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KARL VS. HSBC BANK, USA, NA | Nevada Supreme Court “Mediation, Missing Documents, HSBC Failed To Show It Was Proprer Bene”

KARL VS. HSBC BANK, USA, NA | Nevada Supreme Court “Mediation, Missing Documents, HSBC Failed To Show It Was Proprer Bene”


THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA

CAROLINE J. KARL,
Appellant,

vs.

HSBC BANK, USA, NA, AS TRUSTEE
FOR MERRILL LYNCH ALTERNATIVE
NOTE ASSET TRUST, SERIES 2007-A3,
AN UNKNOWN ENTITY; AMERICA’S
SERVICING COMPANY, AN
UNKNOWN ENTITY; AND QUALITY
LOAN SERVICE CORPORATION, A
FOREIGN ENTITY,
Respondents.

ORDER AFFIRMING IN PART,
REVERSING IN PART AND REMANDING

EXCERPT:

Karl now appeals, contending (1) HSBC did not provide all the
required documents, which constitutes bad faith; and (2) a proper
representative did not attend the mediation.’ For the reasons set forth
below, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the district court’s
order denying judicial review. Specifically, we take issue with the district
court’s finding that HSBC provided proper documentation at the
mediation.

Because the parties are familiar with the facts and procedural
history in this case, we do not recount them further except as is necessary
for our disposition.

Standard of review

This court reviews a district court’s factual determinations for
clear error, Valladares v. DMJ, Inc., 110 Nev. 1291, 1294, 885 P.2d 580,
582 (1994), and its legal determinations de novo, Clark County v. Sun
State Properties, 119 Nev. 329, 334, 72 P.3d 954, 957 (2003). Absent
factual or legal error, the choice of sanction, if any, in an FMP judicial
review proceeding is committed to the sound discretion of the district
court. Pasillas v. HSBC Bank USA, 127 Nev. „ 255 P.3d 1281,
1287 (2011).

HSBC failed to provide the required documentation

To obtain a foreclosure certificate, it is mandatory that a
beneficiary of a deed of trust or its representative “(1) attend the
mediation, (2) mediate in good faith, (3) provide the required documents,
and (4) have a person present with authority to modify the loan or access
to such a person.” Id. at     , 255 P.3d at 1284; see Leyva v. National
Default Servicing Corp., 127 Nev.     „ 255 P.3d 1275, 1276 (2011)
(requiring strict compliance with NRS 107.086’s requirements). A letter
certifying the mediation cannot be entered until all the requirements of
NRS 107.086 are met. Pasillas, 127 Nev. at , 255 P.3d at 1286. If the
homeowner petitions the district court for judicial review, the court may
impose sanctions against the “beneficiary of the deed of trust or the
representative as the court determines appropriate” if any one of these
four requirements is not satisfied. NRS 107.086(5).

Karl contends that HSBC failed to provide the documents
required under NRS 107.086(4). We agree. NRS 107.086(4) requires that
the beneficiary provide “the original or a certified copy of the deed of trust,
the mortgage note and each assignment of the deed of trust or mortgage
note.” The record lacks clarity as to whether HSBC provided all the
proper documentation. 2 The only evidence provided is that the mediator
did not note missing documents on the mediator statement. The
documents in the appellate record, however, fail to show whether HSBC
established that it was the proper beneficiary that provided the required
documents. Thus, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion
in determining that the necessary documents were provided. 3 Accordingly
we,
ORDER the judgment of the district court AFFIRMED
IN PART AND REVERSED IN PART AND REMAND this matter to the
district court to clarify its findings regarding the sufficiency of the
documents produced by HSBC at the mediation and whether sanctions are
appropriate. 4

[ipaper docId=79217873 access_key=key-51z9v73kmy1rf58460w height=600 width=600 /]

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PIAZZA VS. CITIMORTGAGE, INC. | Nevada Supreme Court “Mediation, Directs Dist. Ct. to Evaluate Assignments”

PIAZZA VS. CITIMORTGAGE, INC. | Nevada Supreme Court “Mediation, Directs Dist. Ct. to Evaluate Assignments”


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA

CARL F. PIAZZA,
Appellant,

vs.

CITIMORTGAGE, INC.,
Respondent.

ORDER AFFIRMING IN PART, REVERSING IN PART, AND
REMANDING

EXCERPTS:

On appeal, Piazza contends that the district court abused its
discretion in refusing to sanction CitiMortgage and in ordering that it be
issued a foreclosure certificate. He argues that the issuance of a
foreclosure certificate was improper because the Broker’s Price Opinion
(BPO) that CitiMortgage produced at the mediation did not strictly comply
with the statutory requirements set forth in NRS 645.2515(3), and the
assignments of the deed of trust that CitiMortgage presented at the
mediation were flawed. 2 For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part
and reverse in part the district court’s order granting CitiMortgage’s
petition for judicial review, and remand for further proceedings.

The district court abused its discretion in ordering a foreclosure certificate
to be issued to CitiMortgage[

[…]

Nonetheless, based upon the record on appeal, it does not
appear that the district court reviewed the assignments presented by
CitiMortgage to ensure that they were in strict compliance. The district
court, therefore, abused its discretion in ordering a foreclosure certificate
to be issued. We therefore reverse and remand this matter to the district
court for further proceedings. On remand, we direct the district court to
evaluate whether the assignments presented by CitiMortgage were in
strict compliance. In this, the court must consider whether the documents
presented establish that the deed of trust was properly assigned and make
appropriate findings related thereto. Accordingly, we
ORDER the judgment of the district court AFFIRMED IN
PART AND REVERSED IN PART AND REMAND this matter to the
district court for proceedings consistent with this order.

[ipaper docId=79216724 access_key=key-4lxgi0au6330aa2gdgo height=600 width=600 /]

 

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Bought Justice, Pt. II: An Interview with Landon Rowland

Bought Justice, Pt. II: An Interview with Landon Rowland


Dylan Ratigan-

It’s one thing is your politicians are bought—it’s another thing if the media doesn’t do their job holding them to account. But what’s a country to do when its very judgesare for sale?

In Dylan’s post earlier this week on Bought Justice, we revealed how corruption in our courts, as usual spearheaded by money in elections, is slowly wrecking our economy.

As he wrote in the piece, “what makes America a great place to do business is the certainty provided by a world class court system that makes sure the rules of the road apply to everyone equally.”

One of the people most concerned about “bought justice” is Landon Rowland, Janus Capital Chairman Emeritus and the 15th president of the Kansas City Southern Railway.

