Announcement

Collapse

Forum Rules (Everyone Must Read!!!) (updated: 04/28/2015)

Welcome to the Bankruptcy Forum. Bankruptcy (BK) Forum is known as BKForum.com and will be referred to as BKF hereinafter. In order to ensure a long term success of our vibrant community, we have established certain rules and guidelines to which everyone must adhere to. Please take your time to carefully read our rules, before you start to participate in the community.

Things you agree to do:
BKFORUM.com (BKF) users agree to use the search function before starting a new thread. This prevents duplicate discussions and allows for better organized topics.

All BKF users agree to read the sticky posts which may be available at the top of a forum page. These Sticky posts often contain valuable information. They may also outline more rules and guidelines specific for that particular forum, stickies are put in place by that forums moderator(s) or admin(s).

Things you agree not to do:

All BKF users agree not to call people names or write a post simply to make a personal attack, or get a negative reaction; this behavior is not allowed on our forum. The use of derogatory language aimed at anyone will be severely dealt with. There is no need to agree with each other, or to even like each other. However, by signing onto BKForum.com you agree to treat each member and guest with the respect they deserve. No threats or personal attacks will be allowed.

All BKF users agree not to discuss, engage, or encourage any behavior or activity which violates the law. Discussion of drugs, violence, murder, theft, vandalism, fraud or any other issue which could be used to help individuals break the law is strictly forbidden.

All BKF users agree not to "bump" old threads, unless there is a specific benefit to the community by doing so. But in most cases, please don't post in very old threads, instead start new threads.

All BKF users agree not to attempt/use another members account. It is against BKF rules to use any account other than your own. Impersonating another member will result in an immediate ban. It is also against the rules to open more than one account in your own name without permission from a moderator or administrator. If you have been banned for any reason, it is against the rules to open another account. If you were banned temporarily and you are caught using another account you will be banned permanently. Choosing a moniker which is similar in either sound or spelling as a moderator or administrator is strictly forbidden.

All BKF users agree not to private message any moderator, admin, or other member with questions related to their personal circumstances (Questions about the forum or issues with the forum are ok). This forum only works when members share their experience and insights with everyone.

Things you agree not to post:
All BKF users agree not to post any derogatory/racist/or sexist remarks. This includes attachments, links and all information contained within posts, signatures, and avatars, failure to comply with this rule will result in a permanent ban.

All BKF users agree not to post any copyrighted or trademarked information without the express written permission of the owner(s) / proper citation of source.

All BKF users agree not to post any real names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, or any other personal details (their own or other people's).

All BKF users agree not to post links, pictures, attachments, videos, or the like of pornographic content, objectionable material or extreme violence, whether cartoon or real.

All BKF users agree not to use BKF for advertising purposes without a written contract between yourself/company/agent and the administration of BKF. Blatant advertising will result in a ban.

All BKF users agree not to spam the forums. Spam includes but is not limited to posting erroneous, non-relevant-useless, off-topic, or meaningless posts. Spam may also include posts which contain no text, or large areas of blank space between lines. Simply posting emoticons without text is considered spam. BKF is the largest bankruptcy message board and all the content is intended to help other users. Please help us improve the quality of our forum by making sure that your posts are well-worded, spell checked, grammatically correct and syntaxed.

Regarding actions of moderators and administrators:

The forum is no place to air out your opinion or be judgmental of our staff and its capabilities.

All BKF users agree not to abuse or mistreat moderators or administrators. It is against BKF rules to post any information regarding bans or any other action taken by a member of the moderating or administrative team. If you wish to discuss bans or warnings please do so via PM. To place a complaint against a moderator, send a PM to a super moderator. All Moderators are equal, any decision made by a moderator must be adhered to. If a moderator tells you something you do not like, do not go to another moderator looking for a different answer. If you are caught doing this you will be banned. The moderators work as a team and respect the decisions made by their peers and will help enforce them unless an administrator tells them differently.
If you have an issue with how the forum is run, then notify one of our administrator and we will look into the situation. We have in the past and still do appreciate any input that you offer this forum. But critical input and/or judgmental postings towards the staff will result in you getting banned.


Should you find a thread offensive or out of line, then notify a Mod in a PM so they can evaluate the situation and do the action deemed necessary.

All moderators do have active "other" lives outside of the forum and help moderate this forum in their spare time throughout the days and weeks.

If you have a problem with a member or Mod follow the proper channels of reporting it.

BKF reserves the right to delete any posts which contain anti-BKF comments or discussion. Any bashing of moderators or administrators, or any of their discussion or actions will also be deleted, and the responsible posting party(s) will be banned. Any public anti-BKF advertising, communication, or posts on another forum will result in permanent bans as well.

