Robo-Judges – It’s speed vs. skepticism for Fla. judges facing avalanche of foreclosure cases

“It’s like talking to a brick wall. . . .
The banks themselves have slowed down, but not the judges. . . .
are robo-signers.”


Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2010; 12:11 AM

FORT LAUDERDALE – In a cramped, makeshift courtroom, Broward County Judge Victor Tobin was signing off on uncontested foreclosure cases as fast as a clerk could keep them coming, only a few seconds per file.

“Batter up,” he said as he finished one stack and eyed the next. With scores of cases remaining on the day’s “rocket docket” earlier this week and tens of thousands more awaiting judgment in this courthouse, there was little time to pause.

On the other side of the state, in a Sarasota County courtroom, another judge on a recent day was taking a dramatically different tack. Impatient with attorneys for lenders trying to seize hundreds of homes, fed up with their sloppy paperwork and errant practices, Judge Harry Rapkin dismissed 61 foreclosure cases in that single day – a quarter of those awaiting his approval. While the plaintiffs could re-file, it would mean hefty fees and significant delay.

These two approaches – one focused on speed, one brimming with skepticism – represent the choice confronting judges in Florida, with its backlog of a half-million cases, and increasingly across the United States as reports of problems with foreclosure filings mount.

Judges in Florida are under pressure to clear their foreclosure dockets; the state’s crippled real estate market and its lagging economy cannot recover until cases work their way through the courts. Earlier this year, Florida’s legislature allocated $9.6 million to help speed up the processing of foreclosures. Much of that money went to pay retired judges and case managers to help shoulder the load and quickly dispose of cases in special foreclosure courts.

But the recent reports about flawed and fraudulent filings – and a series of announcements by large lenders that they are freezing foreclosures – have given pause to some judges in Florida. While judges agree that speed remains important, some are warning that churning through cases so quickly could mean overlooking fraudulent documents and prematurely seizing homes, perhaps depriving borrowers of due process.

How judges in Florida, at the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis, strike a balance could presage how courts elsewhere in the country will grapple with the mortgage meltdown’s latest challenge for homeowners, financial firms and the broader economy.

The ‘rocket docket’

In Broward County, on Florida’s east coast, the fifth-floor waiting area of the county courthouse has been converted to a courtroom for foreclosure cases. A clerk began a recent morning session by calling out the scores of cases on the day’s calendar, the vast majority uncontested. A bailiff nodded off in his chair. Inmates from the county jail, shackled and on their way to criminal court, shuffled through the improvised courtroom.

At a wooden desk up front, Judge Tobin raced through the “rocket docket,” signing unopposed foreclosure judgments for the better part of two hours.

The week was shaping up to be relatively light, court officials said. Two weeks ago, judges had dispensed with 900 cases. But as lenders came under fire for faulty paperwork, companies including Ally Financial, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America hastily pulled cases from the dockets and the number last week fell to about 300.

Down the hall, attorneys for the small minority of homeowners contesting seizures pleaded their cases in courtrooms 518 and 519. The attorneys cited faulty notarizations, questionable signatures, missing assignments on the part of lenders trying to foreclose. They argued that the sloppy paperwork had resulted in a broken chain of title, that lenders didn’t have legal standing to seize homes.

“There are federal investigations going on!” one defense attorney said to a judge as he argued about the legitimacy of a foreclosure affidavit.

Continue on here…


11 Responses to “Robo-Judges – It’s speed vs. skepticism for Fla. judges facing avalanche of foreclosure cases”
  1. Linda Venturella says:

    1 in 7 homeowners are either in distress or in foreclosure according to recent news reports. If the President does not step up here with some kind of a solution for struggling homeowners,and commecial property owners as well, this entire country is going to look like Detroit. Who in the world do they think is going by all of this property and land? Tax revenues have been plumetting where I live and their solution? They doubled the property tax on our commercial property, and raised our residential prperty taxes as well. I can see it everyday as I drive around once booming businesses are closed and bulldozed. They bulldoze the businesses to lower their tax bill, vacant land means cheaper property taxes. This is a national disgrace and we are becoming the laughing stock of the world. These greedy banks and Wall Street have been allowed to rape and pillage this entire nation. This is terrorism in a more deceptive form. They have stolen our constitutional rights: LIFE,LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT of HAPPINESS.

  2. lucy says:

    Corruption is rampant: Judges, lawyer, brokers, appraisals, underwriters, bankers,wall street……
    No wonder we didn’t have a chance.
    We contested but our judge did not care nor did he even bother to look through our file.
    What kind of justice is that?
    JUDGES need to be investigated, as well as be accountable for their negligence .