Dylan had a chance to have an extended conversation with Mr. Rowland about the importance of independent judiciaries in sustaining economic development and encouraging investment, the corrupting effect of money in judicial elections, and the danger of letting “the rule of cash prevail over the rule of law.”

[DYLAN RATIGAN]

RFD Ep #76 Landon Rowland by Dylan Ratigan

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Bought Justice – corruption in courts

Bought Justice – corruption in courts


Dylan Ratigan-

Janus Capital Chairman Emeritus Landon Rowland is worried about the corrupting influence of money in politics. This is not so unusual, except for two factors. Rowland is a mild midwestern businessman, the type of sober fair minded moderate who doesn’t express concern lightly. And Rowland’s concern isn’t bought politicians, but bought judges. Rowland believes that corruption in our courts, as usual spearheaded by money in elections, is slowly wrecking our economy. What makes America a great place to do business is the certainty provided by a world class court system that makes sure the rules of the road apply to everyone equally. This, he believes, is now in jeopardy.

I’ve written before about the unholy alliance of business and state that sells our elections and our legislative process to the highest bidder. That same unholy alliance is corrupting our courts through a deep and effective campaign to buy off judges the way that our politicians have been purchased. Rowland pointed this out in a 2009 op-ed opposing a significant change in the way that Missouri judges are chosen. Currently, the state has a nonpartisan commission of experts that screen judicial candidates, and then the governor picks among them. The electorate gets to vote judges out of office through “retention elections”. This protects the independence of the judiciary, and ensures that judges don’t have to go begging to corporate interests for campaign solicitations. This “Missouri Plan” was implemented to ward off machine corruption in the 1940s, and is so successful that it is in use by 24 states.

[DYLAN RATIGAN]

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Judges Are for Sale — and Special Interests Are Buying

Judges Are for Sale — and Special Interests Are Buying


A new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are packing courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest

TIME-

The Occupy Wall Street movement is shining a spotlight on how much influence big-money interests have with the White House and Congress. But people are not talking about how big money is also increasingly getting its way with the courts, which is too bad. It’s a scandal that needs more attention. A blistering new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are pouring money into state judicial elections across the country and packing the courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest.

A case in point: West Virginia. In 2007, the West Virginia Supreme Court, on a 3-2 vote, threw out a $50 million damage award against the owner of a coal company. Funny thing: the man who would have had to pay the $50 million had spent $3 million to help elect the justice who cast the deciding vote. The West Virginia ruling was so outrageous that in 2009 the United States Supreme Court overturned it. But that was unusual. In most cases, judges are free to decide cases involving individuals and groups that have paid big money to get them elected.

.

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National mortgage fraud scandal spreads to the judiciary

National mortgage fraud scandal spreads to the judiciary


EXAMINER-

While the U. S. Department of Justice is actively prosecuting mortgage and foreclosure fraud, a national organization that helps homeowners avoid foreclosure has evidence that certain state judges appear to be protecting lawbreakers.  Billions of dollars have been received by corporations in the foreclosure industry since the Great Recession began.  Are these vast sums of money finding their way to elected state judges and politicians?

CHOESTOE, GA – June 11, 2011 (Examiner.com) – Amid the splendor of pristine mountains, waterfalls and springtime flowers in one of America’s favorite vacationlands, a passionate lady-with-a-cause, presented evidence yesterday that could shake the judicial system to its foundation.   While helping families facing foreclosure, her non-profit organization has recently stumbled upon very questionable judicial actions in several states. The evidence is overwhelming that the powerful foreclosure industry not only has inappropriate influence over state court systems, but is using threats and economic pressure to stymie investigative efforts and legislative regulation.

Continue reading [EXAMINER]


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Judges accused of ‘predetermining’ foreclosure cases -LVRJ

Judges accused of ‘predetermining’ foreclosure cases -LVRJ


By Doug McMurdo
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Posted: Feb. 19, 2011 | 2:06 a.m.
.

A lawyer accuses District Judge Donald Mosley and other judges of “predetermining” the outcome in foreclosure disputes in favor of the lenders, according to an appeal filed with the Nevada Supreme Court.

In the process, they have made a “mockery” of a program designed to rescue distressed homeowners, attorney Jacob Hafter says in court papers filed Wednesday.

A 2009 state law gives judges the authority to modify loans if lenders fail to abide by Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program guidelines.

Hafter said Mosley — and by implication the high court — had previously discussed how Nevada courts would rule in these disputes. During a foreclosure hearing for Hafter client Carl Piazza, Mosley said he would never sanction a lender for bad faith by modifying a loan from the bench.

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[VIDEO] Nasty Mortgage Fraud Self Help remedy: Courtroom video in New Hampshire.

[VIDEO] Nasty Mortgage Fraud Self Help remedy: Courtroom video in New Hampshire.


KingCast65 | December 07, 2010 |

http://christopher-king.blogspot.com/…
This is a crucial video with actual courtroom footage showing how mortgages and notes are lost as U.S. Citizens face foreclosure, as noted by journalists like Matt Taibbi. Fight back with KingCast courtroom video. I’ve been shooting courtroom video since I tried Civil Rights cases in the mid 1990’s.

KingCast — Reel News for Real People.

Ingress v. Wells Fargo
Hillsborough South
226-2010-CV571

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Matt Taibbi: Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners

Matt Taibbi: Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners


Retired judges are rushing through complex cases to speed foreclosures in Florida

By Matt Taibbi
Nov 10, 2010 2:25 PM EST

The following is an article from the November 11, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone. This issue is available Friday on newsstands, as well online in Rolling Stone’s digital archive. Click here to subscribe.

The foreclosure lawyers down in Jacksonville had warned me, but I was skeptical. They told me the state of Florida had created a special super-high-speed housing court with a specific mandate to rubber-stamp the legally dicey foreclosures by corporate mortgage pushers like Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase. This “rocket docket,” as it is called in town, is presided over by retired judges who seem to have no clue about the insanely complex financial instruments they are ruling on — securitized mortgages and laby­rinthine derivative deals of a type that didn’t even exist when most of them were active members of the bench. Their stated mission isn’t to decide right and wrong, but to clear cases and blast human beings out of their homes with ultimate velocity. They certainly have no incentive to penetrate the profound criminal mysteries of the great American mortgage bubble of the 2000s, perhaps the most complex Ponzi scheme in human history — an epic mountain range of corporate fraud in which Wall Street megabanks conspired first to collect huge numbers of subprime mortgages, then to unload them on unsuspecting third parties like pensions, trade unions and insurance companies (and, ultimately, you and me, as taxpayers) in the guise of AAA-rated investments. Selling lead as gold, shit as Chanel No. 5, was the essence of the booming international fraud scheme that created most all of these now-failing home mortgages.