All warnings and bans are decided by individual moderators and administrators. Warnings are preferable to bans however, for serious offenses and repeat abusers bans will go into effect. The length of the bans can vary from several hours to permanent.

All messages posted or sent including through PM are the property of BKforum.com.

All BKF users agree not to advertiser on the forum (Niether by posting, private messaging or using your signature). If you are a company/attorney/legal adviser wishing to advertise on the site or sell a product, you must contact the head administrator and inquire about our advertising packages.

All bankruptcy related opinions expressed on BKForum.com are those of their authors and not necessarily of BKF, its staff or representatives.

You agree not to copy any material/post/content from BKF without written permission from our head administrator .

By posting on this forum you agree to these terms and conditions, including any punishment deemed appropriate by moderators or administrators in the event of an offense.

Administrators/Moderators can change these rules at any time without prior notice.
See more
See less

In Debt Collecting, Location Matters

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • In Debt Collecting, Location Matters

    July 18, 2011


    MARION COUNTY, Ind.—For U.S. consumers with too many bills and not enough money, the end of the line is often a small-claims court like the one here in Pike Township.

    Judge A. Douglas Stephens, who presides over all the township's small-claims cases, calls himself a "Renaissance redneck" and wears a small gun strapped to his ankle while on the bench. He says he has little patience for the "feeble protests" of people who try to dodge their financial obligations.

    Shortly after his 2003 election, he recalls, two insurance executives in "bad suits" sat silently in the back of his courtroom to see if he would rule in favor of their company in a dispute involving damage from a car accident. He says he did, based on the facts.

    These days, his calendar is packed with cases from many insurance companies—sometimes more than 200 a day—against residents who allegedly owe money for insurance premiums or car accidents. The defendants live not only in Pike Township but in townships all over Marion County. Judge Stephens says that American Family Mutual Insurance Co., based in Madison, Wis., files all its cases against county residents in his township because "they had a problem with another judge who was consistently too tough," whom he declines to name. Judge Stephens says he is "totally impartial." American Family declined to comment.

    As companies and debt collectors try to collect on overdue bills that piled up during the financial crisis, the recession and their aftermath, they are borrowing a tactic from plaintiffs' lawyers: They shop around for the best places to bring their claims. Debt collectors aren't so much worried about whether a court will rule that the debtor owes the money—most cases are fairly clear-cut on that point—but about how aggressively collectors can pursue a debtor's assets.

    Lawsuits to collect on bad debts have to be filed in the state where a debtor lives. In most cases, debt collectors don't get to choose the court in which the case will be heard. Unless it involves an especially large debt, it will be the small-claims court in the debtor's county, and there's no way for a debt collector to pick the judge.

    There are exceptions, however, and they leave debt collectors room to maneuver. Virginia allows companies to file lawsuits in the county where a creditor is based, not where the borrower lives. In Cook County, Ill., collectors can choose between six municipal courts, and in Pulaski County, Ark., they can pick from eight small-claims courts.

    Parts of Indiana are particularly unusual. Although the state requires suits to be filed in the county where the borrower lives, in Marion County and one other county, collectors can choose among township courts—each with a single judge. The courts handle all collection disputes involving up to $6,000.

    "We lawyers call it forum-shopping," says Richard Gonon, a lawyer for Accounts Recovery Bureau Inc., a Reading, Pa., medical debt-collection firm that has filed cases in Marion County.

    Companies such as Encore Capital Group Inc. and Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. buy pools of bad loans at steep discounts, then try to collect on them. They begin by determining which states give them the greatest latitude to seize assets from borrowers who haven't paid up.

    Brokers for distressed debt say investors like states such as Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey, where laws permit them to seize assets such as cars, pension payments and a portion of debtors' wages. Consequently, they try to buy loan pools from those states.

    Brokers say investors shy away from buying bad debt from some other states. In Texas, married couples can shield from creditors as much as $1 million in residential real estate and $60,000 in personal property. California doesn't allow debt collectors to garnishee the bank accounts of delinquent borrowers.

    Brokers say geography is the single biggest factor in how much debts fetch. Accommodating laws and judges often mean the difference between a profit and loss on debts pursued in court, says Mark Russell of Kaulkin Ginsberg, a Rockville, Md., adviser to debt collectors.

    In states where laws are more favorable to debt collectors, they pay more for such debt. Unpaid consumer debt sells for about seven cents on the dollar in Indiana, compared with two cents in Texas, according to Lou DiPalma, a debt broker in Harrison, N.Y. Such debt also fetches relatively high prices in Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Virginia, he says.

