Florida courts not surprised by end of foreclosure rocket docket
Florida circuit court judges are not surprised state lawmakers have decided not to renew $6 million in funding to support foreclosure courts that were set up to push through a backlog of foreclosure cases in the Sunshine State. In fact, courts in South Florida said the program was set up to run for a year to give court clerks and judges a chance to deal with a hefty backlog in cases, and all employees hired with the $6 million in funding last year knew their employment was temporary. "We will be losing four case managers, four assistants and two senior judges who were dedicated full time to foreclosures," said Chief Judge Peter Blanc with the 15th Judicial Circuit at the Palm Beach County Courthouse. "However, when we were given the resources to hire the economic recovery team to assist with foreclosures, we knew going in that the funding was only approved for the year." Blanc said it's too early to tell what the loss of resources will do to the courthouse's ability to keep up with foreclosure cases. "We will regroup and do our best to meet the needs of the court users with existing resources," he said. Sheila Mann, public information officer for Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit Court, said lawmakers gave the courts "this one lump sum that was divided among the circuits." She said the staff hired to help in five counties knew the jobs would be gone as of June 30. The program created to handle a backlog of Florida foreclosures ended up getting the moniker "rocket docket," which became the subject of controversy when consumer advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, accused foreclosure courts earlier in the year of rushing cases through and violating procedural rules. Write to: Kerri Panchuk.