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NJ APPEALS COURT VOIDS MORTGAGE: US BANK, N.A. VS. NIKIA HOUGH, ET AL.

NJ APPEALS COURT VOIDS MORTGAGE: US BANK, N.A. VS. NIKIA HOUGH, ET AL.


StopForeclosureFraud.com

While US Bank cannot foreclose on the home, it can sue her to collect the debt she still owes.

Hough’s attorney, Henry Loeb of Somerville, said, “It’s a split decision. She is very happy about having the mortgage voided. But we thought there were decent arguments to have the entire loan voided.”

read the full article here…My Central Jersey

Appeals Court Opinion

US BANK, N.A. v. HOUGH

US BANK, N.A., Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
NIKIA HOUGH, Defendant-Appellant, and
MR. HOUGH, HUSBAND OF NIKIA HOUGH; NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS; COUNCIL ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING; TOWNSHIP OF PISCATAWAY; NEW JERSEY HOUSING AND MORTGAGE FINANCE AGENCY; STATE OF NEW JERSEY; and THE COMMONS AT PISCATAWAY, INC., Defendants.

No. A-5623-08T3.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

Argued January 12, 2010.

Reargued April 13, 2010.

Decided September 14, 2010.

Henry A. Loeb argued the cause for appellant (Blumberg & Rosenberg, P.A., attorneys; Mr. Loeb, on the brief).

Vladimir Palma argued the cause for respondent (Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, PC, attorneys; Mr. Palma, on the brief).

Geraldine Callahan, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for amicus curiae Office of the Attorney General (Paula T. Dow, Attorney General, attorney; Nancy Kaplen, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Ms. Callahan, on the statement in lieu of brief).

Before Judges Fuentes, Gilroy and Simonelli.

GILROY, J.A.D.

This is a real property foreclosure action. Plaintiff US Bank, N.A. seeks to foreclose upon defendant Nikia Hough’s residential condominium unit located in the Township of Piscataway (the Township). The condominium unit forms part of the Township’s affordable housing obligation and, as such, is subject to the Uniform Housing Affordability Controls (UHAC) adopted by defendant New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA), N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.1 to -26.26. Hough appeals from the June 12, 2009 order that denied her motion seeking to “void judgment of foreclosure and to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.”

The primary question presented is whether a commercial lender, which makes a loan secured by a mortgage on an affordable housing unit in excess of the amount permitted by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b), is prohibited from seeking to foreclose the mortgage. We answer the question in the affirmative, holding that the mortgage is void pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e). Accordingly, we reverse.

I.

We briefly state the procedural history and facts leading to this appeal. On January 14, 2004, Hough purchased the condominium unit for $68,142.86. To fund part of the purchase price, Hough borrowed $61,329 from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., and secured the loan by executing a mortgage in favor of Wells Fargo. Because the condominium formed a part of the Township’s affordable housing obligation, the deed contained the following restriction:

The owner’s right title and interest in this unit and the use, sale and resale of this property are subject to the terms, conditions, restrictions, limitations and provisions as set forth in Ordinance number 88-34, as amended, which Ordinance is entitled “An Ordinance Establishing and Creating Regulations Governing the Conduct of the Purchase and/or Rental of Affordable Housing in the Township of Piscataway[,”]. . . as well as those terms, conditions, restrictions, limitations, and provisions as set forth in the “Affordable Housing Plan of the Commons at Piscataway” dated April 3, 1991 which plan was filed in the Office of the Clerk of Middlesex County . . . on June 20, 1991. Both are on file with the Piscataway Township Department of Planning and Community Development.

The deed was recorded in the Middlesex County Clerk’s Office on March 15, 2004.

On March 25, 2005, Hough refinanced the condominium unit by borrowing $108,000 from Mortgage Lenders Network, USA, Inc. At the time of the mortgage transaction, the maximum allowable resale price of the condominium unit, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6, was approximately $68,735.41.[ 1 ] Hough executed a promissory note in favor of Mortgage Lenders, secured by a mortgage on the condominium unit. The mortgage was recorded in the Middlesex County Clerk’s Office on April 14, 2005. Hough used the mortgage proceeds to satisfy the Wells Fargo purchase money mortgage then in the amount of $62,795.10, and for other personal unsecured debts, and real property tax liens. Hough netted $20,080.45 from the mortgage refinance. The new mortgage included the same affordable housing restriction contained in the January 14, 2004 deed. On February 1, 2007, Hough defaulted on the mortgage.

On June 12, 2007, Mortgage Lenders filed a complaint in foreclosure against Hough.[ 2 ] On July 20, 2007, Mortgage Lenders assigned the mortgage to plaintiff. On July 8, 2008, plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding as defendants: the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), the Township, HMFA, and Hough’s condominium, The Commons at Piscataway, Inc. Plaintiff served Hough with the amended complaint and summons on August 13, 2008. Plaintiff entered default against defendants on September 18, 2008.

The Township filed an answer alleging priority over plaintiff’s mortgage based on the deed restriction. On December 15, 2008, plaintiff and the Township filed a consent order under which the Township withdrew its answer; and plaintiff agreed to prosecute the action subject to the affordable housing restriction referenced in the January 14, 2004 deed, to provide the Township with notice of any sheriff’s sale, and to request the court return the matter to the Office of Foreclosure as an uncontested action.

On January 26, 2009, plaintiff filed and served a notice for entry of final judgment. On March 9, 2009, plaintiff filed proofs in support of its request for entry of judgment. In the interim, Hough filed a motion seeking to void the judgment of foreclosure and to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, contending that the mortgage violated the UHAC regulations, as it secured a loan in excess of the amount permitted pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b).

On April 3, 2009, mistakenly believing that final judgment had already been entered, the trial court denied the motion, concluding that vacating the judgment would improperly bestow a benefit upon Hough because she had been aware of the affordable housing restrictions when she borrowed the money, paid off the Wells Fargo mortgage, and otherwise used or retained the balance of the mortgage proceeds. It is from this order that Hough appeals.

The order appealed from is not a final judgment. A “final judgment in an action to foreclose a real estate mortgage fixes the amount due under the mortgage and directs the sale of the real estate to raise funds to satisfy the amount due.” Eisen v. Kostakos, 116 N.J. Super. 358, 365 (App. Div. 1971). Accordingly, the order appealed from is interlocutory, as it is not final as to all parties and all issues. Janicky v. Pt. Bay Fuel, Inc., 396 N.J. Super. 545, 549-50 (App. Div. 2007). Nonetheless, because of the importance of the issue presented, we grant leave to appeal nunc pro tunc. Gill v. N.J. Dep’t of Banking & Ins., 404 N.J. Super. 1, 8 (App. Div. 2008).

