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The Reform Game

As the debate over courts and the foreclosure process heats up, the argument about jettisoning or limiting the judiciary is already being framed as one of “reform” of “frivolous” use of the legal system. These are loaded terms, though, and without a careful teasing out of the motives of the political players involved, we may just find ourselves having forsaken fundamental rights all in the name of economic and political expediency.

The St. Petersburg Times reported last week that state legislators are now considering a hybrid system to replace the judicial oversight of foreclosures. This model is already used by half the country and entails that some cases are presided over by a judge and others are not.

This proposal, proponents argue, is necessary to address an overwhelmed court system, and, according to economists, help ignite an economic recovery by removing distressed properties off lenders’ books and back into an anemic housing market. Some proponents even go so far as to suggest that a portion of these foreclosures clog dockets due to unnecessary procedural challenges invoked by defense attorneys.

These positions, however, fail to consider how our legal system is the best safeguard against abuse. Absent judicial involvement, foreclosure cases are vulnerable to mishandling, damaging basic property rights and sometimes resulting in forcing folks out of their homes unjustly. Where would we be, for example, if the legal system hadn’t exposed the fraud of “robo-signing” or how certain lenders initiated foreclosure proceedings where they didn’t actually have a right to the property in question?

Think about these things as Tallahassee defers to economists and throws words like “reform” and “recovery” around while your due process rights—and the consequences of ignoring them—are lost to lip service and supposed concerns for “getting the economy going.”

Please be advised that this article does not constitute legal advice nor does it provide any basis to form an attorney-client relationship. Nothing in this article should be copied without the express permission of the author.

Mr. Hounchell has a law degree from The University of Florida College of Law and he is a principal in The Law Offices Charles A. Hounchell, P.A., in Tampa, Florida. Mr. Hounchell earned his undergraduate degree from The George Washington University in Washington D.C. and he obtained his MBA in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management (“Thunderbird”) in Glendale, Arizona.

Mr. Hounchell is a licensed title insurance agent and a real estate agent with Smith and Associates, Inc. http://www.smithandassociates.com/; http://www.livecasanova.com/. He has lived in many different countries, including Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Germany and he speaks Spanish and Portuguese. A significant portion of Mr. Hounchell’s law practice is concentrated on Real Estate Law. He can be reached at 813-230-3376 or charlie@flpropertylaw.com.