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Aug 2020

Why You Should (Sometimes) Ask for Arbitration

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Why You Should (Sometimes) Before Bankruptcy Ask for Arbitration

The fine print in your credit card agreement likely gives you–and the credit card company–the right to ask for arbitration.  You can guess that the fine print isn’t in there to help the consumer, but sometimes before bankruptcy you can use arbitration for your benefit.

How Can Arbitration Before Bankruptcy Help You?

Suppose you might need a little more time before you are ready to file bankruptcy. If there’s a warrant-in-debt, and you obviously do NOT want to get garnished. You can ask for a trial and a bill of particulars. Then, for your grounds of defense, you can ask for arbitration. Asking for arbitration can get you another month or more to get ready to file bankruptcy.

Stalling for time is not the idea of arbitration. But since the credit card companies put it in their agreement for their reasons, you have the right to use arbitration before bankruptcy for your reasons.

What should be the Purpose of Arbitration?

The idea of arbitration to to handle things that judges aren’t good at. For example, baseball salaries.

Baseball salary arbitration

Baseball players through their union and the owners have agreed to salary arbitration

Baseball players, through their union, have salary arbitration.  If there’s a pay dispute between the player and the club, a panel of arbitrators decide what the salary should be. There’s no reason for judges to be involved, that’s now what judges do.

A second advantage to both the club, and the players, is that the process is secret. Suppose a baseball club says, “we don’t want to pay what Joe is asking, because he can’t hit the low fastball.” It’s bad enough that the player hears his club bad-mouthing him. It would be even worse to read it in the sports page.

Is Credit Card Arbitration is Anything Like Baseball Arbitration?

The good reasons why arbitration makes sense for baseball salaries does NOT apply to credit card arbitration. If you get sued on a credit card, that’s the kind of thing judges decide all day long. Do you owe the debt? Who do you owe it to? Have they done something wrong trying to collect it? Deciding these things is what judges do.

So why do the credit card companies put arbitration in their fine print agreements? As long as consumers don’t fight back, the credit card companies like judges.  But suppose there’s a problem. Suppose the credit card company–or debt collector–has done something dirty. Then they want to keep it secret.

They put arbitration in their agreements, so they can take your case to a secret place, if they want to. In arbitration, you lose the right to appeal. You have fewer rights to get evidence. And you can’t join with other consumers who have been done dirty in a class action. That’s why the credit card companies are arbitration in their fine print agreements.

Why is Credit Card Arbitration Allowed?

If you had me on the Supreme Court, I’d allow arbitration for baseball players. Because it’s in the union contract. I wouldn’t allow arbitration on credit cards, because you have a constitutional right to a trial by jury. That’s the Seventh Amendment, which gives American the right to a trial by jury in disputes of over $10.00. The actual Supreme Court has said that doesn’t apply to you. Because when you used the credit card, you agreed to the arbitration.

Government can’t take away your constitutional rights, based on some fine print you never even read. But big companies apparently can.

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Jul 2020

Get Your Money Out of Wells Fargo

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Blog, Weekly Posts / No comments yet

If you are filing bankruptcy, Get Your Money Out of Wells Fargo.

People filing bankruptcy get kicked when they are down, if they bank  at Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo sees your bankruptcy on your credit report and they freeze your checking and savings account.  At least they do if you have more than five thousand dollars in their bank.  (They have said in court they only do it if you have more than $5000.00.  But they don’t just freeze the amount over $5000.00–they freeze it all.)

Get your money out of Wells Fargo

Why would a bank beat up their own customers?

Why Does Wells Fargo Beat Up Their Own Customers

So, why would Wells Fargo beat up their own customers like this? They claim they are required to ask the bankruptcy trustee if he wants the money. Although they are the only bank that does this, they have adamantly stuck to this policy for years.

It’s hard to make sense as a business proposition. I personally have probably cost them nearly a thousand customers over the years.  (At one of our national meetings of NACBA, a former NACBA president joked maybe they did it to collect bounced check fees.  That seems a small reward for losing lifetime customers.)

Anyway, get your money out of Wells Fargo.  (A couple weeks after the bankruptcy is filed, you can go back there if you want.)

I first wrote about this problem in 2011.

I first wrote about this Wells Fargo problem in 2011

Since then several lawyers have tried to fight this. As far as I can tell, the bank won every time.  

