The Florida Foreclosure Scam
Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi wrote about Jacksonville's "rocket docket" foreclosure court in Jacksonville, Florida. The judges do not read the dockets. The judges are only concerned with going through as many as 25 foreclosure cases in an hour. Obviously, the banks love this court. The retired judges in the rocket docket court do not examine if the homeowner has been swindled in a fraudulent deal.
The foreclosure courts were created by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature. The retired judges staffed to the court are not familiar with current financial and foreclosure laws. The foreclosure hearings were not open to the public. There is a good question on if this honors the spirit of the Florida Sunshine laws. Judge A.C Soud threatened to hold attorney April Charney in contempt for bringing Taibbi into a hearing. First amendment advocates wrote a letter to Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady urging that foreclosure hearings be made public. The Jacksonville foreclosure court was moved to a public courtroom.
The Sarasota Hereld-Tribune reports a David J. Stern law firm did illegal foreclosures.
There, on the foreclosure documents open to everyone, is the evidence that at least one law firm's employees repeatedly broke a state law in a rush to push cases through the courthouse so banks could seize people's homes.
The evidence -- missing signatures and misdated documents that could have not been signed on the dates specified -- can be found on an important document called a "mortgage assignment." The paperwork helps prove a lender has the legal right to seize a property.
This wasn't in the Jacksonville rocket docket court. Taibbi reports the problems are widespread in the Florida foreclosure courts.
Obviously this is not criminal court and the presumption of innocence concept is not in effect. But I don't see a judge simply waving through every stack of bogus foreclosure papers that comes through his courtroom door as meeting any kind of sane evidentiary standard either. The mere fact that a bank is a bank, and a bank's laywer is a bank's laywer, and that both of them together claim that this or that homeowner is in default -- that has no legal meaning whatsoever, as far as I can see.
The judge's point here is that it's not up to him to mount a defense strategy for homeowners in default. But the idea that it is beyond a judge to open a file and simply check to make sure the names and dates are right -- particularly given the widespread coverage of this phenomenon, when we know that virtually 1005 of these securitized mortgages lack proper paperwork and will inevitably involve fraudulent or doctored filings upon foreclosure -- that is appalling.
Foreclosure cases across the state are stalled after David J. Stern has been dropped by it's clients. Stern has laid off so many staff that they don't have attorneys to show up to foreclosure hearings with clients they still have.
"What we're seeing is multiple cases where it's set for hearing with the Stern firm, but they don't send the paperwork like they're suppose to, either to withdraw or for summary judgement (of foreclosure)." said Chief Judge Thomas McGrady. "So we've had court time set aside that they request, but they didn't bother to call us and notify us. They just don't show up."
Something fishy is up. The real David J. Stern lives in a $15 million mansion and could not be reached for comment by the St. Petersburg Times. I would not be surprised if Stern leaves the country before an investigation starts.
Where is Rick Scott and the Republicans in the Florida legislature on this. These people complain about the need to investigate ACORN. Floridians were illegally kicked out of their homes and Republicans are silent. Why aren't the few elected Democrats in Tallahassee making a stink about this.