As banks resume foreclosures and claim to have added safeguards to their processes, it’s been left up to state court judges to decide whether they buy what the banks are saying. Many judges haven’t.
The Maryland appeals court’s new policy permits judges to require lawyers to testify to the validity of the underlying affidavit in a foreclosure case. Judges also can order notaries public to appear in court or appoint special masters to review foreclosure documentation.Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas said last week it would give servicers and lenders 30 days to ensure that they have filed proper paperwork—or else their cases will be dismissed. The court, which covers Cleveland, also said judges will require lawyers in residential foreclosure cases to file affidavits swearing that they have taken "reasonable steps" to verify the accuracy of documents filed to the court.
In a cramped, makeshift courtroom, Broward County Judge Victor Tobin was signing off on uncontested foreclosure cases as fast as a clerk could keep them coming, only a few seconds per file."Batter up," he said as he finished one stack and eyed the next. With scores of cases remaining on the day’s "rocket docket" earlier this week and tens of thousands more awaiting judgment in this courthouse, there was little time to pause.On the other side of the state, in a Sarasota County courtroom, another judge on a recent day was taking a dramatically different tack. Impatient with attorneys for lenders trying to seize hundreds of homes, fed up with their sloppy paperwork and errant practices, Judge Harry Rapkin dismissed 61 foreclosure cases in that single day – a quarter of those awaiting his approval. While the plaintiffs could re-file, it would mean hefty fees and significant delay.