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Wayne Anderson, Ramsey County
Wayne Anderson, Ramsey County

The POWER 30: Wayne Anderson

The Minnesota State Bar Association Real Property Law Section has a long-term goal of modernizing real estate records, but as would be expected with such a herculean task, the effort is moving slowly and the pandemic interrupted it.

A Modernizing Land Records Subcommittee has the task of figuring out how to improve or replace the current abstract and Torrens systems of keeping land records. The abstract system predates the state of Minnesota and an abstract of title is a large and expensive document to maintain and is not immune from mistakes. A Torrens certificate of registered land is more clear and efficient, but there are costs and other burdens before the property can get into the system. Neither is exactly in sync with the digital age.

The subcommittee developed surveys for MSBA real property section members and county recorders, interviewed experts and hosted eight two-hour listening sessions, resulting in a preliminary report in 2018.

They concluded, according to the report, that a registered Torrens-type system is preferable and that passage of a Torrens act is not sufficient to result in the voluntary conversion of most land titles. Countries with mostly Torrens titles have taken additional legislative steps to mandate conversion based on their belief it is a superior system with benefits for the public.

An administratively managed system would mean a huge reduction in court costs, said Wayne Anderson, examiner of titles in Ramsey County and past chair of the section governing council. Anderson said that a title examiner can generally find any flaws that may exist and afford due process to the affected parties and that title can be secured in an administrative proceeding. That’s the advantage of the Torrens system now, he said.

Anderson said the section is working to identify and recruit younger attorneys to real estate practice. “It’s an incredible opportunity.” He also hopes that the efforts will result in more diverse membership, in one part to work with clients for whom English is not their first language.

Anderson is worried that there will not be enough lawyers for the anticipated foreclosure crisis, now that the moratorium is lifted. In the last crisis, Ramsey County was seeing 30 foreclosures a week. “There’s a significant need for low or pro bono lawyers and bilingual lawyers,” he said. The section also has a pro bono committee working on the issue.

“There are foreclosures even in the good times,” he said.