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June 1, 2013
Magistrates to help move foreclosures

To help address the state backlog of more than 350,000 mortgage foreclosures, the Supreme Court approved an amendment to the Rules of Civil Procedure to allow general magistrates to hear those cases.

The court said it was acting on the recommendation of the Foreclosure Initiative Workgroup of the Trial Court Budget Commission.

The state has been relying on retired judges to help process the flood of foreclosures. But the workgroup found that supply was limited due to a state requirement that judges wait one year after retirement before returning to work as senior judges.

A streamlined foreclosure bill passed by the Legislature had in its early versions a provision lifting the one-year waiting period on retired judges, but that was removed after a staff analysis showed that would cost the state retirement system $3.4 million.

The court’s action came on May 9, the week after the legislative session ended. It amends Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.490 (Magistrates) to provide that magistrates can hear foreclosures.

The amendment allows chief judges to appoint the number of general magistrates necessary to expeditiously handle foreclosures and specifies that the referrals are made “with the implied consent of the parties, but the parties are given the opportunity to object to the referral.”

Another change prohibits “magistrates appointed under the rule from practicing law of the same case type in the court in the county or circuit where the magistrate is appointed to serve.”

The effective date is 60 days from the issuing of the opinion to allow time for comments on the rule changes.

The court acted in In Re: Amendments to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.490, case no. 13-684.

[Revised: 06-29-2014]