If you want to see a judge to hear your trial or summary judgment, you get a prompt court date. Q. What happened with foreclosure cases during the Attorneys General cases, and what’s happening now that the case has been settled? Are you seeing a new wave of filings?
When the “Robo-signing” scandal broke, many lenders put cases on hold so that they could investigate and improve their systems for processing foreclosure paperwork. We supported that effort, because it is critical that documents filed in court are truthful and accurate, and many banks have returned to court with substantially improved systems. This was particularly difficult for condominium and homeowners associations, which frequently do not receive association payments from homeowners in foreclosure, creating deficits in the associations’ operating budgets and affecting the entire community.
During the investigations conducted by the Attorneys General and the Treasury Department, many issues also arose about the process of loss mitigation — the process by which borrowers try to work with banks to keep their home. Anecdotally, we seem to be seeing more loan modifications and short sales going through now, but we don’t have comprehensive data measuring those events.
While foreclosure filings have once again increased after the Attorneys General and Treasury Department investigations concluded, we are now at a steady rate of about 2,300 new foreclosure cases per month on average for 2012. We do not anticipate seeing another foreclosure filing tsunami. Both banks and their law firms realized that filing too many cases at once create quality control problems for them and workload problems for the court system.
There are rumors that there are giant warehouses filled to the brim with unfiled foreclosures that are about to reach the courts, but we haven’t seen them yet. Some of the delay may be due to stricter procedures required by the banks’ recent settlements with the Attorneys General and the Treasury Department over inappropriate handling of foreclosure cases, as well as Florida’s recent requirement that the accuracy of the complaint in foreclosure must be sworn to by the foreclosing plaintiff. Q. Regarding foreclosures, you have said: “It is more important to do them right than to do them fast.” Can you elaborate?
Foreclosure cases must be handled correctly by the courts. The integrity of title to the real estate property depends on a thorough and accurate court proceeding. Subsequent purchasers of these properties will rely upon what happened in court to assure their ownership of the property.
Some jurisdictions have been accused of running “rocket dockets” in which priority is placed on quick entry of judgments. Since the beginning of the crisis, the Eleventh Circuit’s priority has been to ensure that the foundations upon which the judgment is entered are solid: i.e., that parties are properly noticed; the supporting facts are properly established, and that the original note is surrendered to the court or accounted for during the proceeding. To that end, we have strict review procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the process. While we maximize resources to move the cases through the Miami-Dade court system as efficiently as possible, we do not do so at the expense of justice. Q. From your vantage point, who is responsible for the foreclosure crisis?
I deal with the cases that are in front of me. Moral judgment gets you nowhere. There is plenty of blame to go around. The banks shouldn’t have made the loans. The borrowers shouldn’t have taken them. It was a huge shell game with loans getting sold and repackaged into securities, with no responsibility. Everyone thought that somebody else should be the one to say ‘no.’’’