Junk Justice: A Statistical Analysis of 4,400 Lawsuits Filed by Debt Buyers
69 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2014 Last revised: 7 Jun 2014
Date Written: March 16, 2014
Debt buyers have flooded courts nationwide with collection lawsuits against consumers. This article reports the findings from the broadest in-depth study of debt buyer litigation outcomes yet undertaken. The study demonstrates that in debt buyer cases, (1) the vast majority of consumers lose the vast majority of cases by default the vast majority of the time; (2) consumers had no lawyer in ninety-eight percent of the cases; and (3) those who filed a notice that they intended to defend themselves without an attorney fared poorly, both in court and in out of court settlements.
This study challenges the notion that there is an “adversary system” within the context of debt buyer lawsuits. The findings suggest that no such adversary system exists for most defendants in consumer debt cases. Instead, these cases exist in a “shadow system” with little judicial oversight, which results in mass produced default judgments.
The procedural and substantive due process problems which are endemic in debt buyer cases call for heightened awareness and remedial action by the bench, the bar, and the academy. As lawyers who are “public citizens, with a special responsibility for the quality of justice,” the profession can do better. This article proposes suggestions for further study, and several common sense reforms.
Keywords: consumers, creditors, bankruptcy, consumer law, due process, pro se, legal ethics, professional responsibility, role of judge, forgery, self help, default judgment, affidavit judgment, Maryland, District Court, sewer service, service of process, debt buyer, consumer debt,small claims,purchased debts
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