Sunday, September 5, 2010

Does NY need foreclosure ONLY courts?

If you have not read about Florida's Foreclosure ONLY Courts, which are run by Retired Judges, you can read all about it in a NY Times article by clicking here.

The article discusses many positives of the Florida Courts including the ambitious goal of reducing the foreclosure backlog by 62% within a year. Such a reduction is certainly something that we could use in the NY Court System, which is continuously being strained by the mortgage meltdown. Yet, the article also discusses a negative consequence that has emerged from using Retired Judges in specialized Courts. Defense attorneys are claiming that a presumption in favor of the banks is emerging where questionable claims with incorrect documentation are achieving auctions and evictions. I am not clear how these Courts cause such a presumption, but the claim is that a correlation has been noticed.

In contrast to Florida's system, NY, which has also tailored its Court System to the foreclosure crisis. NY has created a new judicial position, entitled Foreclosure Referee, to conduct Foreclosure Settlement Conferences. Such conferences are designed to modify mortgages and avoid adjudication. Unfortunately, many cases are not modified in these Foreclosure Settlement Conferences as many Bank Attorneys do not come to the conferences with any intention of making a deal without respect to the CPLR's requirement to negotiate in good faith. Therefore, NY cases are being sent back to the Supreme Court for adjudication. In this sense, NY has added a layer to our Court System while Florida has moved a large case load away from their cohort of Judges.

My feeling is that a combined approach would work best. Retaining the Foreclosure Settlement Conferences, but having Judges preside at the conferences and keep the case if adjudication proves necessary. In this sense, the Judge could form a prejudice against a party who did not comply with the CPLR by failing to make a good faith effort to settle.

To read CPLR 3408 and subsection (f)'s requirment of negotiating in good faith click here.