The Foreclosure Mess: Florida Judges Can Do Better

Via Abigail Field of DailyFinance calling Florida judges to task.

Unfortunately, not all judges are responding to the foreclosure mess this way. Those in Florida have been particularly notorious, and new rulings show at least some members of the Florida judiciary seem more committed to speeding foreclosures through to completion than anything else.

For example, Florida’s infamous “rocket dockets,” in which a foreclosure case can take mere seconds or a few minutes to complete, continue. The Lee County court schedule for December shows two days with over 60 cases scheduled, two with over 25 and one with four. (No other days have cases scheduled.) Given the length of the court day, 25+ cases in a day amounts to at best several minutes a case. Attorneys defending foreclosures have taken several days to deal with just one.

Or consider that this motion to put a foreclosure proceeding on hold, filed by SunTrust Bank, and denied by a Lee County judge. SunTrust’s motion was clear about why it wanted the delay:

1. Plaintiff seeks this stay in order to allow time for the completion of a review of its mortgage servicing procedures. That review was commenced following nationwide reports of certain industry-wide deficiencies in the preparation of affidavits submitted in connection with foreclosure proceedings.

2. Plaintiff intends to take all necessary steps in order to ensure that the documentation provided in connection with foreclosure proceedings, including this one, meets all applicable legal requirements.

SunTrust is saying: Judge, we respect the court system and want to do things right. Please give us the time we need.

By denying the motion, the judge (I can’t tell who signed it) essentially responded: Don’t bother. I don’t care if your papers were right. Just hurry up and take the house. …

Here’s a crucial point: demanding that banks play by the same rules as everyone else isn’t some abstract and empty ideal that puts form over substance. Despite the banks’ claims to the contrary, their document problems aren’t purely technical. The banks’ records are in such poor shape — the very records used to create the foreclosures — that, as The New York Times has reported, banks are breaking into homes they haven’t foreclosed on.

In judicial foreclosure states and in bankruptcy proceedings, judges are in a position to ensure that such travesties of justice don’t occur. Some judges are indeed stepping up, but clearly not enough of them.