Foreclosure Court: The Erosion of the Judiciary
by Mark Stopa
I’m a big believer in the justice system. In fact, that’s part of why I became a lawyer. I believe in every litigant’s right to obtain a fair hearing and trial before a neutral judge and/or impartial jury. It sounds cliché, but that’s what I do – help people navigate the judicial system in their time of need.
In recent months, though, the judiciary in many parts of Florida (not all, but many) has turned into something I don’t recognize. The change has been so sudden and so extreme that it’s altering the face of the judiciary and hindering that which I hold so dear – the right to fair hearings and due process. Yes, what I consider the “core” of a fully-functioning judicial system is eroding.
If you’re a Florida lawyer but you don’t handle foreclosure cases, you likely have no idea what I’m talking about. After all, outside of foreclosure-world, Florida’s courts are operating like normal, business as usual. Sure, the down economy has brought some minor changes, but all in all, our courts are functioning in a normal way.
Foreclosure cases, though, are a totally different animal.
I was chatting with a colleague the other day, an attorney who doesn’t handle foreclosure lawsuits, and he was shocked as I described the things I see in foreclosure court on a daily basis. This is a seasoned attorney who was SHOCKED at what I see every day. That made me realize … I’m not doing a good enough job of explaining the travesties I see every day in foreclosure-world.
It’s a tough line to toe, frankly. Bar rules prohibit me from disparaging any particular judge, so it’s sometimes difficult to explain what’s happening in foreclosure court without crossing that line. In this blog, though, I’m going to toe that line. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not criticizing anyone in particular. Rather, my critique – and that’s what I see this as, a constructive critique, coupled with a hope that everyone will realize just how flawed our system has become – is aimed at the entire institution. My concerns aren’t with any particular judge or any one ruling – they lie with the entire judicial system, the way the entire judiciary is operating right now, at least as it pertains to foreclosure cases.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m just a self-interested, foreclosure defense attorney who’s trying to delay foreclosures and let people live for free. I’m upset because the courts are making that more difficult. Right?
Before you blow off my concerns in that manner, you tell me. Are my concerns legitimate? Is this how a judicial system should operate? You tell me …
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