So, get your money out of Wells Fargo.



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Aug 2018

How a cheap car payment can help you on the bankruptcy means test.

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 /

How a cheap car payment can help you on the bankruptcy means test.

The 2005 Bankruptcy law, known BAPCPA or sometimes BARF, was designed to make bankruptcy much more painful for families making over the average income in each state.  For Virginia, in the summer of 2018, that’s $103,549 for a family of 4. Or $111,949 for a family of five. 

Bankruptcy means test applies to families of 5 over $111,949

Bankruptcy means test applies to families of 5 over $111,949

The bankruptcy means test determines whether families making over that average income can be approved for Chapter 7 anyway.  And if not eligible, how much they have to pay for five years in Chapter 13.

The bankruptcy means test formula is arbitrary.  It was designed to be arbitrary. Congress, and the credit card companies, thought that bankruptcy judges were too easy.

Most families around here, making too much to get approved for Chapter 7, end up failing at Chapter 13. Without careful Chapter 13 planning, the bankruptcy means test will put you into a Chapter 13 plan that you are not able to afford for five years.

Here’s one example where careful Chapter 13 planning can make all the difference. 

John and Tanya is live Woodbridge in a house they own with two children.  John is stationed at Joint Base Andrews; Tanya is home with the kids, one child needing special attention.

Trying to handle the debts, they have gotten by as a one car family, and John’s car now has 110,000 file on it.  

If John and Tanya go into Chapter 13 now, they get a budget allowance of $497 for the car payment (regardless of what the payment really is) and $221 for gasoline, car repair and car insurance.  It will be impossible for John to hold his car operating expenses, gas, repairs, insurance, below $221 for five years on a car that already has 110,000 miles.

John and Tonya  talk to me before their credit is totally shot. So I can point out to them that they are much more likley to survive Chapter 13 for five years, if they go out and get a low payment second car now.

Tanya buys a brand new Nissan Versa, sale price $13,500, at 4.5% for five years. Her payment is $227.00 monthly.  That $227 payment counts as $497 on the means test.  That frees up for the family budget $270 a month. (That’s $497 means test ownership allowance, minus the $227 actual payment.) That $270.00 can go to pay things like sports for the kids, which the bankruptcy means test budget does not allow.

And they get a second $221 monthly for operating expenses.  John drives the new Nissan Versa to work, and Tanya takes the older car for errands around town. They can hold their gasoline, repair and insurance below the new total operating allowance of $442.

(I should note here that it would be illegal for me to tell John and Tonya to go out and finance a car.  But it was legal for me to tell them that it’s legal for them to do it.)

People say that bankruptcy should be a last resort. But you don’t want it to be a last minute, last resort.  Careful Chapter 13 planning is very important for getting the best result.


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Oct 2016

Debt Collectors Keep Calling Me At Work

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Why do debt collectors keep calling me at work after I tell them to stop?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you from debt collectors calling your workplace.  But, if you tell them you want them to stop, the debt collectors keep calling.

How’s that?

To get them to stop calling, you need to know the right words to say.

“Don’t call me here” doesn’t work. Nether does “please don’t call me at work.” On this, debt collectors do not have to pay attention to what you want. You need to tell them your employer doesn’t allow you to take debt collector calls at work.

Here’s the right way to say it.


debt collectors keep calling at work

“I told you not to call me here.” Say that, and the debt collectors keep calling.

“The boss doesn’t let me take your calls at work.”  Or, “I’m not allowed to get personal business calls at work.” 

The legal authority for this is found in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCP) at 15 usc 1692c(a)(3).  It says “a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt—at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.” 

You have to say it’s the boss—not you—who doesn’t want debt collectors calling.

What Else Works to Stop the Debt Collectors Calling?

There are three other magic word phrases that work. Two of them have to be in writing.

 “Don’t contact me any more.” On the phone, “don’t contact me  anymore” does nothing. But if you send it in writing they have to stop. That one is pretty straight forward.

“I refuse to pay.” This is another phrase where it’s easy to get the wording wrong. “I don’t know what debt you’re talking about” doesn’t help; the debt collectors keep calling. “That’s not my debt” doesn’t help. “I’m out of work and can’t pay you anything” doesn’t help either. 

