9911 Seminole Blvd. Seminole, FL 33772       Ph. 727-397-5563   View TBN's FREE e-Edition today!  
Click here to learn more
Pinellas County Facebook Twitter
Judge assigned to work on foreclosures
Article published on
  Print E-Mail
CLEARWATER – One judge’s caseload will be distributed to other Civil Division judges so that he can work fulltime on clearing the more than 16,000 foreclosure cases that are backlogged in Pinellas County.

Effective Sept. 1, Circuit Judge Thomas M. Minkoff’s court dockets and calendars will be filled with foreclosure cases that were filed in Pinellas prior to Jan. 1 of this year.

Since the beginning of the year, Circuit Judge William Burgess has had a similar assignment in Pasco County, where the backlog is an additional 13,000 cases. Most of the backlog is residential foreclosures, but Minkoff will also be dealing with commercial foreclosures that were filed prior to Jan. 1.

Chief Judge J. Thomas McGrady said caseloads are being reassigned to tackle the backlog built up by the rash of foreclosures that began with the economic downturn.

“The courts have been stressed to deal with the avalanche of foreclosures, and despite determined efforts by judges and staff, we still have this tremendous backlog in our circuit and statewide,” he explained.

At a June 14 meeting with more than 100 attorneys who represent lenders and borrowers in foreclosure matters, McGrady discussed how the new section will function and outlined other procedures being implemented to cut the time that cases are allowed to linger in court.

“The Legislature placed a priority on decreasing the backlog and provided statewide funding for that purpose,” McGrady said.

The $9.5 million the state allocated to the Florida’s courts for the fiscal year that begins July 1 does not allow for any additional judges. But the Sixth Circuit’s $775,000 will be used for senior judge days, additional case managers and magistrates who will be hired into temporary positions. Senior judges are fully qualified judges who assist the courts when active judges are ill, have lengthy trials, or if other unexpected situations arise, such as the heavy caseloads created by the foreclosure cases.

The funds are from money that Florida received from the National Mortgage Settlement, provided by large lenders partially responsible for the large number of foreclosures in Florida and other states.

In addition to funding the courts’ plans to clear the backlog, the Legislature provided a two-year allocation of $9.7 million to the clerks’ offices around state, which also have been over-run with the filings. Another $5.3 million (including $70,000 for the Sixth Circuit) was designated for new technology that will help the courts better track the cases that linger.

During the meeting with attorneys, McGrady explained the foreclosure section and announced other changes in foreclosure procedures. Some changes are mandated by a new law passed by the 2013 Legislature; others better utilize resources available to the Circuit.

Mediation continues to be a recommended way for homeowners to work toward resolving foreclosure actions. But newly filed cases will no longer be automatically referred to mediation. Once an action is filed, the lender or borrower must file a motion for mediation.

McGrady said, “Mediation has changed from an opt out program to an opt in program. Employees of our mediation managers were spending too much time tracking down foreclosure defendants who were not interested in mediating the issues.”

McGrady recommended that mediation be sought by anyone who has a foreclosure filed against them. Mediation Managers Inc. continues to be the Circuit’s foreclosure program manager, and the lenders remain responsible for the initial fees charged for mediation.

Any defendant/borrower may initiate the mediation by filing a motion with the Court. Other details of the mediation program are available at

McGrady strongly recommended that anyone served with a foreclosure action – or any court action – contact an attorney. But for defendants who represent themselves he said the website can be of major assistance.

“All the procedures are spelled out, and all the necessary forms are there,” he said.

In addition to the designated section and tweaks on the mediation process, McGrady implemented policies that:

• Assign all foreclosure cases filed after Jan. 1 of this year to the sections that have absorbed other civil cases previously assigned to Minkoff.

• Utilize the authority of magistrates hired into temporary positions to help manage foreclosure cases by conducting evidentiary hearings and case management conferences, setting trial dates and recommending case dispositions.

• Institute procedures with which the Court will more closely monitor the progression of cases from filing to the sale of foreclosed-on property, including lenders’ repeated cancellations of scheduled sales.

Two significant changes that are now in effect under the law signed by Gov. Rick Scott June 4 are:

1) Lienholders – including homeowner and condominium associations – are now empowered to foreclose on properties, meaning they have the same standing as lenders in moving toward a trial date that could result in a foreclosure sale.

2) With status equal to the lenders, lienholders will be able to expedite the process without the lenders doing anything. For cases filed under the new rules and not responded to within the 20 days, either the lienholder or the lender can initiate an order for the defendant to show cause why the Court should not enter a final judgment.

“All of these procedures are designed to lower the number of backlogged cases,” McGrady said. “Lack of action, the responsibility of the lender/attorneys, clogs the courts and makes it more difficult to serve businesses and others who are litigants in the civil law sections of our Circuit.”

McGrady strongly advocates that defendants in foreclosure cases take advantage of mediation.

“It’s the best way to seek a settlement, especially for those homeowners who feel frustrated by the lenders’ unwillingness to speak with them,” he said.
Article published on
Copyright © Tampa Bay Newspapers: All rights reserved.
Printable Version E-mail article
Community Focus Online
Featured Print Advertisers
Senior Health Care Solutions

(866) 633-4427

Web site        View Ad
Law Office of Stephen C. Whalen, P.A.
1968 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin
(727) 726-0439
(727) 409-7347(Cell)

Web site        View Ad
US Ammo Depot
118 E. Tarpon Ave, Suite 208, Tarpon Springs
(727) 940-8636

Web site        View Ad
Flooring America
9012 Seminole Blvd., Seminole
(727) 397-5509
100 Patricia Ave., Dunedin
(727) 733-1356

Web site        View Ad
NuSmile Dental
13611 Park Blvd., Suite G
(727) 475-7866

Web site        View Ad
Bell Hearing Instruments, Inc.
801 West Bay Dr., Suite 405, Largo (727) 585-2675
Factory Location
700 Stevens Ave., Oldsmar (813) 814-2355

Web site        View Ad
Custom Couture of Tarpon Springs
208 East Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs
(727) 238-7194

Web site        View Ad
Oakhurst & East Bay Medical
13020 Park Blvd., Seminole
(727) 393-3404
3800 East Bay Dr., Largo
(727) 539-0505

Web site        View Ad
Tarpon Springs Recreation Division
Zombie Run, 10/17
Coastal Cleanup, 10/17
Trunk or Treat, 10/31

Web site        View Ad
Abbey Carpet & Floor of Largo
13120 66th St. N.
(727) 524-1445

Web site        View Ad
Tarpon Springs Merchants Association

Oct. 15 - 18

Web site        View Ad
Florida Center for Back & Neck Pain
Dr. Greg Hollstrom
11444 Seminole Blvd.
(727) 393-6100

Web site        View Ad
Five Fish Boutique
735 Dodecanese Blvd, Suite 1, Tarpon Springs
(727) 485-8660

Web site        View Ad
Omega Gamma Delta Fraternity
Looking for Alumni
Contact Mark Quering
Beta Chi 1972

Web site        View Ad
Tampa Bay Newspapers
Online Advertising
For information, e-mail
Online Services Directory
Tampa Bay Newspapers
9911 Seminole Blvd.,
Seminole, FL 33772
Phone: (727) 397-5563
Fax: (727) 397-5900
Submit News