The American Civil Liberties Union is filing a petition to shut down the state's foreclosure courts, calling them a violation of due process. A court spokesperson in Southwest Florida says the foreclosure courts are doing a good and fair job of disposing of cases.
"These courts focus on speed rather than justice. It is a scandalous situation, totally rigged in favor of the banks and mortgage companies," said Howard Simon, an attorney with the ACLU.
Homeowner Georgi Merrigan of Cape Coral agrees. She fell behind on payments, after her husband was badly hurt in a car crash. Merrigan told reporters outside her home: "I have been to court and felt rushed. I was there maybe 3 minutes in front of the judge, and I feel that is not justice. It's not fair in a country I believe in."
Sheila Mann of the 20th Judicial Circuit said the petition has no merit. "The courts provide due process and are fair to all concerned. Yes, some cases take only a few minutes, but that is because the party agrees to move out, or the homeowner does not show up," Mann said. "Owners can go to full trial, or they can get a mediator to try to resolve the case."
The foreclosure courts were created to clear out a huge backlog of cases -- many thousands state-wide. Lee county still has about 11-thousand foreclosures in the courts, down from a high of more than 25-thousand, a couple of years ago.