To all those reasons why you are not paying, you need to add “I refuse to pay.”  Like this: “I don’t know what debt you are talking about and I refuse to pay.” The refuse to pay response, like the don’t contact me response, has to be in writing.

(One of the top FDCPA lawyers in the country, Dick Rubin, told me that sometimes telling them “I refuse to pay” can really hack off them, so instead the debt collectors keep calling. But if the debt collectors keep calling, after you put in writing that you refuse to pay, you can sue their pants off.) 

“Call my lawyer”

“Call my lawyer”—those are more magic words. “Call my lawyer” can be on the phone; it doesn’t have to be in writing. My clients often tell me that saying “call my lawyer” to pushy debt collectors can be a lot of fun. (You do have to tell them who your lawyer is. But the lawyer’s name and contact info is all you have to give them.)

This only works on debt collectors

The law assume that original creditors, like the credit card or car finance company or hospital, will be relatively polite in collecting their own debts. (They don’t want a bad reputation in the community.) But debt collector want to be known for being mean; so the law protects you against those debt collectors.  Here’s what Congress said: “Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.” 15 USC 1692. 

When debt collectors stop calling, they can still send you court papers

Stopping the phone calls is only a temporary solution. The debts are still there. If you only have one debt that’s gone bad, maybe you can work something out. If you have lots of debt problems, maybe it’s time to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer.

Some people think bankruptcy is some kind of punishment because you can’t pay your bills. But actually, the purpose of bankruptcy is to help you. If you have honest debts that you just can’t pay, call me today. You’ll like our friendly service with a smile.


Nolo has this wrong. They say, “simply tell the debt collector to stop calling you at work.” That doesn’t work.

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Jul 2016

Debt Collector Chad Steur Law Refuses to Pay Up

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Debt Collector Chad Steur Law Refuses to Pay Up

Chad Steur Law, LLC, a debt collector, owes my client, Helen, $2280.58. So far, Steur refuses to pay up. 

Chad Steur, debt collector

Chad Steur is admitted to the practice of law in Utah and California. He hires debt collectors to collect debts in Virginia. So far, he hasn’t paid Helen’s judgment against him, here.

Before she came to see me, Helen was being harassed by a debt collector, calling for Chad Steur Law.  The collector told her he was calling from a law firm and they’d sue her if she didn’t pay up. That was a false threat, violating the FDCPA at 15 USC §1692e. (You might also call it a lie.) Chad Stuer is licensed to practice law only in Utah and California. He isn’t a lawyer in Virginia.

Frightened, Helen agree to let Steur take payments out of her bank account. Later, when she calmed down, she told them to stop. They took a payment anyway after she told them they were not allowed to. That’s another violation of 15 USC 1692e–taking an action that’s not legally allowed. (Taking money not authorized by law out of people’s bank accounts, happens fairly often with debt collectors. A very angry prosecutor might look at 18 USC §1334.)

Since he seems to be a respected lawyer, I contacted Steur last August, to see if he knew debt collectors were using his name. I didn’t get a reply. (I now see on his website that he hires debt collectors, in house and remote, to collect money using his name.)

We had a trial in March in the Courthouse in Manassas. Steur didn’t show up himself or send a Virginia lawyer–we won. The judge awarded Helen $2280.58. We’ve called and written Steur asking him to pay up. No answer so far.

(I’m primarily a bankruptcy lawyer.  But I hate it when credit bureaus and debt collectors do illegal stuff to my clients. So, for a bankruptcy lawyer, I’m quick to sue.)




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Mar 2016

Global Client Solutions Pays Us $1500.

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy /

Global Client Solutions got $61.50 from C H and pays up $1500.

C H, like many of my bankruptcy clients, tried to “settle” her debts before talking to a bankruptcy lawyer. She paid $1,133.48 to Global Client Solutions as part of a debt settlement plan, before she realized NONE of the money was going to settle her debts.

Global Client Solutions handled the “dedicated settlement account” Credit Advocates Law Firm set up for C H. Global, in fact, handles the settlement accounts for more than 400! different debt settlement operations.

Global Client Solutions logo

The CFPB says Global Client Solutions handles the “dedicated settlement accounts” for more than 400 debt settlement outfits. According to the FTC, if the debt settlement outfits are charging illegal fees, Global can’t help but notice.

