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Courts Using Summary Judgments To Clear Foreclosure Backlog

As we have discussed before in a previous blog post, Florida courts have been called "rocket dockets" for their speedy hearings for foreclosure cases. The court system has been accused of not taking the time to ensure all foreclosures are legal and fair. A new report suggests that this trend continues in foreclosure cases.

In a three-month period beginning on July 1 and ending September 30, Florida's courts resolved 65,830 foreclosure cases. Of those cases, 71 percent were heard in quickie "rocket docket" proceedings. Further, a report released by the Office of State Courts Administration reveals that only 23 foreclosure cases went to trial in the entire state during that three-month period.

The report comes after lawmakers awarded Florida courts $6 million to handle foreclosure cases and get rid of the state's massive backlog. The report sought to measure the courts' progress with the allotment, which allowed courts to hire additional foreclosure judges and staff.

According to Kris Slayden, who oversees foreclosures for the Office of State Courts Administration, the report demonstrated that the courts have been successful at reducing the backlog. After clearing 65,830 cases, there remains a backlog of 396,509 foreclosure cases in Florida courts.

Palm Beach County cleared 9,846 foreclosure cases, the most cases cleared in the state during the three-month period. However, approximately 70 percent of those cases were decided at summary judgment hearings. Only one of the cases went to trial.

Florida foreclosure defense attorneys are troubled by the excessive use of summary judgments in making determinations in foreclosure cases. One Florida foreclosure defense attorney called the trend disturbing, noting that the practice "is a shortcut that should rarely be used." The recent spotlight on the use of fraudulent or flawed affidavits in summary judgments makes the concerns even more pressing.

Source: The Palm Beach Post "65,830 foreclosure cases in Florida cleared in three months," Kimberly Miller, 2 Nov. 2010

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