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Florida SC orders mediation in home foreclosure cases

By Chris Rizo | Dec 29, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline)-The Florida Supreme Court on Monday issued an administrative order requiring a statewide mediation program to handle some home foreclosures.

The order, written by Chief Justice Peggy Quince, follows a recommendation made in the summer by the Task Force on Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Cases, convened by the high court.

The court said Florida has the third-highest mortgage delinquency rate in the nation, with an estimated 456,000 pending foreclosure cases statewide. Foreclosure case filings in the Sunshine State's trial courts numbered nearly 369,000 in December 2008.

At the beginning of the last quarter of 2009, foreclosure filings statewide totaled more than 296,000.

The order allows borrowers to opt out of the program in certain cases. Mediation also can be waived if it is agreed to by the lender and borrower. Only homesteaded properties are covered under the order.

Struggling homebuyers who take advantage of the program can do so at no cost.

"Requiring borrowers to pay a portion of mediation up front would operate as a barrier to this court's goal of efficiently managing these cases to avoid waste of judicial and party resources," Quince's order said.

Only mediators certified by the Florida Supreme Court will be referred cases.

"It is crucial that these non-profit organizations be independent of the judicial branch, capable of sustained operation without fiscal impact to the courts, politically and professionally neutral, and have a demonstrated ability to efficiently manage the extremely high volume of foreclosure actions in the circuit or circuits in which services are to be provided," the order said.

The administrative order is No. AOSC09-54.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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