Court report: 'Horrifying' foreclosures, legal gridlock demand more mediation efforts
Wake up and good morning. "Picture this: the biggest road out of town. Now imagine it is rush hour. In a thunderstorm. Add that it is also a hurricane evacuation. A lane is closed due to construction delayed by budget impacts. Imagine the traffic jam."
Okay, we get the drama. Gridlock and frustration abound.
But what we don't realize is that these are the opening sentences of the just released final report of the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Cases. Every "car" is a case. There's only so much capacity on the roads. The 15-member task force, formed by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince (shown in photo) last spring, says courts need to take uniform streamlining measures to keep the flood of residential foreclosure filings from clogging up the system.
And most important: It recommends mandatory mediation sessions to try to keep some foreclosures out of the courts.
The final report warns Florida suffers from "the third highest mortgage delinquency rate, the worst foreclosure inventory, and the most foreclosure starts in the nation." In fact, the report authors write, "the latest news for Florida is horrifying."
"The National Delinquency Survey determined that of the 3,542,940 loans being serviced in Florida, 374,134 are in the judicial foreclosure process. A total of 988,480 foreclosures were initiated in the first quarter of 2009, during a time period when many moratoria were in place.
"Another 378,031 loans are delinquent, with 181,044 seriously delinquent (90+ days delinquent). The flow of foreclosure cases and homes in the Florida pipeline to foreclosure filing shows only signs of increasing."
The final word? "Judges simply cannot resolve the filings at this volume level by hard work and elbow grease alone," the report says. Here's a Wall Street Journal story about it.
The good news is that this report was ever assembled in the first place. The bad news is the report tends to state the obvious. 1. Courts are overwhelmed by foreclosure volumes. 2. More mediation needs to occur outside the courts -- not just legal mediation but action by banks and mortgage lenders to work with borrowers to ease the crisis. 3. Florida's budget is a mess so we can't add additional court resources to fix the foreclosure gridlock.
But then, the judicial wheels always turn slowly. Here is the full report.
(Quince photo courtesy of Florida Supreme Court.)
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist