New Jersey state officials last week said they would begin to roll out a program requiring mandatory mediation on certain foreclosure proceedings, the latest effort by local government officials to stanch a growing tide of foreclosures. New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said in a press statement that the program would provide mediators to help homeowners and lenders negotiate with one another and try to work out agreements to avoid foreclosures. “While the courts must remain neutral in all foreclosure matters, it is in everyone’s best interest to have a forum where homeowners facing foreclosure have the opportunity to negotiate to save their homes," Rabner said. "Our goal is to get lenders and borrowers to meet at the table and work out a mutually beneficial arrangement." Under the program, the courts will require mediation in all cases in which homeowners contest owner-occupied foreclosure actions. Volunteer mediators will meet with eligible homeowners and their lenders in an effort to resolve the foreclosure action and renegotiate the terms of mortgage agreements. In uncontested actions, where the homeowner has failed to respond to a foreclosure complaint, the courts will notify the homeowner of the mediation program and encourage participation. If the homeowner fails to respond and a default judgment is entered, mediation will remain an option before the matter proceeds to a sheriff’s sale. New Jersey governor Jon Corzine -- one-time head at Goldman Sachs, and now a Democratic presidential advisor -- said at a press conference last week that the mediation program would be rolled out to the highest-foreclosure-hit counties in the next 30 days, with the rest of the state following suit within 60 days. During the past 12 months, New Jersey courts received 46,130 residential foreclosure filings, a 46 percent increase from the previous 12 months, court officals said. In Sept., state courts received 3,997 residential foreclosure filings, compared to 1,400 filings in September 2006. The mediation plan was part of a broader economic recovery package put forth by the governor during a joint legislative session last week. Read more about the full plan >>