Hough initially argued that we should reverse and declare only the mortgage void, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e). In countering plaintiff’s assertion that she would receive a windfall if the court were to void the entire indebtedness, Hough contended that plaintiff’s assertion “ignore[d] that it is only [plaintiff’s] mortgage that is void under the COAH regulation at issue and not the [n]ote or therefore the underlying debt. Rather, the regulation unequivocally establishes a reasoned and non-confiscatory penalty for a violation of its requirement; a loss of the obligation’s secured status.”

Questioning whether N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) requires voiding only the mortgage or whether it also requires voiding the indebtedness, we invited the Attorney General to address the issue on behalf of the HMFA. Consistent with Hough’s initial assertion, the Attorney General argued it is only “the mortgage secured by the affordable property that offends the regulation and is void as against public policy.” Nonetheless, contrary to her initial position, Hough contended at re-argument that we should not only void the mortgage, but also declare the underlying indebtedness void as against public policy.

II.

The January 14, 2004 deed restriction placed lenders on constructive notice that the condominium unit was part of the Township’s Mount Laurel[ 3 ] affordable housing obligation subject to the UHAC regulations.[ 4 ] The amount of indebtedness that can legally be secured by a mortgage on an affordable housing unit is governed by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8, which provides:

(a) Prior to incurring any indebtedness to be secured by an ownership unit, the owner shall submit to the administrative agent a notice of intent to incur such indebtedness, in such form and with such documentary support as determined by the administrative agent, and the owner shall not incur any such indebtedness unless and until the administrative agent has determined in writing that the proposed indebtedness complies with the provisions of this section.

(b) With the exception of original purchase money mortgages, during a control period, neither an owner nor a lender shall at any time cause or permit the total indebtedness secured by an ownership unit to exceed 95 percent of the maximum allowable resale price of that unit, as such price is determined by the administrative agent in accordance with N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6(c).

“Administrative agent” is defined in the regulations as meaning “the entity responsible for administering the affordability controls of this subchapter with respect to specific restricted units, as designated pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.14.” N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.2.

The “maximum allowable resale price” of an affordable housing unit is determined in accordance with N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6:

(c) The initial purchase price of a restricted ownership unit financed under [Urban Home Ownership Recovery Program] or [Market Oriented Neighborhood Investment Program] unit shall be calculated so that the monthly carrying costs of the unit, including principal and interest (based on a mortgage loan equal to 95 percent of the purchase price and the Federal Reserve HR15 rate of interest), taxes, homeowner and private mortgage insurance and condominium or homeowner association fees do not exceed 28 percent of the eligible monthly income of a household whose income does not exceed 45 percent of median income, in the case of a low-income unit, or 72 percent of median income, in the case of a moderate-income unit, and that is of an appropriate household size as determined under N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.4.

(d) The maximum resale price for a restricted ownership unit, if the resale occurs prior to the one-year anniversary of the date on which title to the unit was first transferred to a certified household, is the initial purchase price. If the resale occurs on or after such anniversary date, the maximum resale price shall be consistent with the regional income limits most recently published by COAH and calculated pursuant to [N.J.A.C.] 5:94-7.2(b). The administrative agent shall prove all resale prices, in writing and in advance of the resale, to assure compliance with the foregoing standards.

[N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6.]

Lastly, the prohibition against securing loans in excess of the amount permitted by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b) with a mortgage against an affordable housing unit is enforced in part by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e), which provides:

Banks and other lending institutions are prohibited from issuing any loan secured by owner-occupied real property subject to the affordability controls set forth in this subchapter, if such loan would be in excess of the amounts permitted by the restriction documents recorded in the deed or mortgage book in the county in which the property is located. Any loan issued in violation of this subsection shall be void as against public policy.

[(Emphasis added).]

Hough contends that because N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(e) provides that “[a]ny loan issued in violation of [the regulation] shall be void as against public policy,” that the regulation prohibits plaintiff from seeking not only to foreclose upon the mortgage, but also from seeking to collect upon the underlying debt instrument. Plaintiff counters that because it has agreed with the Township that it will foreclose upon the condominium unit subject to the affordable housing restrictions, stipulating that any sheriff’s sale will not produce a sale price higher than the maximum resale price as determined by the UHAC regulations, and the property would be sold only to a qualified buyer as determined under those regulations, that we should affirm the trial court’s order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff also contends that if we prohibit it from proceeding with its foreclosure action, Hough “would clearly have been unjustly enriched,” when, in fact, her own acts or omissions materially contributed to the mortgage refinance in violation of N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b). In support of that contention, plaintiff cites N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(a), which requires an owner to give notice of intent to the administrative agent that the owner intends to incur an indebtedness secured by a mortgage on the affordable housing unit, other than a first purchase money mortgage loan. Plaintiff asserts the record is devoid of any evidence that Hough gave the required notice before she refinanced the property with Mortgage Lenders.

The HMFA, through the Attorney General, contends that N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) only requires the voiding of the mortgage as against public policy, contending that “[t]he regulation does not affect the underlying debt as that does not undermine the regulation’s purpose.” We agree with the HMFA’s interpretation of the regulation.

“[W]e `give great deference to an agency’s interpretation and implementation of its rules enforcing the statutes for which it is responsible.'” ZRB, LLC v. NJ Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., 403 N.J. Super. 531, 549 (App. Div. 2008) (quoting In re Freshwater Wetlands Prot. Act Rules, 180 N.J. 478, 488 (2004)); see also DiMaria v. Bd. of Trustees of Pub. Employees’ Ret. Sys., 225 N.J. Super. 341, 351 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 113 N.J. 638 (1988). “That deference stems from the recognition that agencies have specialized expertise and superior knowledge in the areas of law delegated by the Legislature.” Lourdes Med. Ctr. v. Bd. of Rev., 394 N.J. Super. 446, 458 (App. Div. 2007), rev’d. on other grounds, 197 N.J. 339 (2009).

The agency’s interpretation need not be the only permissible one or even the one that the court would have chosen had the question been first presented to it. Matturri v. Bd. of Trs. of Judicial Ret. Sys., 173 N.J. 368, 382 (2002). So long as the agency’s interpretation is not “plainly unreasonable,” it will prevail. Ibid. Nonetheless, “we are not `bound by the agency’s interpretation of the statute or its determination of a strictly legal issue.'” ZRB, supra, 403 N.J. Super. at 550 (quoting In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 658 (1999)).

