Unable to pay high legal fees, more foreclosed upon home owners are opting to go to court to represent themselves in their foreclosure hearings.

About 20 states require a judge’s approval for foreclosures--home owners last opportunity to plea their case and avoid foreclosure.

In New York, about 32,000 home owners came to court in the first 10 months of 2010 for foreclosure hearings but only 12,000 had a lawyer representing them.

“Many of the home owners would do much better with an attorney,” says Paul Lewis, chief of staff to New York’s chief administrative judge.

Self-help clinics are popping up across the country to help home owners learn how to defend themselves in court at these foreclosure hearings.

For example, in New Mexico, a community center began offering a class with tips on everything from how to download the forms, decipher the lingo, and mount a defense against a multi-billion dollar bank, to even providing tips on which side of the lectern you should stand when defending yourself in court.

Many of the home owners have legitimate arguments to why the foreclosure shouldn't stand, but the cases can be complex in defending yourself, says Louis McDonald, the chief judge for New Mexico’s 13th Judicial District.

“The system is failing those who can’t afford representation,” he says. McDonald says “more legal aid is needed to help such home owners.

Source: “Foreclosed Homeowners Go to Court on Their Own,” The New York Times (Feb. 3, 2011)