  3. RAMONA says:

    Where will they stop? wallstreet didn’t stop with our healthcare, should have known they would not stop with families and our homes.They got our retirements, what else are they going to rape?

  4. housemanrob says:

    I see” officer of the Law” as being entirely correct! So where is the cavalry………..where are our heroes……….Barack!

  5. housemanrob says:

    Second class citizens creating urban blight? Is that how THEY see us?

  6. housemanrob says:

    I’ve got 4 granchildren with engineering degrees and no jobs! Ask a judge. Must be a bunch of DEADBEATS!

  7. Officer of the Law says:

    When a judge signs an order or a judgment without reviewing the complaint and its exhibits to see whether the plaintiff has standing to sue for foreclosure, then he takes the risk that the plaintiff may not have shown that it has standing to sue in which case the judge has no jurisdiction to enter any order or judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

    If the complaint and its exhibits do not show that the plaintiff has standing to bring a foreclosure action, then the plaintiff has not properly invoked the court’s jurisdiction and a judge only has the power to enter an order dismissing the action.

    When a judge fails to dismiss any case in which the complaint does not properly invoke the court’s jurisdiction, all other orders and judgments entered in that case are void, and the judge is exposed to both civil and criminal liability for violating the defendant’s rights under color of law. Of course, a void judgment also does not confer good title, and it creates a situation in which more litigation will be necessary to quiet title or vacate the void judgment. How does that clear the dockets?

    It should be clear that Judge Rapkin understands and follows the law while Judge Tobin ignores the law at his own peril.

    Of course, Judge Tobin knows, or at least feels really confident, that the prosecutors will not go after him for his criminal actions. Judge Tobin is currently presiding over the Statewide Grand Jury which is charged with investigating public corruption, and he is well aware that a number of complaints about regulators, judges and prosecutors doing favors for the banks by refusing to enforce the law are being kept from the citizens on the grand jury by the Statewide Prosecutor, William Newton Shepherd and by Judge Tobin. It seems to me that they should be investigated and prosecuted or at least removed from their positions which allow them to obstruct justice.

    • Officer of the Law says:

      If the court file shows both that the plaintiff has standing to invoke the court’s subject matter jurisdiction and that process was served in order to obtain personal jurisdiction over the plaintiff, the judge may enter a judgment against the defendant, but the law still requires the judge to make sure that the plaintiff is entitled to judgment.

      Furthermore, it is against the law to enter summary judgment if any material fact is in dispute.

      Once again, a judge does not have the power to violate the law! When a judge violates the law, he enters a judgment which is voidable, does not confer good title, creates the need for more litigation, crowds the dockets, and exposes himself to civil and criminal liability for a violation of the defendant’s rights under color of law.

      Of course, when foreclosure mill attorneys file complaints which do not show that their bank client has standing to invoke the court’s subject matter jurisdiction, file documents which do not truthfully show that service was properly made to obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant, or file documents which do not truthfully show that the bank is entitled to judgment, then the mill attorneys and their clients have also engaged in a violation of the defendant’s rights under color of law and are also liable for civil and criminal penalties. Naturally, filing fraudulent documents is also a crime.

  8. housemanrob says:

    It’ so obvious Judge Haworth, like how many other judges, just does not get it! Where is the forethought, the vision. Do they really not believe in GHOST TOWNS. What else will be left when all the no’s dominate…………no home, job, food or hope. The train station is nearby………hop one to greener grasses….. all the roads lead elsewhere……….OUT OF HERE…………with nobody left to complete the middle class ………..the future is an odd looking model of something other than democracy………….. and I fear the meaning of facism!

  9. John says:

    The key word was in the first sentence ‘UNCONTESTED”! Why not sign those fast.

    Those of us that ‘CONTEST” will take a lot longer. What does that tell you?

    Only less than 1% will protest or buck the system, the rest will simply move out. Don’t you know they know those figures very well and count on them!

    • Officer of the Law says:

      A judge does not have the power to rule in favor of the plaintiff simply because a lawsuit is uncontested.

      The judge is required to review the complaint and its exhibits to see whether the plaintiff has shown that it has standing to sue for foreclosure and invoke the court’s jurisdiction, and the judge is required to review the file to see whether or not the defendant has been properly served so that the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant allowing it to enter any orders or judgments against him.

      If a judge fails to review the court file to make sure that he has jurisdiction to act, then he is not doing his job and he may be creating more problems for everyone including himself.

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