The number of mortgage foreclosure filings in Wisconsin increased over 21 percent from 2007 to 2008, the second such increase in a row, and one that has warrented some extra attention from state court adiministrators.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson says court administrators began tracking the number of foreclosures many months ago. "We began asking district court adminstrators and the judges, what effect was this having on the court system? Where we able to handle these filings, and were they crowding out other cases?"
Abrahamson says the increase in foreclosures has resulted in increased workloads for clerks' offices, but courts have been keeping up – and looking at alternatives. Judge Bill Dyck of Iowa County has initiated a pilot program. A local rule requires lenders who file a foreclosure action as of Jan. 1, 2009 to notify defendants that foreclosure mediation is an option under the state's alternative dispute resolution statute. Foreclosure filings in Iowa County jumped from 58 in 2006 to 92 in 2007 and 105 in 2008.
"It's important that the court system be aware that these issues can come to court and have an effect on the court system," says Abrahamson. "And that we should be prepared to handle cases fairly and effectively and efficiently."
Pepin County saw the largest percentage increase, with filings up 252 percent, from 29 in 2007 to 102 in 2008, according to data compiled by the Director of State Courts Office. Milwaukee County saw filings increase 14 percent, from 5,683 to 6,468.