Last week, an Administrative Order was issued by the Chief Judge for the Circuit Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida that will have a huge impact on Florida home owners and South Florida borrowers dealing with foreclosure issues. (Read the Order here.)
Why the Palm Beach County Administrative Order on Residential Foreclosure Litigation is Important to All of Us
Palm Beach County, together with Broward County and Miami-Dade County together make up the South Florida Metropolitan Area, as that is defined by the U.S. Census. These three counties are the three most populous counties in the State of Florida, and they set side by side, here on the beautiful Florida coastline.
Which means to Florida lawyers that what happens in one of these counties will be noticed by judges in the other two county courthouses, and what happens in Palm Beach’s Circuit Court for the 15th Judicial District will not only impact the Florida home owners and borrowers in Palm Beach County, but similar actions may be taken in Miami-Dade County and Broward County if Chief Judge Peter Blanc’s Administrative Order No. 3.312-2/13 of February 21, 2013 is given two thumbs up by the powers that be.
What Does the Palm Beach Administrative Order Do?
Judge Blanc has entered an Administrative Order, which applies not to just one case but to all cases filed in his court’s jurisdiction. It does several things regarding residential foreclosure cases filed in the 15th Judicial District in and for Palm Beach County, Florida.
For one thing, the Palm Beach Administrative Order changes the court procedure, and now foreclosure cases on the civil docket require the bank plaintiffs’ lawyers who filed these cases to file with the court an identification of all the bank’s foreclosure lawsuits that were filed before the first of July 2010. The bank attorneys also have to provide a description of the case itself, explaining to the court the status of that particular lawsuit.
l. Plaintiffs, through counsel, shall identify all open residential foreclosure cases pending in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit (Palm Beach County) in which the firn acts as plaintiffs counsel and shall provide the following for each individual case:
a. A Cover letter identifying the Case number and the case Style;
b. A current, accurate service list for ALL parties, including plaintiffs counsel, defense counsel, and pro se defendants as appropriate (mailing and e~mail addresses, as applicable);
c. Pre-addressed, postage paid legal size mailing envelopes for the entire service list, including plaintiff’ s counsel, with the case number ‘referenced on the face of the envelopes;
2. Plaintiff shall provide the information required in Section l above as follows:
a. The deadline for receipt for cases filed in 2007 or earlier is March 8, 2013;
b. The deadline for receipt of cases filed in 2008 is March 15, 2013;
c. The deadline for receipt of eases filed in 2009 is March 29, 2013;
d. The deadline for receipt of cases filed before July 1, 2010 is April 12, 2013.
Second, any foreclosure civil lawsuit that has been on file for 36 months (or longer), this Circuit Court is going to schedule blocks on the court’s calendar to deal with these old cases for trial. Judge Blanc is going to set these old lawsuits for trial and he’s letting the banks who filed the lawsuits know that he’s going to push those cases to a courtroom.
Larry Tolchinsky’s Tip: This is the “rocket docket” coming back again to Florida. Palm Beach is making it more official, but Florida foreclosure defense lawyers are fighting against the dangers of rocket docket and other attempts to clear all those backlogged, bottlenecked foreclosure lawsuits because borrower/defendants’ rights are in danger in these swift sweeps of court dockets, no matter how well intended.
In Miami, Florida foreclosure defense lawyers have been dealing with Miami-Dade County judges setting old foreclosure cases for trial which many view as endangering due process in any number of ways. For example, the new problem of Banks bringing people to testify as custodians of record at trial who do not meet the legal standards of “custodian of records.” Trial judges that allow these folk to rubber stamp bank filings without having personal knowledge required by Florida Statutes risk constitutional rights violations and appeals to Florida reviewing courts.
Now, Palm Beach is going to have an official process where lawyers are being required to work with the courts to get the old cases culled from the court system. Problem is, these trials are going to be literally minutes long, and that may be enough if there’s no true issue of law or fact — but if there is a factual controversy (like did the bank properly notify the borrower of default?) or a legal issue (like is this bank legally entitled to foreclosure here or is this a Zombie Title case?) then this isn’t enough time for a borrower to raise those issues.
The bad news here is that borrowers may be denied their right to a fair trial.
Can this also be good news for borrowers? Pressure on the banks as plaintiffs here may mean they have a new willingness to make a deal with the defendant borrower. Maybe the bank will be more happy to talk to the borrower about a loan modification or to take a deed in lieu.
Judge Blanc isn’t ignoring home owners. Within his Order is language that allows the borrower defendant to ask the court for more time before the case is tried, or even to strike the trial date off the court’s calendar, and Judge Blanc states these requests will be heard “… in an effort to promote consistence and improve the administration of justice.”
Which means that borrowers need to be ready to do two things: pressure their bank for loan modifications or other alternatives to foreclosure now if that is in their best interests, and request the court give them time to advance an offense against their lender if need be: both things that are better done with an experienced Florida foreclosure defense attorney at their side rather than trying to deal with the bank, and the court trial judge, on their own.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to Chat with Larry in the comments below, at email@example.com, or (954) 458-8655. If you have a specific or personal situation, please call or email Larry because he can’t answer specific fact questions in general comments.
“I’m happy to take your call.”