On March 9, 2021, Florida's Supreme Court issued Amendment 10 to the Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for Florida Trial Courts. This administrative order was issued to create a new requirement for case management in certain civil cases, including foreclosures. The new section is entitled Case Management and Resolution.
This new amendment requires the Chief Judges of each Florida Circuit Court to issue an administrative order directing the Circuit Court Judges to “actively manage their civil cases.” Every case is to be reviewed to determine if it is complex, streamlined, or general. Most foreclosure cases will be either a streamlined case or a general civil case.
Every streamlined or general civil case will have a case management order issued that specifies deadlines for service of complaints and deadlines for adding new parties. There will also be discovery deadlines, pretrial motion deadlines, a mediation deadline, and a projected trial date. These deadlines are to be strictly enforced by the Judges.
Starting May 28, 2021, the case management orders will be issued. The order directs all Judges to conclude litigation as soon as it is reasonably and justly possible to do so, to take charge of all cases at an early stage, to control the progress of the case until it is resolved, and to apply a firm continuance policy allowing continuances only for good cause shown. There was no exception for foreclosure cases in the order.
Based on this order, an increase is expected in case management conferences scheduled by the Florida Courts and orders setting pending foreclosure cases for trial. It is anticipated the Florida Judges will deny continuances and push the pending foreclosure cases to judgment and sale, even on cases impacted by the federal foreclosure moratoria or cases impacted by the new proposed CFPB rules.
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady commented on March 30, 2021 at a Florida Bar Virtual Town Hall meeting, when he said the of the new amendment, ... the administrative orders are for “certain categories” of civil cases and will feature “aggressive case management.” People are going to have to understand that when they come to court ... they need to be ready to go. If they’re not ready to do that, then they probably shouldn’t be filing a complaint ... That’s with a high level of generality.”
Some Florida Circuit judges are known to be proactive with moving their dockets regardless of federal investor moratoria or CFPB rules and regulations. Servicers will need to be ready to move forward with their foreclosure cases or be ready to voluntarily dismiss the cases. Remembering, upon voluntarily dismissal of a case, opposing counsel attorney fees will be due. This is a repeat of the same issues during the Great Recession, a backlog of cases and judges becoming more proactive to clear their dockets. Will history repeat itself? Most likely it will look a little different; only time will tell.