June 20, 2012
A Key West, Florida Circuit Judge has vacated a final judgment of foreclosure entered after a trial where the homeowner was not present and could not be present for the trial due to his religious beliefs and practices. The homeowner had filed a motion to continue the trial, supported by an affidavit, based on the fact that the trial was scheduled during one of the highest holy days in his religion (a shabbos day during Passover). The court denied the motion and conducted the trial without the homeowner being present.
The homeowner filed a Motion to Vacate the final judgment on the grounds that holding the trial on a high religious holiday where the homeowner could not be present for the trial, and where the court had express notice of this before the trial, violated Florida’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998, Fla. Stat. sec. 761.03. The statute expressly provides that the government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, and that the “exercise of religion” is an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
The Motion argued that the court is an arm of the government, and that the rule of general applicability (setting cases for trial) was applied in a manner which burdened the homeowner’s exerecise of his religion (being forced to attend a trial on a high religious holiday). The court granted the homeowner’s Motion, vacated the Final Judgment, and the sale is in the process of being voided. The homeowner is represented by Jeff Barnes, Esq.
Foreclosures in Florida are on the rise both in number and in stages of progress now that several law Firms have taken over many of the cases left in the lurch as a result of the David J. Stern debacle, which left over 100,000 Florida foreclosures “up in the air” when the Stern Firm ceased operations. Mr. Barnes’ Firm has been recently retained in more than a dozen new Florida foreclosure cases, and we are receiving inquiries from Florida homeowners daily.
Jeff Barnes, Esq., www.ForeclosureDefenseNationwide.com