Per the order below (hat tip Matt Weidner) a judge in Broward County appears to have cancelled all foreclosure sales in one of the foreclosure division from December 20 to December 31:
One might think this has something to with the Fannie and Freddie foreclosure halts, with run from December 20 to January 3. But the GSEs have made similar suspensions before, indeed, sometimes from Thanksgiving to New Year, so this seems unlikely to be the trigger.
Moreover, this action, at least based on the account of Florida foreclosure procedures per Lisa Epstein of ForeclosureHamlet, could not impact evictions that were due to take place over the holidays. It turns out that there is usually a significant lapse between the foreclosure sale and the loss of possession. Via e-mail:
The sale doesn’t throw families out on the street, the certificate of title has to be issued (Palm Beach County is 4-6 weeks behind the sale dates at least) THEN a writ of possession must be obtained, then the sheriff has to execute the writ.
Even though the motivation for this order is not clear, it may nevertheless be significant. Many judges have taken the view that they have no latitude to act on behalf of defendants who do not contest their cases, and some have taken the unusual step of expressing concern that procedural abuses have risen to a level where they feel the need to take a more active role, yet are not certain whether they can do so. From the Palm Beach Post:
Palm Beach County Chief Judge Peter Blanc is trying to decide whether judges can take a more active role in examining foreclosure cases after a meltdown in Ally Financial’s foreclosure proceedings last week.
Blanc said Monday that there has been an increase in requests by lenders and loan servicers to cancel foreclosure sales and vacate judgments following the disclosure that Ally was freezing portions of its foreclosure operation in 23 states, including Florida.
While judges granted those requests, Blanc said he was concerned about cases in which defective foreclosure affidavits aren’t being brought to the court’s attention, possibly because the borrower has given up or walked away from the home.
Also, he’s unclear on whether the court should scrutinize past cases for flaws.
“It puts us in an untenable position because we can’t both investigate and decide,” Blanc said. “We are supposed to act on things brought to our attention, but if no one files anything, I’m not sure what will or should happen.”
Blanc said he was looking at case law regarding the duties and responsibilities of judges to see whether there is precedent for the current situation. But he said Florida’s foreclosure crisis has brought many unique challenges to the courts and there is likely little historical guidance.
In other words, judges are also struggling to figure out what to do with the mess created by rampant abuses in the securitization industry.