    Debt collectors regard Indiana as friendly territory. Companies can file small-claims suits by mail rather than sending lawyers to file them in person. If a debt collector wins in court, nearly all of a creditor's assets can be pursued for payment, including real estate, pension payments and cars, which are off-limits in many other states.

    Marion County, where Indianapolis is located, is the state's most populous county. It is carved into nine townships, each with its own court—a vestige of a time in which every Indiana resident was supposed to be able to reach a courthouse on horseback in one day.

    Eighty percent of debt-collection cases against Marion County residents involved less than $6,000 in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, so they were handled by township courts. State law allows debt collectors to file the suits in any of the nine courts.

    Jeff Bennett, who oversees the Warren Township court's budget and staff, says township courts depend on filing fees of $81 per case to fund a chunk of their operations. He says that creates a "perverse incentive" for judges and their staffs to be "accommodating" to collectors.

    Pike Township's Judge Stephens says debt collectors often choose the court where they expect to recoup the most money. His court is the second-busiest in Marion County, with 8,200 cases filed last year and 2,731 filed through April of this year, according to court officials. "I'm pretty much the insurance-company judge," he says, noting that suits filed by insurance companies account for about 20% of his caseload.

    Judge Stephens allows lawyers for companies trying to collect debts to use cubicles next to his courtrooms to hash out payment plans with debtors in lieu of bringing their cases before the court. The judge doesn't supervise the meetings—the law doesn't require him to do so—and nearly all of the borrowers come to court without lawyers of their own.

    Such settlement meetings occur in several other township courts as well. Debtors sometimes agree to make debt payments using income that is protected from seizure by state law, such as unemployment or disability payments, according to Garland Graves, the judge in Warren Township, who says he doesn't allow unsupervised settlement meetings. Many defendants make concessions without knowing their rights, he says.

    Judge Stephens responds: "I am under no obligation to tell someone how to defend themselves…If someone owes a debt, which they generally do, how much more advantageous is it for a defendant to get in front of a judge?" He adds that debtors can exercise that right if they want. "Defendants don't frequently make payments from these protected [income] sources," he says. "Just because they don't ask to go in front of a judge doesn't mean that they are being taken advantage of."

    The court in Decatur Township also arranges unsupervised meetings. When defendants arrive, they often are told to sit in the courtroom until their names are called. They are called one at a time to meet with debt-collection lawyers, according to court employees. No judge is present.

    Jeff Cook, an unemployed plumber, had a closed-door meeting earlier this year with a lawyer for Med Shield Inc., which collects debts for some of Indiana's largest nonprofit hospitals and outpatient clinics. He says he agreed to allow Med Shield to tap his unemployment benefits to cover a $651 emergency-room bill. He found out later that debt collectors have no legal right in Indiana to seize unemployment checks to satisfy a verdict in a lawsuit.

    Decatur Township Judge William L. Fisher Jr. didn't return calls seeking comment. Med Shield declined to comment.

    Decatur Township has become the preferred courthouse for lawyers who collect soured debt on behalf of medical providers, according to Pam Ricker, who has managed the court's operations for more than 25 years. The township has no hospitals.

    Ms. Ricker says a lack of public transportation discourages many defendants from showing up in court, resulting in automatic wins for debt collectors.

    "We certainly have our loyal attorneys," said Ms. Ricker. The court provides lawyers with coffee in a break room and a fax machine for their clerical needs.

    Of the 106 Med Shield cases scheduled to be handled by the court one day in February, just three involved defendants who lived in the township, according to an analysis of court records by The Wall Street Journal.

    Some township judges are uncomfortable with appearing too accommodating to debt collectors. Last year, Judge Steven Poore of Washington Township barred lawyers from meeting privately with defendants. He says he was worried that the court looked like "an arm of the debt collectors." He now reviews all debt-collection settlements. The number of debt-collection suits filed in Washington Township is down sharply, he says.

    Mr. Gonon, the medical debt-collection lawyer, says he stopped filing lawsuits in Washington Township. He says he will file future cases in a township where the judge is less "debtor-friendly" and will let him meet one-on-one with defendants. "Hard-liners" like Judge Poore, he says, "hurt business because it's harder to collect money on each account."

    Judge Poore says the courts aren't intended to function as "business generators for debt collectors," noting that his changes in procedure help ensure that everyone gets a fair hearing.

    Maxine King, the small-claims-court judge in Washington Township until she lost her re-election bid in January, says she also banned closed-door meetings between defendants and lawyers. She says she did so after learning that debt-collection firms were discouraging debtors from bringing their cases before her. "It was a clear obstruction of the justice that should be given to each defendant," she says. "Ideally, debt-collection firms wouldn't have such latitude and would have to file where the debtor lives, not where they like the judge most."