We sued Global for $3400.44–three times the money she lost, under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Global replied they had only gotten $61.50 out of that $1,133.48–claiming “the remaining $1,071.98 was assessed by Credit Advocates Law Firm.”  (We’re suing Credit Advocates, too.)  

I pointed out that the Federal Trade Commission telemarketing rule says these debt settlement “law firms” cannot charge ANY fee until they have actually settled some debts. (The fact that they do is one reason these debt settlements rarely work. So much money goes to fees, there’s no money to pay the creditors, even if they want to settle.  Which they often don’t.)

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has gone after Global, saying that since their business is handling these debt settlement accounts, and their own records show they are paying “law firms” fees that are not yet earned, they are equally guilty in violating that law.  (You can read more about that, here.)

I repeated what the CFPB said, back to Global’s legal department.  (I also pointed out that we had sued them twice before.)

Then Global came back with a check for $1500. I got $750 of that, and C H got $750.  So C H has not quite gotten all her money back. Yet.

We are suing five other outfits who had their finger prints on this deal. I hope C H will end up getting back three times what she lost–that’s what Virginia law says she should get.

PS  So who else are we suing for C H?

Credit Advocates Law Firm, LLC is the name of the outfit that was taking money out of the Global account.  Their website is gone.  (I found them, though, on the Wayback machine, here.)

Credit Advocates said they were also the Law Firm of Adela Estopinan.  Adela Estopinan seems to be licensed as a lawyer in Florida.  

The people who put C H in touch with Credit Advocates used two names.  They called themselves Cornerstone Legal; and they also called themselves Fast Track Debt Relief.  Both of those still have active websites; and Cornerstone either copied or just took over the Credit Advocates website.  (See here, the SEO title for Cornerstone is Credit Advocates?!)

Referring people from one outfit to another seems to be standard in the debt settlement world.  I guessing because they each want to claim, like Global tried, that somebody else actually got the money.

They are all due to make their first court appearance in Fairfax on April 12, 2016.  I’ll let you know who shows up.

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Apr 2014

Recovery Services at 855-633-3603 Scams Ana

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Blog / No comments yet

Before she came to talk to me about bankruptcy, Ana was scammed out of $200 by Recovery Services.

“Recovery Services” called Ana from 855-633-3603 in January and told her she was in trouble for non-payment of a “check” in connection with a pay day loan.  The sheriff would bring her papers day after tomorrow unless she made payment arrangements.

They sent her to an internet site where she signed a payment agreement and made three payments.  (She paid them through Paypal.)

I had Ana call them from my office today to say she was not sending any more payments, and she needed to confirm their address to include them in the bankruptcy.  (I wanted to see what they would say.)


Report scammers who use the internet to the Internet Crimes Complaint Center

A very authoritative-sounding lady told her that she could not file bankruptcy on them because she has a “sworn recorded phone call” and since she was breaking the agreement she could expect service of court papers between 8:00 and 3:00 on Wednesday.

All this is B.S. of course, but very convincing.  If I wasn’t right there with her, Ana might have caved in and sent another payment.

Instead, Ana is filing a complaint with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center.

By the time you read this, these people will be using a different phone number and a different name.  But if you get something like this, don’t be scammed!





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Jan 2014

Before bankruptcy: Getting your tax account transcripts

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy /

Most income taxes cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, but some can.

To find out whether yours can, your lawyer will need your tax account transcript.  The IRS makes these available now on line.  You can download yours here.

tax account transcript

To find out whether your Federal income taxes can be discharged in bankruptcy, your lawyer will need to see your tax account transcript.

Why do you need that?  Your lawyer can use your account transcript to see if your taxes were filed, if they were filed close to on time, and if there was a recent assessment.

Here’s why:  The general rule is this:  You can discharge your Federal and state income taxes if:

1.  They were due more than three years ago.  (Example, the 2010 Federal taxes were due  for most people April 15, 2011–if you didn’t get an extension.  So April 16 2014 is more than three years after the 2010 Federal taxes were due.)

2.  You have filed them at least two years ago and close to on time.  (What does “close to on time” mean?  I’m not answering that here.  I’m NOT an expert on that.)

3.  Your taxes have to have been assessed at least 240 days ago.  Usually the taxes are assessed around the time you filed.  But if there was a recent audit or correction to your tax forms, you have to watch out for this rule.

Do you want to know more about this rule?  Nolo has several posts on this topic.  Here’s an article in the Journal of Accountancy.  Here’s some info from Fox Business.

