After Matt Taibbi stirred popular spirits last week with his expose on the Rocket Docket foreclosure mill currently operating in Florida, today CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow follows up with a look at just what happens at the front lines of the foreclosure mess. Per the report, “judges are signing off on up to 25 foreclosures an hour. That's one about every two minutes.” The official story, for those who have not had a chance to read Taibbi's piece, is that since Florida has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, it is stuck with a huge case backlog that must be cleared. The goal is to clear 62% of the back log in one year. These special foreclosure courts though, have become highly controversial, with critics dubbing them “rocket dockets,” and claiming judges are rushing through cases, unfairly favoring banks over homeowners. For once, we get the judges' side, which is rather hilarious: "there is no evidence, nothing has been presented to us in the 4th circuit, that there is any fraud being perpetrated upon the court. What is classified as fraud, can also be classified as sloppiness, can be classified as neglect, but the legal aspect of the word fraud, we do not experience that." Could it also be classified as bribery by the TBTF lobby we wonder?
The bottom line is that as the robosigning scandal has highlighted, should even a small percentage of the defendants show up in court demanding that the bank present the original mortgage note (which presumably is missing in a large number of cases), the rocket-docket process will become unfixably stalled, and in effect impose a stand still on all foreclosure activity, preventing banks from clearing excess inventory years into the future. Additionally, it may also allow homeowners to live for free (ethical considerations aside), once it becomes clear that there is no clear title holder to a given mortgage. We have the distinct feeling that very soon the rocket docket will be a thing of the past.