The Florida Bar
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The Florida Bar News
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March 15, 2013
Letters

E-Filing
With the radical change in filing documents with the courts in Florida, effective April 1, there is little question that numerous problems will arise among the 60,000 attorneys who just now are starting to engage in this new technological marvel.

One problem is the failure to arrange for the Visa credit card to be accepted, the most used credit card on the planet. A second problem is the failure to convey the filing automatically to all affected parties, thereby creating extra work and a modicum of confusion with email and PDF attachments. Thirdly, the court fees will increase, albeit by a small amount, but on top of fairly substantial fees now charged to the public. Fourth, help desks frequently are not that helpful.

Despite the optimism of the Florida Supreme Court, I suggest that a phase-in period of 60 to 120 days would have been appropriate to help all of those lawyers, in-state and out-of-state, vis-a-vis the court clerks of the various counties, because there will assuredly be a ton of mistakes made.

Good luck to all in our brave new world.

Richard N. Friedman
Miami

Bearded Lawyers
A letter writer in the February 15 News reports his difficulties at Stetson Law School, in 1972, because of his beard and long hair. Had he ventured over to Gainesville, he would have found a friendlier environment.

I graduated from the University of Florida Law School in 1970, and I had a beard starting around 1968. I still have it. Several classmates had beards; several had long hair; some had both. I later encountered no problems (arising from my appearance) with state or federal judges in Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties after I began practicing in 1970.

On one occasion, in 1972, in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, I argued a matter before Chief Judge Charles Fulton. I was in court with three other attorneys with whom I worked — all of us full-bearded.

After the judge ruled, as he rose from the bench, he paused, looked at our table for a moment and addressed me: “Lawyer (his universal appellation for all counsel appearing before him), do all the lawyers in your office have beards?” I glanced at my colleagues, then back at the judge, and replied, “No, your honor, just the men.”

Judge Fulton laughed heartily and adjourned court.

William Manikas
Boynton Beach

Foreclosure Legislation
While we appreciate the Florida Legislature’s efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, the current pending “fast-track” foreclosure bill (House Bill 87) is not the solution. Instead of helping return Florida’s housing market to stability, it would have the opposite effect.

Banks, which remain the root cause of the problems due to the banking industry’s reluctance to bring more bad debt onto their books, would continue to have no incentive to work toward manageable solutions to foreclosures, while homeowners with serious issues to raise in court would be trampled.

HB 87 increases the focus on documents, and increases the judiciary’s role, but lowers the standards required to enter a foreclosure judgment against a homeowner. Some officials and consumer groups have stated that 75 to 90 percent of foreclosures have “errant paperwork,” but streamlining a foreclosure process overrun with false documents, coupled with continuing, massive problems with mortgage servicers not engaging in the required pre-foreclosure loan reinstatement, loan modification and short sale consideration, is not the solution. Speeding up the foreclosure process, with no attention paid to the root causes, will lead to more empty homes and deteriorating neighborhoods, not less.

One thing is clear. It is the servicing process that is broken, not the foreclosure process.

If the goal is to turn nonperforming loans into performing loans and to stabilize families, neighborhoods, and the economy, a model has already been developed in St. Johns County, where the focus was on creating a process which involved the courts, a nonprofit housing counselor, legal aid attorneys, and pro bono attorneys with the St. Johns County Bar Association.

Last year, the borrowers who participated in this process were successful in working with their lenders approximately 95 percent of the time, in achieving successful loan modifications, receipt of “Hardest Hit” funds, or continuing to work with lenders toward resolution.

We have developed procedures that work. HB 87 will not.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid
Brevard County Legal Aid
Legal Aid Service of Broward County
The North Florida Center for Equal Justice
Gulfcoast Legal Services
Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County
Florida Legal Services
Legal Advocacy Center of Central Florida
Legal Services of Greater Miami

[Revised: 08-12-2014]