WHATEVER you do, do not take legal action–like filing your own bankruptcy–based on what I say here.  The purpose of this blog is ONLY to tell you where to go to get your transcript.  You can get your tax account transcript from the IRS here.

If you are getting your transcript for this purpose, be careful to get the tax account transcript and NOT the tax return transcript.  The tax return transcript does NOT give the info you need.  The tax account transcript does.



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Jan 2014

Virginia Bankruptcy Consultation: Preparation Makes a Difference

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy / No comments yet

I was the third lawyer Lisa saw for a Virginia Bankruptcy Consultation

Lisa had a Virginia Bankruptcy consultation with two well known bankruptcy lawyers.   Then she came to see me.

Both of those lawyers told her that her income was too high.  She could not file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  She would need to file Chapter 13.  They reached that conclusion without looking at her paystubs or making her do a budget.  Those lawyers offer what I call a “no-preparation consultation.”

Lisa had done research on her own.  She knew that high income people can still be eligible for Chapter 7.  (I explain how that works, here.)

Virginia bankruptcy consultation starts with 29 point review

AJ spent an hour going over Lisa’s situation, reviewing her forms as part of our 29 point paralegal consultation. Then another hour typing Lisa’s information into the computer for us to look at together.

We told Lisa she needed to fill in our 37 page forms.  She was glad.  Lisa spent an hour preparing the forms.  Then Lisa spent another hour going over the forms with AJ, one of my bankruptcy paralegals.

AJ, after that hour with Lisa, took another hour to type Lisa’s information into the computer.   So I had it.

Then Lisa and I talked for an hour.

At the end of that hour, here’s what we decided.

1.  In spite of what two lawyers told her, Lisa had income eligibility to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

2.  There was no way Lisa could afford a Chapter 13 plan.

3.  There was a non-bankruptcy solution that would work better for Lisa than either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Lisa’s persistence is unusual.   She talked to TWO lawyers who both told her the same thing–she still wanted a third opinion.

Lisa’s persistence is unusual.   Her problem isn’t.  The problem is, a no-preparation consultation will steer people wrong, a lot.  I guess one out of three of my clients would get steered wrong by a no-preparation Virginia bankruptcy consultation.

That’s why I work they way I do.  I hate to steer people wrong.

Some people get irritated that they can’t “just ask a question.”   And people don’t like being sent home to get more information.

What people do like, is that their bankruptcies get approved.  And they like their bankruptcy hearings to be easy.  You can read what people say in my CustomerLobby reviews.

If you want the best possible bankruptcy advice, call us.   Set an appointment.  We’ll ask you to do a lot of work to get ready for our Virginia bankruptcy consultation.  And we’ll do a lot of work to get ready to meet with you.

Don’t be afraid.  Call now.



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Jan 2014

Virginia Garnishment Law Article in Virginia Bankruptcy Law News

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts / 1 comment

Is it legal to get garnished under Virginia garnishment law in a county that you don’t live in any more?

I’m a Virginia bankruptcy lawyer.  I see people all the time who get garnished with no notice.  (You NEVER get enough notice–I explain that here.  But you SHOULD get a copy of the Virginia garnishment in the mail about the time your paycheck or bank account gets hit.)

If you get no notice at all, maybe you’ve moved from the address where they got the judgment.  Maybe you moved years ago.  The Virginia garnishment notice goes to the old address and never gets to you.

Is that legal?  Is it legal to garnish somebody by sending notice to an address they no longer live at?

Virginia bankruptcy lawyer Kaitlin Vaillancourt

Virginia bankruptcy lawyer Kaitlin Vaillancourt

Many courts around the country, say that’s ok.  I think, under Virginia garnishment law, it’s a violation.  Specifically it’s a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  At least if you’ve moved to a different county.

 Kaitlin Vaillancourt and I had an article about that last week in the Virginia Bankruptcy Law News.  The Virginia Bankruptcy Law News is published by the Virginia State Bar Bankruptcy Law Section.  You can read it here.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says debt collectors can’t bring “any action” against you collect a debt in a judicial district where you don’t live.  (Or where you lived when you signed the contract.)  (In Northern Virginia, each county is usually a different judicial district.)

