Opinion Piece on Florida Rocket Dockets and Robo Judges by J. Thomas McGrady – Judges Fulfill Proper Role in State’s Foreclosure Crisis

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Judges Fulfill Proper Role in State’s Foreclosure Crisis

Use of media-generated terms such as “robo-judges” and “rocket dockets” create misconceptions about how mortgage foreclosure cases are being handled in Florida courts. At worse, some of the coverage – particularly in the national media – perpetuates misunderstanding, indicates a misinterpretation of the process and shows a lack of respect for judges, staffs of the courts and clerks, and legislators, all of whom are working to solve a tremendous problem.

In addition, articles and editorials about the openness of summary judgment hearings have created an impression that the courts are trying to hide foreclosure cases from the public. Nothing is further from the truth.

A summary judgment hearing is not a “rocket docket.” The summary judgment rule is a long-standing Florida Rule of Civil Procedure and applies to all civil cases. The function of summary judgment is to have an efficient procedure for the prompt resolution of cases when there is no genuine issue of material fact and when the party seeking the summary judgment is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

A summary judgment hearing cannot be held until the defendant has been given notice of the lawsuit and an opportunity to respond. The defendant has an opportunity to use the discovery process to obtain information from the other side and otherwise prepare his or her case. The summary judgment hearing is usually held months or years after the lawsuit is filed.

Summary judgment hearings in foreclosure cases are usually heard on a mass calendar. This is no different than many other proceedings, and it is a more efficient method to schedule limited court time. Some cases on the calendar are settled or rescheduled. In most foreclosure cases, the borrower does not appear at the summary judgment hearing. If a defendant – or attorney – does appear, they can fully participate in the hearing.

The role of the judge in the summary judgment hearing is limited because the judge must remain impartial and be fair to both sides. Some judges have been faulted for not going behind the paperwork that was submitted for a summary judgment. Some critics have used the term “robo-judge,” which is derogatory, offensive and misleading because the judge is constrained by the rule of law and the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Unless the defendant raises a disputed issue of material fact, the court must grant the motion for summary judgment.

Because so many foreclosure cases have overburdened the courts, creating backlogs and longer wait times for other civil matters, the Florida Legislature responded and provided $9 million from federal stimulus funds. Of that amount, approximately $6 million is for the courts and $3 million for the clerks. The court’s funds are being prudently used for the temporary employment of case managers, who prepare the files for judges’ review, and to pay senior judges for each day they hear cases.

Some media have made it sound as if unqualified judges were recruited from retirement homes solely to dispose of foreclosure cases. To the contrary, senior judges are fully qualified and active judges. The foreclosure crisis is an unexpected situation for which senior judges are aptly suited – for what we hope is a short-term situation.

A few incidents in other parts of the state have been reported in a manner that suggests courts are purposefully barring the public and press from summary judgment hearings.

I know of no situation where the parties, press or public were denied access to summary judgment hearings in the Sixth Judicial Circuit or most other circuits. Just the opposite is true. I encourage any member of the public to observe court proceedings. We have welcomed the media into our courtrooms and chambers for mortgage foreclosure hearings.

It is easy for the media – particularly those geared to sound bites – to throw out catchy terms like “robo-judge” and “rocket docket.” The judge’s role is not as an advocate for the homeowner or lender. Rather, the judge is a neutral referee. He or she must make decisions based on the presented evidence. Judges should be commended for upholding their oath of office and following the law.

J. Thomas McGrady is the chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Pasco and Pinellas counties.

SOURCE:  LINK – Judges Fulfill Proper Role in State’s Foreclosure Crisis

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Comments
18 Responses to “Opinion Piece on Florida Rocket Dockets and Robo Judges by J. Thomas McGrady – Judges Fulfill Proper Role in State’s Foreclosure Crisis”
  1. PATRICK FARRELL says:

    Bull shit your lack of honor!,
    I was thrust through the anus of Lee Co. Fl. “rocket docket” by Judge John Carlin, in a summary judgment.
    After a year and a half the bank vacated the order because it was based on robo-signor JEFFREY STEPHAN
    of GMAC, who didnt catch the $20,000 theft of my deposit on the loan, and the $7,000 extra charges, and the lawsuit I filed first.
    Is he fucking blind or just stupid?
    After living here for 40 months for free, the bank has to start over. Fuck em.

