When a legal system focuses all of its efforts in moving cases forward as quickly as possible, the rights of some of the parties may tend to be adversely impacted. In Florida, for example, there is now a one-year old program that intends to accelerate greatly the pace of disposing of Florida’s home foreclosure backlog. The program by its nature favors the banks and imposes limitations on the rights of homeowners. The State of Florida has endorsed, and indeed passed, laws that allow for high-speed processing of mortgage foreclosure cases.
One investigative journalist studied the workings of the Florida foreclosure process intensely and has interviewed dozens of various participants. She reports that the system is effectively assisting the banks in rushing the cases to completion. She reports that the decisions in most courts are going nearly completely in favor of the banks and against the homeowners. For example, she observed judges turning down joint requests made by bank and consumer attorneys for an extension of time to negotiate a deal between them.
Under normal court protocol, such a policy is virtually unprecedented. Holding banks to a strict standard of proof, requiring proof of the authenticity of vital documents, and other normal requirements, are often passed over in Florida foreclosure courts under the new legal mandates. The procedure may be ultimately harmless in the majority of the cases where the homeowner does not enter an appearance.
However, in those small number of cases in Florida where the homeowners are trying to challenge the foreclosure, strict compliance with the traditional legal protections of the system should be assured to all litigants. This is perhaps an example of how a legislature can go overboard in trying to cure a problem by any and all means. After all, the courts would not be following these unusual procedures if the legislature had not provided them with the necessary authority.
Source: The Center for Public Integrity, “Investigating Florida’s parallel legal system for foreclosures“, Alison Fitzgerald, Sept. 12, 2014