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A Times Editorial

Keep foreclosure courts open to scrutiny

It is tempting, in times of crisis, to take shortcuts. But to the credit of Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady, blocking public access to foreclosure courts won't be one of them.

Canady acted quickly last week after media and civil liberties groups complained that some judges in Florida's "rocket docket" courts were closing them to the public and press. The chief judge ordered all such proceedings remain open. Such access should not have been in question in a state where open courts are a longstanding and honorable expression of fundamental constitutional protections.

This foreclosure crisis has clearly tested the courts. A $6 million appropriation by the Florida Legislature was supposed to help address the foreclosure backlog, allowing trial courts to hire retired judges to handle cases. At times, the so-called senior judges have been relegated to small rooms or a judge's chambers as ad hoc courtrooms.

But reports also suggest some judges, more interested in speed than due process, have not wanted the public to see how quickly and perfunctorily foreclosures are being dispatched.

Regardless, it's unacceptable. Public access to the courts is a way to keep the judicial branch accountable, giving the public confidence that the law is being followed.

Canady's order means the proceedings are now open, but there was another caution in his memo to the courts that is equally consequential. With Florida courts still facing nearly 400,000 foreclosure cases and having adopted a goal of clearing 62 percent of those cases in a year, Canady reiterated that a desire for speed cannot be allowed to affect due process. That directive needs to be followed too.

Keep foreclosure courts open to scrutiny 11/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 20, 2010 6:57pm]
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