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Rhode Island Judge Streamlines Massive Foreclosure Mediation Docket

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on December 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. issued an order to streamline the handling of his massive foreclosure mediation docket involving hundreds of cases. The order came after the First Circuit Court of Appeals ordered specific limits on the amount of court time and money that can be spent on handling the mediation process.

Each case will get one bite at the mediation apple -- and many oranges parties won't even get that.

Trimming the Docket Fat

The foreclosure mediation program, which began in 2012, was designed to help people stay in their homes by delaying foreclosures and evictions until lenders and borrowers could negotiate loan modifications or other resolutions.

Docket madness ensued after McConnell "reluctantly" lifted a stay -- that the First Circuit deemed a de facto (and improper) injunction -- preventing foreclosures and evictions from proceeding in the 825 pending foreclosure cases rocking the state.

McConnell's new order is meant to speed things up.

"One-Bite Mediation"

Under McConnell's revamped lean, mean mediation machine, all cases involving commercial properties and non-owner-occupied residential properties will be removed from the mediation docket, reports the Providence Journal.

McConnell is also giving the boot to multiple mediations. In McConnell's words, "Each case will get one bite at the mediation apple. There will be no referral to Berry Mitchell after the case has been through the Special Master program."

In keeping with the "one bite" spirit, McConnell's order allows any party to seek removal from the Special Master's docket -- handled by Special Master Merrill W. Sherman -- when the party believes a case has already been properly mediated through another forum, such as Rhode Island Housing.

New Mediation Time Limits

Per the First Circuit's order, McConnell also set specific time limits for the mediations.

According to the Journal, "No new cases will be allowed on Sherman's docket for more than 180 days, and current cases also have 180 days from the date of the new order to remain on the docket, unless both parties consent to a longer mediation period."

This recent move is likely weighing heavily on McConnell's heart of gold.

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