  2. LVLawman says:

    Judge McGrady is just another Florida political hack. He exhibits that he doesn’t have a clue as to what is actually going on in many Florida courtrooms.

    He should read Brookly New York Judge Shack’s opinions and rulings about incomplete, unverified and fraudulent documents being created and presented to the courts by the banks and their attornies.

  3. Nye Lavalle says:

    too funny, time for discovery. THEY NEVER PROVIDE THE DISCOVERY! LOL

  4. pparke500 says:

    Another comment. Have any of you filed a complaint with the Judicial Standards commission? You should. The Judge HAS TO ANSWER.

  5. pparke500 says:

    The fact that the Judge felt he needed to respond tells you that the barbs are hitting the target. If anyone believes his whitewash I would like to sell them some swampland. This judge knows very well what is happening. He just hopes the public at large won’t look too hard or there is going to be blood in the streets.

  6. John says:

    I’ve read parts of Judge McGrady’s statements about the foreclosure frauds and say what the hell do you expect from a member of the perpetrators committing the crime. Everyone knows whats going on and his comments only prove how far out these weirdos minds operate, It appears that they (members of the judiciary actually) believe their own crap. The whole justice system in this country is and has been totally corrupt for a long time and now its just arriving at the absurd point before the collapse occurs. in this context the so called judge’s comments are fitting. Good luck Judge when you meet your maker.

  7. YOU BE THE JUDGE- We filed a lawsuit in 2008, case # 08CVO102 (James Green v. Cenlar Federal Savings Bank, Aurora Loan, Midland Mortgage, Barrett Burke Wilson Castle Daffin Frappier) all violated our 2000 discharge order by attempting to collect the discharged debt since 2001. Google “Zombie Debt Refuse To Die, Prince Ella”. Our attorney along with the defendants attorneys(Steven Leyh) was allowed by Judge Wayne Mallia to sign and file an invalid Rule 11 agreement that did not conform to the Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Cenlar and Aurora was non-suited in 2009. Midland and BB settlement agreement included the re-payment of the 2000 discharged mortgage FHA/HUD debt and them paying us $40,000 to end the case. We refused to sign, our attorney stole us out, I mean sold us out. We took them on pro se. They filed for summary judgment. We motioned against it. Their SJ was granted in spite of material issues, they had re-aged the debt and reported on our credit for a total of 10 years that the debt was owed. MidFirst Bank continues to carry the debt in our names as of this date, after they bought it in 2005, they are stuck with this messy discharged debt. So the defendants attorney, Leyh filed in SJ, 2 more unsigned, never-before-seen, ambigious settlement agreements, stating to the judge that we made changes to them on May 11, 2009, it should therefor be enforced. We never made any changes. So the judge issued a judgment against us, that we sign their unsigned settlement agreement, even though we never saw it and accept their offer of $40,000. Attorney Leyh has stated by mail he sent to us that if we refuse to sign, he would ask that we be fined/jail and pay attorney fee’s. So, we filed an appeal. But pro se litigants get no respect in the courts, look like we will have no choice. Corruption is alive and well in the courts. But this is a 2000 DISCHARGED FHA/HUD MORTGAGE DEBT, can anybody hear me!! Judge Mallia just looked the other way, and would not allow this case to go to trial. The courts has been looking the other way for a long time when it comes to the Banks and their corrupt attorney’s. I have lost faith in the judicial system. Do these judges have a heart? These bad boys still has the debt in our names. It’s a new season, lady justice need to open both eyes, one is not enough. pgreen019@comcast.net

  8. David James says:

    Many of us understand that the term “robo judge” is derogatory. However, the grand issue that concerns all homeowners with troubled mortgages, is that there is a lack of knowledge of foreclosure law, among the judges that hear foreclosure cases.

    When judges dishonor the rule of law, by failing to scrupulously adhere to existing statutes, rules of court, ethics, and all the other things necessary for them to reach fair judgements in ALL CASES, then they are abusing the power and authority of their public office.

