Archive for November 11th, 2010

Foreclosure courts – are they fair?

I had the opportunity today to interview with Bay News 9 in Tampa, essentially to give my opinions about the flaws with senior judges and rocket dockets.  The interview aired in Tampa and Orlando.    Here’s a link to the story, with video; the written version is below. 

Jacqueline Fell, the reporter on this story, did a really nice job showing the contrast between how judges view the foreclosure process and how foreclosure defense lawyers do.  Unfortunately, this debate isn’t going to end any time soon. 


Foreclosure courts started in Orange and Osceola counties in July.  It’s money straight from the legislature to pay separate judges to hear just foreclosure cases. It’s helping keep the court system moving.  But some have said it’s helping banks kick people out of their homes faster.

Foreclosure courts were supposed to be the answer to the back log of cases at the courthouse.  But just a few months and thousands of cases later, it’s now heavily criticized by national media and advocates for going too fast.

Administrative Circuit Judge Fred Lauten was hearing a number of cases before foreclosure court started.  He said 10,000 cases in Orange and Osceola counties have been resolved since July, and it’s not moving too quickly. 

“There are days when I’ve heard 10 cases in a hour, and there are days when I may have heard 30 cases an hour,” Lauten said.

“In a particular morning, a judge could rule on 100 foreclosures between morning session and break for lunch. The next day, the judge may only get to 25 to 30 of them. [It] depends on what the issues are on the case,” Lauten said. 

Mark Stopa, who is one of the most outspoken foreclosure defense attorneys in the state, disagrees and said the foreclosure process is broken. “What happens is these rocket dockets and senior judges and everything just goes on a fast track, especially when homeowners don’t have a lawyer,” Stopa said.

When concerns of faulty paperwork made newspaper headlines, big banks put a moratorium on foreclosures to investigate.  But things are back up and running.

Lauten said it’s not the job of the judge to find the proper lending owner and so criticism shouldn’t lie within the courts.  “Any individual judge needs to decide the case based on what they hear in the courtroom, based on the evidence that’s presented before him or her and not based on something he might read in a newspaper or see on television,” Lauten said. 

Stopa is urging for government intervention, saying homeowners aren’t given a fair chance to voice their arguments.  He also continues to stress this process is so convoluted and complex that a homeowner shouldn’t go at it alone.

Stopa said getting an attorney for a year can be less than one month’s mortgage and could mean the difference in moving out or staying in your home.

Federal lawmakers are about to take a closer look at the judicial system’s role in the foreclosure crisis.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday.

A Florida congressman requested a hearing on the implications accelerated foreclosure courts have had on the rights of homeowners facing foreclosure.

Mark Stopa

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Congress to Investigate Role of Judiciary in Foreclosure-Gate

Judiciary Committee Heeds Deutch Call for Hearing into Foreclosure Courts

(Washington, DC) The House Judiciary Committee has announced it will hold a hearing next Wednesday, November 17th, to study the role played by the judicial system in the foreclosure crisis. The hearing will take place just weeks after Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-19) requested House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers arrange a hearing on the implications that accelerated foreclosure courts have had on the rights of homeowners facing foreclosure. As the Washington Post, New York Times, and other national media outlets investigate the possibility that lenders wrongly evicted homeowners without proper legal standing, this hearing will examine whether or not families have been denied due process during foreclosure litigation.

“The foreclosure crisis remains all too real in South Florida, with Palm Beach and Broward Counties leading in statewide foreclosure filings,” said Congressman Deutch. “I applaud Chairman Conyers for convening this hearing and for championing the rights of families across America who are struggling to stay in their homes during these challenging economic times. If states are going to move forward with alternatives to traditional foreclosure proceedings, we need to ensure that appropriate safeguards remain in place to protect the rights of homeowners. We have an obligation as lawmakers to protect American families from the kinds of abusive practices reportedly being employed by lenders with limited judicial oversight.”

A link to the original letter authored by Congressman Deutch is available here:

Time: 10:00 am
Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building
Hearing on Foreclosed Justice: Causes and Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis
By Direction of the Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Mark Stopa

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