but the discharge contained an incorrect book and page number for the mortgage.  For instance, the mortgage was recorded in book 9697, page 161 (fictitious number) but the discharge read that the mortgage being discharged was in book 9697, page 151.  We had made the link (i.e., the marginal reference) to the document at page 151 although it had nothing to do with the discharge document.  Everything else about the discharge - the date the mortgage was executed, the parties, etc., matched the mortgage at page 161.  Traditionally, the registry would not have also made a link to the document at page 161 - we would only link to the book and page number expressly stated in the discharge document.  But on these two documents I decided to change the policy and I added the additional marginal reference.  The purpose of the index is not to corroborate what a document legally purports to do; rather, the purpose of the index is to help people find documents relevant to the query.  Certainly this discharge is relevant to the status of the mortgage.  Whether it succeeds in discharging the mortgage despite the typo in the book and page reference is another question (I think it does but that's beside the point).  I believe it is better for a person to see the discharge and make his or her own determination as to its efficacy than it would be for us to make it more difficult for someone to locate that discharge.  The countervailing argument is that by making the link we potentially deceive someone into believing the discharge is effective (which it may not be) but that assumes the person examining the record does not actually read the document being examined.  Balancing those considerations, I decided it was better to come down on the side of making it easier not harder to find potentially relevant documents.

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