    Some judges have little to no knowledge of even the basics of mortgages,promissory notes, and foreclosures. That makes these judges a major part of the problem. If judges fail to give their all to each and every case, BEFORE they grant summary judgment, even in cases when the defendant is not present, then they denegrate their own office, and cause the people to lose confidence in the judicial system.

    In many cases, the plaintiff is not even the proper party that has standing to foreclose, and yet the judge grants summary judgment. Can anyone defend this frequent judicial “error”? In fact, it is indefensible. Would you like to have this judge hearing a case against you, and was brought against you while you were out of town, and you were never legitimately served?

    If a judge is not even looking at the cases, closely enough to know if the right owner of the Note is foreclosing, why on earth do we need highly paid judges to handle profunctory, mindless paper shuffling, when he raises no important questions of the plaintiff? Any simpleton can blindly grant motions, blindly sign papers and blindly hand over new ownership of property to anyone who asks, whether he is the right party or not.

    Why is it that some judges are taking this fraud challenge seriously, and are taking the time to discover fraudulent documents submitted by plaintiffs, often discovering that the foreclosing “lender” does not even have standing, and has no proof of ownership of the Note?

    Many times COPIES of Notes are brought by the plaintiff as evidence of ownership. Some plaintiffs bring nothing at all, except for their verbal claim that they own the Note!

    Yes, judges are going to make some mistakes, and they are limited in what they’re able to do, but the people still require them to always seek justice and equity, especially now, when it is known that fraud is rampant in foreclosures.

    I’m sorry, and so is everyone else, that the present case load on the courts is great. However, that is no reason to lighten the load of caution that judges must exercise. In our legal system there is no room or constituional authority for a judge to relax the rule of law for the sake of expediency. It’s simply not the public’s fault if the courts are backed up. Justice must remain first and formost.

    Defendants are people too. Defendants are citizens. As such, they do not take a second place in our society just because of their present financial hardship, and lack of political or legal clout.

    So, I say: Sorry judges! Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeves. You have to do what you’re paid to do, and what you’re legally required to do in your important position of power. If you are not prepared to always make certain basic demands of a plaintiff in a foreclosure or lawsuit, and to demand perfect documentation, including sure proof of ownership, then either go back into retirement or learn the laws that have governed foreclosures for 225 years, and actually much longer.

  9. housemanrob says:

    It’s just CORRUPTION, CORRUPTION, CORRUPTION!!!!! Get it? It will stop either when the middle class ceases to exist (not too long a time from now)and we are all destitute, dead broke or just dead…. or we can stop it ourselves……PEACEFULLY or NOT!

  10. Lit Gant says:

    Chief Judge McGrady is whitewashing the fact that fraud has been witnessed among all of his judges. Judges are not robo-stampers. They are supposed to try facts by rule of law. If a defendant is in court or not, if a judge sees documents that are not legitimate, the summons has not been served on defendants, there are back-dated notary affidavits, he has a duty throw the case out and not to issue a summary judgment. Judge McGrady is not being truthful. Judges in his circuit have allowed fraud upon their courts and have knowingly ordered summary judgments knowing there has been fraud. These are robo-judges. They are judgenauts of the rocket docket. This fraud has dirtied the titles of thousands of properties within his circuit. It also opens up the right to all who have been foreclosed to re-open their cases where fraud has taken plave and move the court to set aside the SJs and the court ordered foreclosure sales. Chief Judge McGrady will not be around to correct these injustices. These dirty titles in his jurisdiction are being passing on to his successors to clean up. Shame on Chief Judge McGrady.

  11. We have a ruling elite...the judiciary is part of that elite... says:

    US mortgage system may need revamping-Fed official

    WASHINGTON, Dec 1 (Reuters) – The mortgage servicing industry will need to make “substantial” investments to improve the foreclosures process, Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo said on Wednesday.

    “Fixing the problems in the mortgage servicing industry may also require thinking about some fundamental structural changes to the current mortgage system,” Tarullo said in prepared remarks to Congress.

    He also said regulators have found “significant weaknesses” in banks’ mortgage servicing and foreclosure controls. He said regulators are expanding their review into bank’s foreclosure practices.

  12. Larry says:

    Oh Really J. Thomas McGrady? Well I might be wrong, but It appears to me as if the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Pasco and Pinellas counties, and Charlie Green of the 20th Judicial Circuit of Lee County seem to be claiming no wrong doing.