Applying these principles, we conclude that HMFA’s interpretation of N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) is not “plainly unreasonable” because it supports the primary purpose of the UFAC regulations. Thus, plaintiff is only barred from seeking to foreclose upon the mortgage; it is not barred from seeking to collect upon the underlying obligation.

The Legislature enacted the New Jersey Fair Housing Act (FHA), N.J.S.A. 52:27D-301 to 329, to further the goals of the Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions. The Court in Mt. Laurel I declared that the New Jersey Constitution “requires every developing municipality, through its land use ordinance, to provide a realistic opportunity for the construction of its fair share of the region’s low and moderate income housing needs.” In re Adoption of Unif. Hous. Affordability Controls by the N.J. Hous. and Mortgage Fin. Agency, 390 N.J. Super. 89, 92 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 192 N.J. 65 (2007); see also N.J.S.A. 52:27D-302a. In Mt. Laurel II, the Court mandated that “municipalities were required to address not only the housing needs of their own citizens, but also the housing needs `of those residing outside of the municipality but within the region that contributes to the housing demand within the municipality.'” In re Adoption of Unif. Hous. Affordability Controls, supra, 390 N.J. Super. at 93 (quoting Mt. Laurel II, supra, 92 N.J. at 208-09).

To implement the legislative process of the FHA, the Legislature established COAH, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-305a, and appointed the HMFA as the agency to “establish affordable housing programs to assist municipalities in meeting the obligation of developing communities to provide low and moderate income housing.” N.J.S.A. 52:27D-321. COAH and the HMFA are authorized to adopt and promulgate rules and regulations necessary to carry out their statutory charges. N.J.S.A. 52:27D-307.5 and N.J.S.A. 52:27D-321e, f, and g, respectively.

Pursuant to the FHA, the HMFA developed and now administers housing affordability controls. 36 N.J.R. 3655(a). The purpose of those controls is to “ensure the continuing affordability of housing receiving credit from [COAH] or receiving funding under the Neighborhood Preservation Balanced Housing . . . program.” Ibid. (citation omitted).

In adopting N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e), the HMFA pronounced that it is against public policy for a commercial lender to issue a loan secured by an affordable housing unit for an amount in excess of 95% of the units’ maximum allowable resale price. The focus of the regulation is the use of an affordable housing unit as security for an excessive loan. Stated differently, if a lending institution is permitted to make a loan secured by a mortgage against an affordable housing unit in excess of 95% of the maximum resale price of the unit, default on the loan could result in foreclosure, thus leading to the loss of the affordable housing unit. This would countermand the public policy of ensuring that affordable housing units remain affordable and occupied by lower income households. Ibid. It is with this goal in mind that HMFA asserts that “it is the mortgage secured by the affordable property that offends the regulation and is void as against public policy. The regulation does not affect the underlying debt as that does not undermine the regulation’s purpose.”

We reject defendant’s contention that N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) requires voidance of both the mortgage and the underlying indebtedness. Such an interpretation would unduly enrich Hough, with Hough having contributed to the mortgage refinance. Regulations, like statutes, must be construed “to avoid . . . interpretations that lead to absurd or unreasonable results.” State v. Lewis, 185 N.J. 363, 369 (2005); see also Cosmair, Inc. v. Dir., N.J. Div. of Tax., 109 N.J. 562, 570 (1988) (“[i]f a literal construction of the words of a statute be absurd, the act must be so construed as to avoid the absurdity. The court must restrain the words.”) (quoting State v. Clark, 29 N.J.L. 96, 99 (1860)).

We reverse the June 12, 2009 order that denied defendant’s motion seeking to dismiss plaintiff’s foreclosure complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff may file a separate action seeking to collect upon the unsecured underlying indebtedness.

1. The record contains a November 13, 2007 letter from the Township, advising that the maximum allowable resale price of the condominium unit on that date was $68,735.41. Although the record does not contain any evidence of the maximum allowable resale price as of the date of the mortgage transaction, Hough certified that it was lower than on November 13, 2007.
2. At time Hough executed the mortgage in favor of Mortgage Lenders, she executed the mortgage as a single person. The complaint also named “Mr. Hough” as a defendant as Mortgage Lenders did not know at the time of filing the complaint whether Hough had married subsequent to execution of the mortgage.
3. S. Burlington County NAACP v. Twp. of Mount Laurel, 92 N.J. 158 (1983) (Mt. Laurel II); S. Burlington County NAACP v. Twp. of Mount Laurel, 67 N.J. 151, appeal dismissed and cert. denied, 423 U.S. 808, 96 S. Ct. 18, 46 L. Ed. 2d 28 (1975) (Mt. Laurel I).
4. We note that the January 14, 2004 deed restriction does not conform to the mandatory deed form contained in the Appendixes to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26 that were later adopted on November 23, 2004, effective December 20, 2004. 36 N.J.R. 5713(a). The mandatory deed restrictions contained in the Appendixes prohibit a property owner from incurring an indebtedness secured by a mortgage upon the affordable housing unit as contained in N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(d)4iii and in N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b). N.J.A.C. 5:80-26, Appendix A, Mandatory Deed Form for Ownership Units, Art. 4C. Plaintiff does not contest that it was on constructive notice that the property was an affordable housing unit, subject to the UHAC regulations.

This copy provided by Leagle, Inc.

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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“Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.: A Survey of Cases Discussing MERS’ Authority to Act “

“Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.: A Survey of Cases Discussing MERS’ Authority to Act “


John Hooge Co-Writes Article Surveying MERS Mortgage Loan Cases

Half the residential loans in this country are MERS mortgage loans and are being given increased scrutiny both in bankruptcy cases and foreclosure actions.   John Hooge and Laurie Williams, the Wichita, KS. Chapter 13 Trustee, have co-written an article,  “Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.: A Survey of Cases Discussing MERS’ Authority to Act “.

Click image below for Article:

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



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IN RE CERTIFICATION OF NEED FOR ADDITIONAL JUDGES, Fla: Supreme Court 2010

IN RE CERTIFICATION OF NEED FOR ADDITIONAL JUDGES, Fla: Supreme Court 2010


No. SC10-320.

Supreme Court of Florida.

February 25, 2010.

QUINCE, C.J.

Pursuant to our constitutional obligation to determine the state’s need for additional judges in Fiscal Year 2010-2011 and to certify “our findings and recommendations about that need” to the Legislature,[1] we hereby certify the need for additional judicial resources as follows.

Certification is “the sole mechanism established by our constitution for a systematic and uniform assessment of this need.” In re Certification of Need for Additional Judges, 889 So. 2d 734, 735 (Fla. 2004).

