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Foreclosure mess creates more havoc for Pinellas-Pasco courts

CLEARWATER The temporary freeze on foreclosures by big lenders such as Bank of America is rippling through the Pinellas-Pasco court system.

In the past few weeks about 50 percent of foreclosure hearings have been canceled. It’s a significant setback because the courts are already dealing with a backlog of 33,000 foreclosure cases, said J. Thomas McGrady, chief judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit. “Our goal was to reduce that number by 62 percent within a year,” McGrady said. “Particularly with the cancellation of hearings and the numbers, we’re not going to reach that goal.”Bank of America, GMAC, JPMorgan Chase and other big banks put a moratorium on foreclosures after questions were raised about fraudulent paperwork. Several have resumed foreclosure proceedings this week, but must re-schedule canceled hearings. Also, once the cases are back on the docket, McGrady said judges will have to scrutinize documents. “In all these cases with affidavits, the lenders themselves have questioned … are they going to submit new affidavits? Are they just going to rely on the old affidavits? As a court we’re going to have a look at each one on a case-by-case basis,” he said