Some courts have decided that a garnishment is not an legal action “against” you.  It sure feels like it’s against you, if you’re the person whose pay is getting garnished.  The Ninth Circuit says of course it is.  Fox v Citicorp.    A recent case in Ohio said the same thing.  Adkins v Weltman, Weinberg & Reis.  I’m reprinting their explanation in full.

“Thus, resolution of the motion to dismiss hinges on whether a garnishment action is “against” the consumer who is a judgment debtor. Only the judgment creditor and the judgment debtor have any beneficial interest at stake in a garnishment action. The nominal “defendant” in a wage garnishment, the employer-debtor of the employee-judgment debtor, has no claim to the money garnisheed. The employer’s only interest is in not becoming liable to pay the wages to both the employee and the employee’s judgment creditor.[1] That danger is avoided by paying the wages into the court, which then determines who is entitled to those funds. The garnishment is not against the employer, it is against the employee-judgment debtor.”

But many judges have said it’s against your employer (or bank), not against you.  (The First Circuit, in Smith v Solomon & Solomon, held that a garnishment is an act against the employer, because Massachusetts law requires that it be brought in the country where the employer does business.  Bu contrast in Virginia, it has never been thought necessary to send a writ of fieri facias to the county where the garnishee resides.   Burks.  On the other hand, Virginia law does allow the garnishment to issue from the court where the debtor now resides.  Code of Virginia 8.01-511.)

Kate and I looked at Virginia garnishment law, and found something called the fieri facias.   That’s Latin, and it goes back to the time in England when lawyers used Latin a lot.  Even if  the Virginia garnishment is not against you, the fieri facias is.  And they can’t get a garnishment without doing a fieri facias first.  (Fieri facias is is “the ordinary judicial process for enforcing the collection of a money judgment by the sale of the property of the defendant.” Burks Pleading and Practice in Actions at Common Law.)

Next time somebody gets a fieri facias and a Virginia garnishment against one of my clients who’s moved to a different county, we’ll sue.

PS  Here’s a Fourth Circuit opinion, Powell v Palisades, which describes garnishment as a step taken to collect a debt.  That was under Maryland law, but it’s still very helpful.  This was decided December 18, 2014.  It probably means that garnishing you in the wrong county violated 11 USC 1692f–it’s an unfair means to collect a debt.

PPS  We’re going to trial on this issue against the debt collection law firm, Caudle & Caudle in March 2016. I’m gathering up useful information.

Take a look at the Virginia Summons to Answer form.  It also has a fieri facias, and is obviously only against the debtor.  DC-440.  The attorney General of Virginia has ruled that “writs of fieri facias, debtor interrogatories and garnishments are distinct, though related, proceedings.”  To issue a Summons to Answer there must be named in both a judgment and fieri facias. Here’s just a fieri facias form.  cc-1477.

Let’s look at the US Supreme Court decision in Mitchell v St Maxent’s Lease, 71 US 237 (1866).  A fieri facias was issued against St Maxent the day after he died.  The Supreme Court said it was void under the common law.  Even though the property sought to be levied was still there, St Maxent was not.

PPS  Had a bad day today in Fairfax General District Court.  We did not get to whether we were right on our legal theory.  Although she got a garnishment, our client was never actually garnished.  (She was on leave from her job, so the employer didn’t have a paycheck to garnish.)  No harm, no foul said the judge.  There needs to be “actual damage.”

(We thought there was a decision in the U.S. District Court last fall was controlling.  That case is Brown v Transurban.   Federal Judge Cacheris said this:  “The “injury in fact” suffered by Plaintiffs under the FDCPA is not any actual economic loss, but rather being subjected to the allegedly “unfair and abusive practices” of the Collection Defendants.”  That wasn’t enough to persuade the Fairfax General District Court, today.  

Well, that issue is now in front of the U S Supreme Court in a case called Spokeo v Robins.  (That is a Fair Credit Reporting Case; these internet people search companies are covered as credit bureaus.  Was there any evidence that the mistake caused Robins to lose a date, a job, a loan, anything?  Or is just being wrong–and not fixing it–enough.)

We may hear from the Supreme Court sometime this spring.  Until then, we need a case where somebody actually got garnished from the wrong county.

PPS  Another circuit court said the the garnishment is not an action “against the consumer.”  Here. Hageman v Barton   That does not control whether the fi fa is “against” the consumer.  But it doesn’t help.







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