This Court acknowledges that Florida and our country remain in an economic recession. Like all sectors of our society, the judicial branch is coping with the impact these economic forces are having on the daily operations of our courts, which are faced with increased workloads, reduced resources, and ever-increasing demands on judges and staff. Together, these factors impede the proper administration of justice.For our trial courts, fewer resources and no new judgeships for the last three fiscal years have slowed case processing times and negatively impacted clearance rates. Justice in many instances is delayed.[2] Moreover, the mortgage foreclosure crisis continues unabated with a second wave of foreclosures forecast.[3] These foreclosures have implications for homeowners, lending institutions, neighborhoods, the courts, and Florida’s economy. Further, budget reductions and the resultant loss of supplemental judicial resources, such as case managers, magistrates, and staff attorneys, continue to impact the courts’ ability to respond effectively to the needs of children, families, the business sector, and the public. Although the central purpose of this opinion is to fulfill our constitutional obligation to discuss specifically the certification of judicial need, we must place the consideration of judicial need in a larger justice system context. Therefore, this Court first addresses recent developments in court system funding and the loss of non-judge resources before directly addressing the implications for judicial certification.

STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND

Because of the economic crisis and as part of its ongoing effort to seek stable funding for Florida’s State Courts System, the Supreme Court has worked with legislative leaders to identify a stable funding source for Florida’s courts. In response, during Special Session A 2009, the Legislature created the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund. The fund supports most court operations with the exception of some judicial salaries which remain general revenue funded. The primary revenue stream supplying the trust fund became effective July 1, 2009. The Supreme Court is grateful to the Legislature for the establishment of this fund, which we believe will help stabilize Florida’s court system. The creation of the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund is also consistent with the Seven Principles of Court Funding advanced through the State Courts System’s Funding Justice initiative.[4] Nevertheless, while the new trust fund appears to promise greater long-term stability, it has not yet impacted the budgetary reductions experienced by the judicial branch over the last two fiscal years. The budget reductions, coupled with no new judgeships for the last three fiscal years, have combined to create an environment of increased judicial workload, caseload backlog, and court delay. 

BUDGET REDUCTIONS

Since July 1, 2007, the State Courts System has experienced a ten percent budget reduction. These reductions have come from our operating budget, including expense dollars, contractual dollars, and the loss of positions throughout the state. Strict hiring and travel policies have also been in effect for the last two years. These restrictions were necessary to comply with overall reductions to our budget. Nonetheless, they come at a price. Court operations have been significantly hampered by the loss of positions that provide direct support to our judges. In order to comply with the legislative request to reduce its budget, Florida’s court system over the last three budget years has lost or eliminated 103.25 case managers, 23.75 magistrates and associated administrative staff, 38.5 law clerks, 18.5 due process positions (i.e., court reporters, court interpreters, and expert witnesses), and 106.5 positions from court administration, appellate clerks’ offices, and appellate marshals’ offices. Of the 290.5 total positions lost in the judicial branch, 249 trial court positions have been eliminated throughout the state. Also substantially reduced were contractual dollars used to hire Civil Traffic Infraction Hearing Officers (CTIHO). As a result, much work previously performed by CTIHOs was absorbed by our county court judges. 

LOST RESOURCES AND CASE PROCESSING TIMES

The budget reductions and loss of positions sustained by the State Courts System over the last two fiscal years continue to be felt in every judicial circuit. We cannot overstate the causal relationship between the loss of supplemental resources and the increases in case processing times. When judges must absorb the workload of case managers, staff attorneys, or hearing officers, case processing times inevitably worsen. The net result is court delay. Moreover, having judges perform the work of subordinate staff is not a prudent use of higher level judicial resources. Judicial time is best spent adjudicating cases, and the loss of supplemental resources has consequences for litigants across all case types. While Floridians continue to access their courts initially through filings, they are being forced to wait inordinate periods of time for final resolution of their cases while judges find it more and more difficult to advance their dockets and clear out backlogged matters.[5] 

CIRCUIT COURT IMPACT

Children and families are especially at risk when resources become scarce. In particular, the loss of case managers in our family divisions directly threatens the level of justice afforded to children and families. Case managers are acutely needed in matters involving custody, visitation, paternity, child support, dependency, delinquency, termination of parental rights, and domestic and repeat violence. Many families involved in such cases have limited means and represent themselves in court. Additionally, many of these families have multiple cases which require coordination to eliminate duplicate hearings and orders. Typically, our family law case managers shepherd cases through the court system by performing intake, screening, evaluation, monitoring, coordinating, scheduling, and referral activities. These activities enable cases to proceed smoothly and timely through the court process. When these positions are eliminated, these tasks fall on the presiding judge. This scenario creates case processing delays, non-referrals, or the minimization of judicial time spent helping children and families. In addition to losing our case management support, our court system has also lost magistrates and attendant administrative staff statewide during this period. Magistrates support the adjudicatory process in the trial courts by performing certain quasi-judicial functions that are routine, computational, or managerial in nature under the authority of the court. Frequently, they are assigned to family law divisions and assist judges by hearing matters related to paternity, dissolution, custody, child support and visitation. They frequently establish attorney fees and costs, submit recommended orders to a judge, and ensure the collection of fines. Their availability enables judges to focus their time on more contentious and complex issues requiring judicial expertise. This division of labor has proven to be both effective and economical. When magistrates are either reduced or eliminated from the case processing equation, judges must then absorb their work. This inevitably contributes to case processing delays. The loss of staff attorneys and law clerks similarly has affected judicial workload and impeded the movement of cases especially in post-conviction criminal cases. Law clerks provide basic legal research assistance to judges, including the preparation of legal memoranda and drafts of court orders. Their work enhances the adjudication of cases because they are able to identify and analyze relevant laws and cases before the court. Without this resource, a judge’s ability to process cases in a manner that ensures both quality and efficiency is diminished because the judge is retrieving materials and unable to delegate basic and routine legal research. Other factors contributing to circuit court workload include the mortgage foreclosure crisis previously mentioned which continues to overwhelm Florida’s court system. Although the dramatic increase in mortgage foreclosure filings is expected to abate at some future date and therefore may not be a part of the long-term sustained net need, there is evidence that a second wave of foreclosures is now entering the court system and that this workload issue will persist. Various media reports note that many of these new foreclosures are fueled by double digit unemployment, declining housing prices, and the lingering recession. Over a 36-month period (Fiscal Year 2005-2006 to Fiscal Year 2007-2008), real property/mortgage foreclosure filings increased by 396 percent in our trial courts. During the same time period, the clearance rate for real property/mortgage foreclosure cases decreased by 52 percent, from 94 percent in Fiscal Year 2005-2006 to 42 percent in Fiscal Year 2007-2008. According to Realty Trac,[6] Florida has the third highest rate of mortgage foreclosures in the country with one in every 158 housing units in foreclosure. Condominium foreclosures are contributing to the crisis. 

