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County courts offer programs to help people settle foreclosure and debt collection cases


The programs have severely reduced number of default judgements

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  • District Court Judge Sarah Weaver along with staff at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Farmington have been working on the Debt and Money Due Settlement along with the Foreclosure Settlement programs since January 2020.
  • The goal of each program is to provide the plaintiffs and defendants an opportunity to resolve a lawsuit without having a judge make a decision.
  • For those who lack funds, the program could charge on a sliding scale depending on a party’s income.

FARMINGTON — County court officials want the public to know about two programs created to help residents navigate foreclosures and debt collection court cases in a manner that helps to keep people from being overwhelmed by the court process.

District Court Judge Sarah Weaver along with staff at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Farmington have been working on the Debt and Money Due Settlement program along with the Foreclosure Settlement program since January 2020. Both programs launched in November.

The goal of each program is to provide the plaintiffs and defendants an opportunity to resolve a lawsuit without having a judge make a decision.

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It would allow the parties involved to possibly reduce the amount of court filings and hearings, which could bring down the cost of handling the case.

Judge Weaver understands how someone could be scared or overwhelmed when being sued in court over money owed.

She said she hopes the programs help both sides find an amicable plan to pay off the debt the defendants are being sued over.

“This is actually a good opportunity for people to take control of their lives, to take control of their debt,” Judge Weaver said in an interview.

Judge Weaver believes it’s possible that foreclosure moratoriums could end on June 30, creating a large wave of foreclosures being filed against homeowners in the near future.

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How many debt and money cases does San Juan County see?

Data provided by the court details the impact the programs have had on reducing the number of default judgements.

A default judgement Is a court decision rendered by a judge when one party in the lawsuit fails to appear in the case, typically the defendant.

Debt and money-due cases made up 69 percent of all civil cases filed in San Juan County district court in 2019, and 1,421 of the 2,062 civil cases were debt related. Foreclosures made up 6.4 percent, with 132 cases filed in district court.

The number of debt and money due cases that ended in a default judgement against the defendant was 216 (15.2 percent of such cases)  along with 27 foreclosure cases (20 percent of such cases) in 2019.

There have been zero default judgements in 2021 for the 13 foreclosure cases and only seven of the 498 debt and money due cases this year(1.4 percent) resulted in default judgements.

The program uses a settlement facilitator to help resolve the court case. The facilitator works with both parties to find a resolution they can both agree on. Several local attorneys have been contracted to work on these cases.

Each party is charged $125 an hour to resolve the case, about half the average rate for attorneys, Judge Weaver said.

For those who lack funds, the program could charge on a sliding scale depending on a party’s income.

Those interested in more information can call Farmington District Court at 505-326-2256 or visit https://eleventhdistrictcourt.nmcourts.gov/individual-settlement-facilitation/

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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