Dog days in Palm Beach County foreclosure court
The goliath air conditioning system in the Palm Beach County courthouse is chugging full tilt as the temperature nears 90-degrees outside and, up on the fourth floor, the foreclosure court sign-in line grows.
It’s been more than five years since Florida was rocked by the housing crisis, three years since the robo-signing scandal brought everything to a crawl, more than one year since the National Mortgage Settlement was signed to make everything better, and nearly two months since the state’s fast-track foreclosure bill became law with the signature of Gov. Rick Scott.
Much of the country has moved on, but not here.
The crowd on this first day of August is mostly compelled by a local court order to clear aging cases from an overwhelmed docket, forcing dusty files to trial.
Assembly begins before 8 a.m. Soon, the line trails down the fourth-floor hallway, turning a corner to form a U-shape and blocking the entrance to a double row of elevators. People squeeze sideways through the quiet mob.
Court documents become makeshift fans.
Homeowners stand out amid the suited attorneys, dots of white T-shirts and shorts in a sea of dark suits. Children aren’t exempt from foreclosure court. On summer break, they come with their parents wearing Mickey Mouse and Justin Bieber sweatshirts, Ipods muting out the confused whispers of pro se litigants.
“We’re doing a loan modification,” one woman complains. “How can they foreclose on us?”