By Kimberly Miller
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Florida’s courts cleared 65,830 foreclosure cases in a three-month period beginning July 1, with 71 percent being decided in quickie hearings before the judge sometimes called “rocket dockets.”
According to a report released today by the Office of State Courts Administration, only 23 foreclosure cases went to trial statewide during the same time period.
The report, the first of its kind, was conducted between July 1 and Sept. 30 to measure how Florida’s 20 circuit courts are using a $6 million state allotment awarded over the summer to hire additional judges and staff to handle foreclosures.
Despite clearing 65,830 cases, 25 percent of which were dismissed for reasons that could include a completed short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure agreement, the report found a backlog of 396,509 cases are still clogging Florida courts.
Lawmakers awarded the $6 million, in part, hoping that getting homes back onto the market will hasten an economic recovery.
“We needed a way to see how we are doing and identify reasons for delays or slowdowns,” said Kris Slayden, who oversees foreclosures for the Office of State Courts Administration. “This shows we are doing what we said we would do, reducing the backlog.”
Palm Beach County’s foreclosure court cleared the most cases in the state during the three-month period, wiping 9,846 suits from its system. About 70 percent of those cases were decided via summary judgment, with just one trial being held, according to the report.
The concern among foreclosure defense attorneys has been that some senior judges hired with the state money would rush through foreclosures using summary judgments. A summary judgment is held in lieu of a traditional trial when the facts of the case are considered irrefutable. They are often allowed when the borrower is not contesting the foreclosure or represented by an attorney, having possibly walked away from the home.
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