by Attorney Geoffrey Sherman and Roy Oppenheim
Once again, we have Lore versus Law. I’m sure by now when you hear the term “Rocket-Docket” you immediately associate this term with how the Florida’s courts are handling the foreclosure crisis. For those of you who don’t know, Florida’s legislature appropriated approximately $9.6 million this year from Federal stimulus funds to clear out the courts’ backlog of foreclosure cases. The funds are being used to create special foreclosure divisions (“Rocket Dockets”) that are heard by retired senior judges in order to clear 62% of the backlog by July of 2011. It usually takes less than a minute for the judge to hear and make a decision per case.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began investigating issues surrounding the Rocket Dockets in Courts throughout the State of Florida. During their investigations, it has come to their attention that some courts are violating both the constitutional and legal rights of the media and the public to attend these foreclosure hearings.
The ACLU, the Florida Press Association and several other journalism groups addressed several reports of Courts restricting access to the media, and in some cases homeowners, in a joint press release. Along with sending letters to Florida’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Charles T. Canady and Chief Judge Donald R. Moran of Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit requesting that they investigate these allegations and take corrective actions.
The letters sent to the Judges provide a brief illustration of some of the reports the ACLU and other groups have received: