It is widely known that the Sixth Judicial Circuit, centered in Pinellas County, is perhaps the most efficient and well-run court systems in the entire state. While there are credible stories of incidents occurring in courtrooms all across the state that violate fundamental principles and basic laws and where advocates and observers are being denied access to the courtrooms that their tax dollars paid for, the foreclosure hearings in Pinellas County courtrooms are held in open court and anyone is free to come and observe….and the courtroom is functioning just fine thank you.
THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT- MAKING GREAT STRIDES TO ENSURE FAIRNESS AND CLEAR THE BACKLOG
As most are aware, the Florida Legislature appropriated nearly $10 Million Dollars and the Supreme Court set a goal to reduce the backlog of foreclosure cases by 62%. As published in an article that appeared recently in the Florida Bar Journal, (FloridaBar1), Pinellas County reported a backlog of 39,394 cases and was given $317,752 to be used to clear the backlog.
Unlike some circuits that determined the most efficient way to clear the backlog was to rush through Summary Judgments in foreclosure rocket dockets, the Sixth Circuit implemented a comprehensive review of all foreclosure cases and determined that a significant percentage of the foreclosure cases could be dismissed when the foreclosure mills failed to follow court rules and procedures or when either the mills or their lender clients chose to not actively pursue the cases. By enforcing long standing rules that require Plaintiffs to actively pursue their cases and obtain service on all defendants and by dismissing cases when the foreclosure mills failed to follow the new rule that required all foreclosure cases filed after February 11, 2010 to be verified, the court:
1)cleared the backlog of foreclosure cases;
2) protected the rights of homeowners that live in this circuit;
3) sent a clear message to the foreclosure mills that the laws and rules of court will be enforced; and
4) helped foster an environment where lenders worked with the homeowners to come to a reasonable settlement of the case.
This story has not yet been officially written….these words are all mine, but I am very hopeful that this will be the story that will be written in a very short period of time. I have great faith in the judges and legislative leadership from this area and I am convinced that our leaders will work to make this story happen. When the story is officially written, other circuits from across the state will once again look to this circuit and our leaders for guidance and support to ensure the same story can be written in their circuit!