An Amicus Curiae is a friend of the court who has no right to appear but may introduce argument, authority or evidence to protect his interests
The Attorney General of Massachusetts Martha Coakley has filed an amicus brief in support of a Mississippi lawsuit which alleges that the new FEMA flood rates are arbitrary and unlawful. In the brief, the Attorney General mirrors her previous arguments to Congress that FEMA failed to collect sufficient data and to comply with its mission prior to rolling out the new rates.
“These new rates will devastate many families and businesses throughout Massachusetts. The federal government should delay these changes until FEMA has followed all the steps required by law,” AG Coakley said. “In setting these new flood insurance rates, FEMA not only failed to evaluate their economic impact, but also failed to gather all the data required to ensure the new rates are accurate.”
AG Coakley filed the brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. In it, Coakley argued that the sudden hikes in flood insurance costs will risk a second wave of foreclosures across the country and in Massachusetts because of the additional burden of having to pay “yet another significant mortgage-related cost.” AG Coakley also noted in the brief that FEMA has been given a generous berth regarding when and how they set rates pursuant to the new law.
Nonetheless, “FEMA has opted to plow forward instead of waiting to make more informed decisions,” according to the brief. FEMA is also pushing out these rates ahead of the required affordability study. The brief urges the court to take action to prevent the “potentially irreversible consequences of arbitrary action by FEMA.”
The Attorney General has taken a tough stance against FEMA in recent months. In addition to sending a letter to Congress requesting a delay in the implementation of flood insurance hikes under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, the AG along with House Speaker Robert DeLeo filed An Act Relative to Flood Insurance in Massachusetts that seeks to cap the amount of flood insurance mortgage lenders may require of homeowners.
The proposed legislation seeks to restrict creditors from requiring that Massachusetts homeowners purchase flood insurance in amounts that would exceed the outstanding balances of their mortgages or that requires coverage for contents or that includes a deductible of less than $5,000. AG Coakley contends that tying the amount of coverage to an outstanding mortgage balance instead of the replacement value of the home, would lower insurance premiums for homeowners under the new regulations.
“Insurance rates under redrawn flood maps will not only increase for those already in the flood plain, but many homeowners and small businesses will be required to buy flood insurance for the first time. Some are now required to purchase flood insurance at costs of $10,000 and up. By eliminating various federal subsidies in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and requiring the redrawing and expansion of flood zone maps, Biggert-Waters will pose harsh economic consequences for many homeowners and small businesses in Massachusetts and across the country.”