Foreclosure activity in the first half of 2011 dropped in 84% of the 211 metropolitan areas surveyed by foreclosure data firm RealtyTrac. Despite foreclosure rates improving in most major markets, RealtyTrac analysts believe the slowdown is a side effect of numerous legislative and judicial decisions that are slowing the process as opposed to a genuine clearing of excess inventory. Cities located in California, Nevada and Arizona dominated RealtyTrac's list of top ten metro areas with the highest foreclosure rates. Florida, another market known for taking a hit in the real estate downturn, experienced a slow down in foreclosure activity in the  first half, with only one state metro area — Cape Coral-Fort Myers — showing up on RealtyTrac's list of top-20 cities with the highest foreclosure rates. In the first half of 2010, Florida cities held nine spots on the list. “Foreclosure activity continued to slow in the first half of 2011, especially in the most foreclosure-saturated markets and in markets where the judicial foreclosure process is used,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. “The 20 metro areas with the biggest year-over-year decreases in foreclosure activity were all in states with judicial foreclosure processes — New York, Maryland, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Illinois. The Las Vegas-Paradise metro area continued to possess the nation's highest metro foreclosure rate with one in every 19 housing units, or 5.36% of the market, becoming the subject of a foreclosure filing in the first half of the year. That rate is about six times higher than the national average, according to RealtyTrac. The Reno-Sparks area also ranked high with a 2.96% foreclosure rate. The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. area, which has the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation, saw 60,985 properties receive a foreclosure filing in the first half. That is down 8% from the previous six-month period and a drop of nearly 17% from a year ago. Write to Kerri Panchuk.