Budgetary Hardball Almost Forces Court Closures: Courts’ Reliance On Foreclosure Fees Exposed
The Florida Court system, including judges, nearly faced mandatory furloughs and unpaid vacations due to an emergency shortfall in its budget. Court employees faced up to 30 days of unpaid vacation through the end of May. The reason for the short fall was the precipitous drop in foreclosure filings, which generated the fees the courts relied upon for the majority of their budget. With the huge numbers of foreclosures in years past, the estimated revenue from the foreclosure fees meant that the Florida legislature allocated less money from the general state funds to the courts. This reliance on foreclosure filings fees resulted in the courts seeming a bit too amenable to the big banks and the rushing through of foreclosures that would have benefited from more scrutiny. Knowing that the courts were not examining the documents carefully, big banks were able to forge the required paperwork on a massive scale. The forging continued until the document mill scam was uncovered.
With the major banks virtually halting all of their foreclosures due to the document mill scandals, the fees have dried up and now we can see the impact of the courts falling asleep at the switch. The tremendous irony in the matter is that the failure of the courts to properly scrutinize fraudulent foreclosures, leading to the halting of new foreclosures and the drying up of the courts’ fees, would have lead to new foreclosures. Only this time, court employees would have been processing their own foreclosures. According to the Sun-Sentinel, most of the hardship of the court furloughs would’ve been felt by low income employees who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Thankfully the state has stepped in to avoid this mess and hopefully the courts will learn not to be too reliant on foreclosure filing fees in the future. Maybe they will even make sure that foreclosures aren’t fraudulent before kicking people out of their homes and denying them their constitutional right to due process.