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Automated Due Process

posted by Bob Lawless
Many Credit Slips readers likely saw the article on automated debt collection by Andrew Martin of the New York Times. If you did not yet find it, you almost certainly will want to read because . . . well, you read this blog. Martin chronicles how many debt collection lawsuits have become an output of automated processes, complete with computer-generated summons and complaints. The result is a strain on court resources and automated due process for litigants. After a day of getting the new web design working, I'm too tired to write very much about the article, but I'll raise a question for the comments. Do we really need new laws or rules to stop the abuses Martin chronicles or does existing law already empower judges with the tools to stop abusive debt-collection suits?


How about sua sponte Rule 11 sanctions (or whatever variant you have in your state courts)?

Prior attorney/firm conduct of the same kind can be taken into consideration. The Slamowitz firm is a "frequent flyer" and increase their exposure through their volume. "Few errors considering the volume" won't fly with a lot of judges already unhappy with crazy dockets. A few fed-up and engaged judges can put the brakes on this problem.

I'm not sure how it works in other states, but in Georgia, I really don't see how we can check abuses without a new law. There aren't enough lawyers to take collections cases to make sure that the creditors are filing good cases. Judges are losing budgets and have fuller case loads than before. They aren't likely to start pulling these default lawsuits sua sponte. Our state agency that enforces Georgia's Fair Business Practices Act just got shot down by the Georgia Supreme Court when it tried to regulate one of the biggest collection firms in the state. This was after the fall of Mann Bracken - you can see the case here http://www.gasupreme.us/sc-op/pdf/s10a0397.pdf

What other options are left? Short of passing a new law (which may prove difficult in the Peach State legislature), we could pass a rule in the state bar that caps the number of cases that any one attorney can be responsible for. If you have more than x cases, you're deemed to be acting in a professionally negligent manner because you cannot have sufficiently reviewed each of those cases.

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