A controversial bill that aims to fast track foreclosures has sparked a rare internal fight among members of an influential Florida Bar section.

On one side are Bar members who assist homeowners facing foreclosure. Opposing them are members of the Bar’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section who not only decided to support the foreclosure bill this year but also hired a lobbyist to get the bill passed in Tallahassee.

Members of the Real Property section say the bill offers many new protections to distressed homeowners and buyers of repossessed homes.

HB 87 is moving quickly through the House. But SB 1666 still needs to clear three Senate committees before it would receive a full vote.

“Under this bill, the presumption of innocence would be destroyed,” Oppenheim said.

This is the fourth year in a row a bill seeking to expedite foreclosures is before the Legislature.

In the past, Oppenheim was among Bar members who reviewed any proposed foreclosure legislation.

“Last year, we had people on my subcommittee who agreed with me that we didn’t like a lot of the stuff in the bill, so the Bar never agreed to approve or disapprove anything,” Oppenheim said, citing a measure that passed the House but died in the Senate for lack of action.

He was part of the section’s Mortgage and Encumbers Subcommittee until last year, when it was dismantled without notice, he said. The section was restructured and the Foreclosure Reform Ad Hoc Committee was created to help shape the proposed legislation. Oppenheim claimed he was left off the ad hoc committee because of his history of opposing foreclosure bills at a time when the section was eager to see the bill pass.


The bill also would allow the second publication of notice of sale to be published on a publicly accessible Internet website that meets narrowly defined criteria.

Many judges with huge caseloads are showing signs of “foreclosure fatigue” and all they want is to close cases, they said. They fear judges could be prone to automatically reject their clients’ defenses.

“People are entitled to their day in court and for that you need to have a judge.”

Some retired judges are currently hearing foreclosure cases but more are needed, Dunbar said.

“It is a boondoggle for retired judges,” Oppenheim said. “They get to sit on the bench, make X dollars a day and make any decision they want because they are not accountable to the electorate. They don’t get voted on or voted off like the Constitution says.”

by Daily Busines Review