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If Manchester Town Clerk Joseph Camposeo has his way, this will be the year Connecticut takes a big step toward becoming the first state in the nation with a statewide digital deed recording system. And if Gregory Cava, head of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Real Property Law Section has his, real estate lawyers will take on a new role as the high-end gatekeepers of cyberfiling. Both men are focusing on a proposed law, the Connecticut Real Property Electronic Recording System Act, designed to drive Connecticut’s 400-year-old paper-based deed recording system into the digital age. When the bill was up for passage in the short legislative session last year, Cava raised a number of concerns. He cited Internet security problems and the potential for fraud if anyone in the world could send a dummy document to cancel a mortgage � and then take out a new one on the faked equity. The Zeldes, Needle & Cooper lawyer compared the threat of digital deed and mortgage filing manipulation to the scourge of identity theft. In Manchester, however, scanning records electronically has become a normal part of the recording process. Each page is saved on microfiche, paper, and in a remote Iron Mountain data storage facility in northern New York. Other Connecticut towns that have a digital records system include Stamford, Glastonbury, Norwich, and Norwalk. Camposeo is active in three state and national clerks’ associations, and stays current with computer technology advances. He says digital signatures can solve the problem of verifying identity and encryption can make electronic transactions reliably secure. As much as he enjoys the convenience of his computer, Cava says he’s still worried about spam, spyware, hackers, worms, and viruses: “As long as we have people able to destroy data and manipulate data, it’s one of my big concerns.” GET THE BUGS OUT As for the proposed bill, he says, “The Real Property Section is not opposed to an electronic recording system, but before we make any changes to a system that’s worked well for over 400 years, we want to make sure the bugs are out of the system.” The bill’s objective is to create an electronic recording commission to establish a standardized statewide system and procedures. In its present form, the proposed commission includes a representative from the Secretary of the State, the state chief information officer, the public records administrator, a member of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Real Property Section appointed by the speaker of the house, a town clerk representing the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, a representative from a title insurance company, and one from the mortgage banking industry. Camposeo favors this diversity. In his view, a key security feature is the bill’s requirement that all electronic recording and corrections be done by the town clerk or an authorized person in the clerk’s office. Cava says lawyers should be tapped to oversee transactions that involve transfer of title. “The one group of people that sits in the position of being accountable, that we can have some degree of confidence in, is the lawyers,” he says. “I think that, at this level of a gatekeeper role, this ability to record electronically, [a lawyer] should be involved in any transaction in which there is a transfer of title.” He says he would make an exception for more minor filings. “State marshals record notices of lis pendens and attachments all the time. Those things, a state marshal could handle electronically. Those are not generally things that have an immediate effect on title, and can be removed, if necessary,” Cava says. “But a transfer of title, through a mortgage, a deed, or otherwise is not so easily remedied. There is no quick procedure for recovering title to your house, if it’s been stolen by somebody engaging in fraud.” Lawyers, he notes, are vetted for education, skills, and character, with oversight from the Statewide Grievance Committee, the courts, and the profession as a whole. Though there have been highly publicized exceptions, a vast amount of money and property is routinely transferred by lawyers “safely and with every penny accounted for,” he says. The push for electronic filing has come, in part, from the quasi-public mortgage lenders popularly known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, says Cava. “The whole point is to move toward efficient securitization of mortgages,” he says. “That’s not a bad thing. But people should not sacrifice securityfor speed.” Thomas B. Scheffey is a reporter with the Connecticut Law Tribune , the ALM publication where this article first appeared.

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