COUNTY COURT IMPACT

 As reflected in dropping clearance rates, no other resource has hindered the operations of county courts more than the loss of a substantial portion of the Civil Traffic Infraction Hearing Officer (CTIHO) monies. CTIHOs are members of The Florida Bar who contract with the courts to preside over civil traffic infraction hearings.[7] They are an economical and effective resource dedicated to the disposition of civil traffic infractions. Their availability enables county court judges to adjudicate county criminal and civil matters in a timely manner. In several circuits, the availability of CTIHOs has also enabled county court judges to assist with judicial workload in circuit court. Therefore, the loss of this resource is two-fold: (1) county judges now provide diminished assistance in circuit court, and (2) county judges must now spend a far greater portion of their time presiding over traffic matters. The cascading effect is less time spent assisting circuit court judges, less time focused on more complex county court criminal and civil matters, and more time spent on traffic cases. The net result is case delay and backlog in circuit and county court. Although this opinion is constitutionally required to discuss judicial need, this Court finds it important to advise the Legislature that the elimination of case managers, law clerks, magistrates, court reporters, and court interpreters, coupled with no new trial judges in three years, has long-term structural implications for the court system. If the Legislature is unable to provide new judgeships due to the economic crisis, we encourage it to consider all the more seriously restoring positions lost over the last two years, as has been requested in our annual legislative budget request. 

STATE ATTORNEY, PUBLIC DEFENDER, REGIONAL COUNSEL, AND CAPITAL COLLATERAL REPRESENTATIVE STAFFING

 This Court also remains concerned about the staffing levels of state attorney and public defender offices, the Offices of Regional Counsel, and the offices of the Capital Collateral Representatives. The need persists to reconcile the certification of new judgeships with sufficient staffing for these entities. This is a systemic issue and should be approached as such. We encourage the Legislature to consider the needs of the state attorneys, public defenders, Offices of Regional Counsel, and Capital Collateral Representatives if new judgeships are authorized for our criminal divisions, particularly in light of the staffing reductions they have experienced in recent years. 

TRIAL COURT CERTIFICATION

 For some time, this Court has used a case-weighting system based on accepted standards of measurement in determining the need for additional judges.[8] The case weighting system distinguishes different types of cases and assigns different amounts of time that must be spent on cases of each type, producing a total judicial need for each circuit. Additionally, we adjust for differing jury trial rates in each circuit and county and consider the actual number of judges requested by the chief judge in each circuit. The resulting certification is an objective statement of what the trial courts need to meet their workload. Over the last ten years, we have conducted a continuous evaluation of the certification process. As noted in last year’s opinion, we are now applying the use of sustained judicial need into our methodology. Sustained judicial need is the minimum of the calculated net need over a three-year period. Each year this three year “window” moves forward a year, considering the current year’s net need and the previous two years’ net need in the sustained need calculation. Any new judges received during the previous year’s session are factored into the current year’s net need.[9] From Fiscal Year 2006-2007 to Fiscal Year 2007-2008 total filings have increased by 21 percent in circuit court. Growth in civil filings by 85 percent is the main contributing factor to the statewide increase in circuit court. Real property and mortgage foreclosure case filings have more than doubled from the previous fiscal year, representing an increase of 171,426 filings. Product liability, condominium, and contract and indebtedness case filings have also risen considerably, by 267 percent, 117 percent, and 29 percent respectively. Substantial growth in filings in felony case types also contributed to an overall rise in circuit court filings from Fiscal Year 2006-2007 to Fiscal Year 2007-2008. The largest felony case type in terms of number of filings, property crime (including burglary, theft, worthless checks, and other felonies) increased by five percent. Additionally, capital murder and robbery case filings also rose by a considerable percentage, six and 15 percent respectively. County court filings experienced significant growth from Fiscal Year 2006-2007 to Fiscal Year 2007-2008 as well, with statewide filings increasing by five percent (excluding civil traffic infractions). Growth in civil filings was also the main contributing factor to the statewide increase in county court, with overall civil filings rising by 14 percent. Those cases involving small claims (up to $5,000), civil ($5,001 to $15,000), and evictions increased by 16 percent, 20 percent, and six percent, respectively. Further, the overall statewide circuit court clearance rate[10] from Fiscal Year 2006-2007 to Fiscal Year 2007-2008 has decreased by ten percent. Clearance rates in all divisions dropped in Fiscal Year 2007-2008, with the lone exception of the circuit criminal division. The chief judges of the trial courts are ensuring that all due process (e.g., speedy trials) and other constitutional requirements related to felony proceedings are being met. This often requires the redeployment of judicial resources from other court divisions. The circuit civil division experienced a significant clearance rate decline of nineteen percent, statewide. Similarly, the county court clearance rate decreased by four percent with the county civil division declining by five percent. The sustained impact of the mortgage foreclosure crisis is even further compromising the clearance rates in circuit civil divisions for all circuits in Florida. In many jurisdictions, circuit civil judges cannot keep pace with the volume. As a result, homeowners and lending institutions are subject to increasingly long delays for resolution to their cases.[11] In view of the foregoing considerations, this Court certifies the need for 37 new circuit court judges for Fiscal Year 2010-2011, distributed as follows: 

1. Five additional circuit court judges each for the First and Fifth circuits;

2. Three additional circuit court judges each for the Seventh, Nineteenth, and Twentieth circuits;

3. Two additional circuit court judges each for the Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, Tenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth circuits; and

4. One additional circuit court judge each for the Second, Eighth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Eighteenth circuits.

Further, we certify the need for 53 new county court judges for Fiscal Year 2010-2011, as follows: 

1. Eight additional county court judges for Duval County;

2. Six additional county court judges each for Miami-Dade and Broward counties;

3. Five additional county court judges for Palm Beach County;

4. Three additional county court judges for Hillsborough County;

5. Two additional county court judges each for Pinellas, Volusia, Orange, Polk, and Lee counties; and

6. One additional county court judge each for Okaloosa, Columbia, Citrus, Lake, Marion, Alachua, Osceola, Highlands, Manatee, Sarasota, Bay, Brevard, Seminole, St. Lucie, and Collier counties.

