Archive for March 29th, 2011

Trying to Make a Judge Recognize His Bias

As a foreclosure defense attorney with cases throughout Florida, I encounter all types of judges.  Some are very fair towards homeowners and their positions, recognizing that many have valid defenses to foreclosure.  Other judges are, well, not so fair.  And many others fall somewhere in the middle.

In recent weeks, some of the judges in Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit have begun taking actions that I deem particularly unfair, reflecting a level of judicial bias that, in my view, is unbecoming of the entire legal profession.  To illustrate, in one recent case, I filed a motion to dismiss that has been routinely granted by other judges throughout Florida.  No, it’s not granted every time, but I’ve had a fair amount of success with the arguments contained therein.  Anyway, in this case, Judge Hodges in Marion County denied the motion, sua sponte, without notice, without hearing, and without apprising me that he may rule without giving me a chance to be heard.  Perhaps worse yet, he did so when the plaintiff had filed no response to the Motion to Dismiss and had done nothing to advance the case towards judgment.  Simply put, the judge took it upon himself to advance the case towards judgment by denying a motion (which is often granted) without notice or hearing.

I found this conduct to be out of line and indicated as much in this Motion to Disqualify Judge.  Today, I received an Order in the mail denying the motion without explanation, so I wrote Judge Hodges this letter telling him my views and concerns about the situation and his procedures as a whole.  The point of the letter is to try to make the judge realize that, from my perspective, his actions reflect a level of bias that should not exist among judges.  To illustrate, I asked the judge: 

   – If you were the foreclosure defendant, would you find it fair that the judge was taking it upon himself to advance a case towards judgment, particularly where the plaintiff was the only party seeking relief?

   – If you were the foreclosure defendant, would you find it fair that the judge was denying a motion that was essentially unopposed, without notice or hearing, particularly when you know that similar motions are often granted in other cases?  

Is this a bit hypothetical?  Sure.  But motions to disqualify judges are supposed to be viewed from the perspective of a reasonable homeowner.  And, unfortunately, I fear that Judge Hodges, among others, has not really taken the time to view foreclosure cases from that perspective. 

I’m really not sure how Judge Hodges will react to my letter, if at all.  However, we must force judges like this to think about these difficult issues if we’re ever going to make any headway in overcoming the biases that so obviously permeate their way of thinking vis a vis foreclosure cases.

Mark Stopa

Posted in Main | 6 Comments »