ACLU Seeks Public Records To Determine Constitutionality Of Foreclosure Proceedings In Florida

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Seeks Public Records To Determine Constitutionality Of Foreclosure Proceedings In Florida

Lack Of Due Process Protections Would Disproportionately Impact Homeowners Of Color

NEW YORK - The
American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida today filed
public records requests with judicial officials in Florida to determine
whether homeowners are having their constitutional rights violated
during foreclosure proceedings and being unlawfully removed from their
homes.

In Florida, where almost half a
million foreclosure cases are pending, the state legislature recently
spent over $9 million to create special foreclosure courts, staffed by
retired judges, with the intent of speeding through the state's backlog
of such cases. But recent media reports in Florida and around the
country, which reveal rampant error and fraud in the foreclosure
process, have shown that courts should take particular care with
foreclosure cases. Instead, in the rush to push foreclosure cases
through the courts, Florida may be taking shortcuts and, in the process,
forsaking constitutionally-required due process protections.

"It is disturbing that Florida may be
implementing less exacting due process protections at a time when
widespread flaws in the foreclosure system illustrate the need for
increased vigilance and strict procedural safeguards," said Larry
Schwartztol, staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "These
records requests aim to shed light on whether recent changes to
Florida's handling of foreclosure proceedings are violating the due
process rights of homeowners."

Filed with the Office of the State
Court Administrator and the chief judges of all 20 of Florida's circuit
courts, the requests seek access to, among other things, all documents
related to special court systems created to dispose of foreclosure cases
and the rules and procedures in place that govern those systems.

Government data show that the
foreclosure crisis across the country has disproportionately impacted
communities of color. According to a recent report by the Center for
Responsible Lending, nearly 8 percent of both African Americans and
Latinos have lost their homes to foreclosures, as compared to 4.5
percent of whites. Additionally, the indirect losses in wealth that
result from foreclosures as a result of depreciation to nearby
properties will also disproportionately impact communities of color. The
Center for Responsible Lending report estimates that between 2009 and
2012, the African American and Latino communities will be drained of
$194 and $177 billion, respectively, in these indirect "spillover"
losses alone.

"Communities of color in Florida and
across the country are hit hardest if courts disregard the kinds of
protections that are meant to uphold people's basic constitutional
rights," said Muslima Lewis, Senior Staff Attorney and Director of the
Racial Justice Project of the ACLU of Florida. "Getting the documents we
are requesting will be an important first step toward exposing and
addressing any systemic injustices that may exist in the Florida
foreclosure court systems."

Copies of the ACLU's public records requests are available online at: www.aclu.org/racial-justice/aclu-seeks-information-about-constitutionality-florida-foreclosure-courts

Additional information about the ACLU Racial Justice Program is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice 

Additional information about the ACLU of Florida is available online at: www.aclufl.org

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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