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Rolling Stone Takes a Look at Florida's Rocket Docket

The Florida rocket docket controversy has even caught the attention of Rolling Stone magazine. The term "rocket docket" was coined to describe the in-and-out philosophy of foreclosure courts. The article features the experiences of Matt Taibbi, who went to Florida to examine the foreclosure process.

Taibbi sat in on foreclosure hearings in a small conference room which serves as a makeshift foreclosure court. Prior to the task, he had spent hours researching with legal experts. Many foreclosure cases are heard by retired judges who are being asked to help speed up foreclosure hearings so the massive foreclosure backlog can be alleviated.

So, what did Taibbi find? He found that banks were producing substandard paperwork. However, this was not shocking given the widespread media coverage surrounding banks' use of fraudulent documentation.

What was more disturbing was Taibbi's discovery that the foreclosure process heavily favors banks. For example, when a homeowner does not show up to the hearing, the judge will issue a foreclosure order. On the other hand, when a bank representative fails to show, the judge simply reschedules. Likewise, when a bank submitted mortgage notes that did not make sense, the judge allowed the bank to come back with a new set of documents.

The article accuses the rocket docket of allowing banks to commit fraud continuously. Even if a court was to find for a homeowner, the lender can simply refile. Therefore, in order to clear cases and reduce the backlog, the quickest method is to side with the lender. According to a local foreclosure attorney, the foreclosure process is based upon achieving that result.

Although one retired judge had recently told a local newspaper that he would immediately turn over any evidence of fraud in foreclosure proceedings to the state's attorney, Taibbi reveals he observed that same judge oversee a case fraught with fraud.

Source: CNBC "Matt Taibbi's Devastating Portrait of Florida's Rocket Docket Foreclosure Courts," John Carney, 13 November 2010

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