In addition to the judges certified above, we also have reviewed the following requests, which we deny for the following reasons. We have specifically reviewed the requests from chief judges to certify three circuit court judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit and Eleventh Judicial Circuit and note that the sustained judicial need is less than the judgeships requested.[12] Accordingly, we deny those requests. We have also reviewed the chief judge’s requests for an additional county court judge for Pasco County. We have determined that in the absence of special circumstances, we must also deny this request. We emphasize that in addition to mathematical calculations, our staff performs extensive analysis of each circuit’s request in order to analyze the availability of supplemental resources and any special circumstances justifying an exception. 

DISTRICT COURTS OF APPEAL

Like the trial courts, the district courts have also experienced the loss of supplemental support staff due to the economic crisis. During Fiscal Year 2008-2009 a total of 25.5 FTE were lost due to reductions in the district courts’ collective budget. As with the circuit courts, the loss of staff attorneys and law clerks in the district courts has affected judicial workload and impeded the movement of cases. Staff attorneys provide legal research assistance, prepare legal memoranda, and assist in drafting opinions. The absence of staff attorneys and other court support staff that were lost has contributed to more lengthy case processing times and diminished clearance rates in the district courts. Under the weighted caseload per judge threshold set forth in rule 2.240(b)(2)(B), Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, “[t]he court will presume that there is a need for an additional appellate court judgeship in any district for which a request is made and where the relative weight of the cases disposed on the merits per judge would have exceeded 280 after application of the proposed additional judge(s).”[13] Only the Second District requested a judgeship, citing numerous workload factors including increased filings, decreasing clearance rates, post-conviction appeals, reduced staffing complements, and limited judicial availability. Although qualified to receive a judgeship last year, they did not request one, citing the economic climate within the state. While we are sympathetic to the workload in the Second District, using our certification methodology, they do not currently qualify for an additional judgeship after the methodology is applied. Therefore, their request is denied. 

DISTRICT COURTS OF APPEAL CERTIFICATION

In keeping with our policy of not requesting judgeships unless qualified and requested by the chief judge of a district court, we do not certify the need for any additional district court judges.  

CONCLUSION

Florida’s court system remains under duress. The state and national recession of the last two years and the resulting budget reductions for the courts are taking a sustained toll on Florida’s judges, court staff, and most importantly those who are accessing our courts. Case filings are up and clearance rates are down. Judicial dockets are full, scheduling is problematic, and case processing times are delayed. Florida’s court system has now gone three years without the authorization of any new judgeships despite a demonstrated and sustained need. The absence of new judgeships is now being felt by all sectors of our society who seek justice through the court system. We submit this opinion recognizing that it is difficult for the Legislature to fund the many competing critical issues confronting our state given the fiscal crisis the state is enduring. If funds become available, we encourage the Legislature to authorize those judgeships certified in our circuit and county courts. Additionally, while we have identified our judicial need in this opinion, we are equally concerned with the allocation of adequate court support staff and supplemental resources in the statutorily defined court elements that will enable the courts to respond effectively to the needs of children, families, the business sector, and the public. Without these court support staff and supplemental resources, the administration of justice is undermined. It is so ordered. PARIENTE, LEWIS, CANADY, POLSTON, LABARGA, and PERRY, JJ., concur. [1] Article V, section 9 of the Florida Constitution provides in pertinent part: Determination of number of judges.—The supreme court shall establish by rule uniform criteria for the determination of the need for additional judges except supreme court justices, the necessity for decreasing the number of judges and for increasing, decreasing or redefining appellate districts and judicial circuits. If the supreme court finds that a need exists for increasing or decreasing the number of judges or increasing, decreasing or redefining appellate districts and judicial circuits, it shall, prior to the next regular session of the legislature, certify to the legislature its findings and recommendations concerning such need.  [2] See Office of the State Courts Administrator, Clearance Rate Dashboard, Quarter Ending September 30, 2009 (Data as of November 5, 2009), http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/stats/bin/ClearanceRateDashboard.pdf. [3] See Mortgage Bankers Ass’n, Delinquencies Continue to Climb in Latest MBA National Delinquency Survey, Nov. 19, 2009, http://www.mbaa.org/NewsandMedia/PressCenter/71112.htm; Seeking Alpha.com, Seasonal Bump in Case-Shiller Home Price Index Abates, Nov. 29, 2009, http://seekingalpha.com/article/175233-seasonal-bump-in-case-shiller-home-price-index-abates; Realty Trac, Job Losses Foreshadow More Foreclosures, Risk, http://www.realtytrac.com/contentmanagement/realtytraclibrary.aspx?channelid=8&accnt=0&itemid=7727 (last visited February 23, 2010). [4] See Florida State Courts, Funding Justice, http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/funding/index.shml (last visited Feb. 23, 2010). [5] A 2008 study by the Washington Economics Group, Inc., has estimated delay in case processing mortgage foreclosure cases costs Florida’s economy $17 billion a year. Washington Economics Group, The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Funding for Florida’s Courts (2008). [6] Realty Trac is an online realtor website that tracks mortgage foreclosures by state and may be found at www.realtytrac.com. [7] In Fiscal Year 2007-2008, Civil Traffic Infraction Hearing Officers presided over approximately 489,162 cases in Florida. [8] This system was developed in response to the proviso language of the 1998 General Appropriations Act, in which the Legislature directed that the judicial branch employ a certification methodology that relies on case weights and calculations of available judge time to determine the need for additional trial court judges. See Ch. 98-422, § 7, at 3963, Laws of Fla. Pursuant to this direction, the judicial branch undertook an extensive project to design and implement a weighted caseload system, assisted by the National Center for State Courts and endorsed by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. [9] In re Certification of Need for Additional Judges, 3 So. 3d 1177, 1181-82 (Fla. 2009)[10] The “clearance rate” is a calculation of the number of cases disposed of divided by the number of cases filed in the same year. The clearance rate has a reasonable ease of calculation, is a useful measure of the responsiveness of a court to the demand for services, and is nationally recognized as a measure of court performance. [11] See Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Cases, Final Report and Recommendations on Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Cases (2009), available at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/foreclosure.shtml. [12] Total judicial need is the total number of judges required to complete all expected workload. Net judicial need is the difference between the total judicial need and the number of existing judges. Sustained net need is defined as constant need over time. [13] The number established in the rule, 280, does not represent the filings per judge but is a weighted threshold calculated according to the process described in the DCA Workload Report issued in 2005 by the Commission on District Court of Appeal Performance and Accountability. See Supreme Court of Florida Commission on District Court of Appeal Performance and Accountability, DCA Workload Report to the Supreme Court (2005), available at http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/court-services/bin/2005DCAWorkloadReport.pdf.

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