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More on Foreclosure: Judge Admits Apathy

POSTED:

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving -- I certainly did.

Just had to pass on this quick note on the foreclosure story. Another piece on Florida's woes has come out, and in this one, a circuit court judge named Lee Haworth essentially admits that judges do not look at the paperwork of the foreclosure cases they process. In other words, he is admitting that he accepts the arguments of the plaintiffs (i.e. the banks) reflexively and that the burden is on the homeowner to defend himself.

Here's what Haworth said, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

Meanwhile, Florida judges and legal officials have been slow to prevent or reverse foreclosures based on questionable documents.

Judges do not question the documents unless homeowners question them first, so they continue to rule in favor of lenders. Twelfth Circuit Chief Judge Lee Haworth said judges must remain neutral in court, and cannot raise possible defenses -- such as bad paperwork -- on behalf of homeowners who choose not to fight, or don't know how to fight, their foreclosure.

"The judges will accept, as they do in every case, pleadings that are represented by counsel as legitimate," said Haworth. "It's the defendant's case. ... If they don't want to hire an attorney, that's their business."

Obviously this is not criminal court and the presumption of innocence concept is not in effect. But I don't see a judge simply waving through every stack of bogus foreclosure papers that comes through his courtroom door as meeting any kind of sane evidentiary standard either. The mere fact that a bank is a bank, and a bank's lawyer is a bank's lawyer, and that the both of them together claim that this or that homeowner is in default -- that has no legal meaning whatsoever, as far as I can see.

The judge's point here is that it's not up to him to mount a defense strategy for homeowners in default. But the idea that it is beyond a judge to open a file and simply check to make sure the names and dates are right -- particularly given the widespread coverage of this phenomenon, when we know that virtually 100% of these securitized mortgages lack proper paperwork and will inevitably involve fraudulent or doctored filings upon foreclosure -- that is appalling.

The essence of all of this is that the legal system has yet to accept the idea that once-trusted institutions like transnational investment and commercial banks could be guilty of widespread criminal fraud. It's an issue of perception. Judges I think are long used to the idea that individual people are deadbeats and don't pay bills -- they've seen enough lying-ass individual debtors stand in their courts with their faces unshaven and their shirts untucked, trying to sell them excuses and stories -- but they haven't quite made it to a place where they can accept the idea that the nation's top 10-20 banks could be engaged in ongoing criminal conspiracies. I think it blows their minds and they don't believe it.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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