    Remember the Fox 4 new article ” 4 In Your Corner investigates Lee County’s “Rocket Docket” program” Dated 9/15/2010

    We’re digging deeper into Lee County’s controversial “Rocket Docket” program. The brainchild of Clerk of Courts Charlie Green. Hundreds of foreclosure cases are heard each day, giving homeowners only a few minutes to plead their case. Monday 4 In Your Corner’s Liza Fernandez told you about complaints judges were steam rolling constitutional rights of due process in order to clear the backlog of foreclosure cases.Tonight she investigate complaints judges aren’t following basic rules of evidence.

    “It makes you feel ashamed, and it makes you feel very angry at a system that’s so disgustingly corrupt,” says Frank Scarola as he gets choked up about getting evicted from this historic Fort Myers home. He says he asked his bank for a loan modification – and it agreed, but that he then got the runaround after his mortgage was bought and sold twice – finally landing in a rocket docket courtroom. That’s when Scarola asked for an unbroken chain of ownership – a document that proves the current bank is in fact the owner of the debt after so many sales between banks.

    “In 80 percent of the cases that I have, there’s no assignment being shown, and the judges are letting them get by without showing the original note,” complains attorney Michael Chionopoulos. “I was specifically told by one judge, counselor stop. I have 180 cases on my docket this morning. I’ve heard all the evidence I’m going hear. The defendant didn’t pay the mortgage, we’re done here, he continues.

    Liza Fernandez:”The banks then come to court and can’t provide the original documents…”

    Clerk of Courts Charlie Green: “The debt is still the debt. The note is supposed to be present, and that’s a problem for the lender. It comes back to both parties, the party who borrowed the money, who signed the note agreed to pay.

    …Even if the other party can’t be determined.

    Frank Scarola tells 4 In Your Corner he’s suing the bank that foreclosed on his home and Lee County for fraud, “absolutely, institutionalized fraud this was.Theres some kind of deal between banks and the judges or banks and the court system. they absolutely stole my house without proving it was ever theirs.

    Contact Lee County judges: http://www.ca.cjis20.org/web/main/leejudges.asp

    ————————————————————————————————————

    Well perhaps My Petition for Writ of Mandamus will help shed the “proverbial light” on your investigation.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/44363252/Petition-for-Writ-of-Mandamus

    Case Number: 2D10-5604 filed 11/29/2010 In regards to Case # 07-CA-011562 and Case # 08-CA-055974 Filed in Lee County.

  13. indio007 says:

    I left a warning shot across the bow in TBO’s comments. There days are coming to an end. These judge’s act like they have no ministerial duty to perform due diligence. Their pleas of ignorance will not help. They act like they never heard of sua sponte.

  14. ny says:

    If this imbecile of a judge believes this crap, I would like to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge…

  15. George says:

    I have no issue with respect for the court and the judges as well as all the other personal. MY DISRESPECT IS FOR THE WAY THE JUDGES ARE HANDLING THE CASES. THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE WHERE THE DEFENDANT HAS TO PROVE INNOCENCE. THE JUDGES DO NOT EVEN READ MOTIONS OR ANYTHING ELSE WRITTEN BY PRO- SE DEFENDANTS.
    SOMEONE NEEDS TO TELL ALL THESE COURT OFFICIALS BECA– USE SOME OF US ARE NOT ATTORNEYS
    WE ARE NOT STUPID. I FOR ONE HAVE THREE MASTERS AND ONE DOCTORATE AND IN THE COURT AM TREATED LIKE AN IDIOT.
    READ WHAT YOU RULE ON AND DON’T HIDE BEHIND THE BLACK ROBE OF POWER IS ALL WE ASK. ABIDE BY THE LAW NOT MAKE YOUR OWN.

  16. pelucheven says:

    I hope this judge does not forget to review his retirement fund today.

    I must be influenced to believe that if you allege material facts that need to be addressed such as standing the case should be reviewed further, however that is not happening. All foreclosures being filed and those that were in process are suspect of fraud. The least any one of these judges could do is to be fair, just and impartial and tell all the parties to come to court with REAL documentation, not fabricated crap.

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