In 2012, five of the nation's largest banks agreed to pay billions of dollars to settle state and federal claims of mortgage servicing, foreclosure, and bankruptcy abuses. The National Mortgage Settlement provided payments to Florida and other states to help fund foreclosure prevention efforts. From its share of the settlement funds, Florida allocated $31 million to address the state's foreclosure backlog. This funding created special court divisions dedicated solely to foreclosures, and enlisted senior judges and extra court staff to expedite the foreclosure process.

In essence, court personnel were specially hired to reduce the foreclosure timeline and push cases to judgment faster. Though the intention was to move homes out of foreclosure and back into the market, this pressure to clear the backlog created an uneven playing field in favor of the banks. Retired judges often heard hundreds of foreclosures each day. In many cases, this assembly-line process prioritized speed over the rights of homeowners.

“Whatever disagreement there may be as to the scope of the phrase ‘due process of law,’ there can be no doubt that it embraces the fundamental conception of a fair trial, with opportunity to be heard.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


Fortunately, Florida's backlog initiative expired on June 30, 2015. As the special funding came to an end, many judicial circuits closed their foreclosure courts and reassigned cases to regular circuit judges. The Ninth Judicial Circuit, for example, announced the end of its foreclosure divisions due to loss of court money. Among other changes, many judges also amended their scheduling procedures for foreclosure hearings.

Now, most courts handle foreclosures just like any other civil matter. Foreclosures receive a more thorough and appropriate review from judges, since there is less pressure to plow through cases. Plus, homeowners may gain extra time to work out loan modifications or other alternatives to avoid foreclosure. In general, the end of the “rocket docket” means more foreclosure cases get a fair process.