    In Center Township, court constables hand out questionnaires outside the small courtroom's entrance. The forms ask defendants for their telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and employer's addresses. The defendants hand over the forms to collection lawyers when they are called to settlement meetings, which aren't supervised by the judge. The questionnaires are prepared by an Indiana law firm that sues borrowers on behalf of credit-card issuers, according to township Judge Michelle Smith Scott.

    Crystal Dupree, a 32-year-old office manager facing a lawsuit over an alleged debt on a store-issued credit card, says she wrote down her bank-account information and cellphone number because she thought the form was an official court document. "It's really deceptive, and I never would have given them that information," she says. She disputes that she owes money on the credit card.

    Lawyers at the law firm that prepared the questionnaire declined to comment. Mark Anthony Duncan, the Center Township constable in charge of serving defendants with court documents, says defendants aren't forced to fill out the questionnaires, adding that the forms inform defendants they are "from a debt-collector."

    Judge Scott, when contacted by the Journal, said she would instruct constables to stop handing out the questionnaires so as to prevent "any wrong perception" that the forms are issued by the court. "I can't deny that some collectors shop around the township courts to find the one where they will fare best," she said. "I want to ensure my court is fair."

    Shortly after Judge Graves took over the Warren Township court in January, he says, calls poured in from debt-collection lawyers trying to figure out where he stood. Judge Graves says his predecessor on the bench was unpopular with debt collectors because he hired an administrator to review payment agreements between defendants and collection firms.

    Mr. Bennett, who oversees the court's budget and staff, says debt-collection lawyers threatened to take their cases and filing fees elsewhere if Judge Graves didn't back down.

    Judge Graves says some company lawyers asked court officials to fax them hundreds of pages of documents on previous judgments, which the judge took to be a test of his willingness to accommodate debt collectors.

    He refused. "I don't want to be a pushover," he says. "If that means losing business, well, I guess that's what we're going to do."

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...597389214.html


    (note: full text article available by google searching title then clicking through from google, as with all WSJ material).
    Last edited by Flamingo; 07-20-2011, 07:31 AM. Reason: To conform to forum posting rules
    filed chapter 13..confirmed...converted to chapter 7...DISCHARGED!

  • #2
    Wow.................even MORE reasons to have access to an entire law firm for a small monthly amount!

    Comment


    • #3
      Obviously a very conservative state. Debtors prisons can't be too far around the corner.
      filed chapter 13..confirmed...converted to chapter 7...DISCHARGED!

      Comment


      • #4
        Wow is right! It never ceases to amaze me the lengths creditors will go to.

        Comment


        • #5
          i find it even more interesting in that county that the creditor gets a choice??? usually there has to be sometime of venue change request/and or motion, for a specific reason, and from the tiny bit i know it's usually not for the reason that the "judge" doesn't like me. wow...
          8/4/2008 MAKE SURE AND VISIT Tobee's Blogs! http://www.bkforum.com/blog.php?32727-tobee43 and all are welcome to bk forum's Florida State Questions and Answers on BK http://www.bkforum.com/group.php?groupid=9

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by catleg View Post
            Lawsuits to collect on bad debts have to be filed in the state where a debtor lives. In most cases, debt collectors don't get to choose the court in which the case will be heard. Unless it involves an especially large debt, it will be the small-claims court in the debtor's county, and there's no way for a debt collector to pick the judge.
            But once again, remember.... this is the exception, not the rule. Lawsuits are normally filed in the debtor's county. You have here just another example of business gaming the rules.

            If you live in one of these states, you need to be burning up the phone of your congressman/representative to get the law changed. Until it is changed, it is the law.
            All information contained in this post is for informational and amusement purposes only.
            Bankruptcy is a process, not an event.......

            Comment


            • #7
              Frogger, indeed! And as Charles Dickens said, "...then the law is an ass!"

              Bought and paid for "justice." I wonder if in addition to the filing fees, how much gets paid under the table.

              Wake up folks, wake up!

              Comment


              • #8
                So true! Some comments I have heard from lawyers in the last few years of our battle: "You won't be able to find a big law firm in this city that I haven't worked for, I'll claim conflict of interest." "I go to the same country club and practice in the judge's court all the time. He'll do whatever I ask." "No one in this city will take your case against me; they know better." "I may be disbarred someday, but by then I'll have so much money it won't matter." "This is not a threat, but..." and via another lawyer: "She called my partner this morning and I listened in on the speaker. She said if I took your case I'd never work in this city again."

                And, from the lawyer's flunky: "I do this for _______all the time, and you will lose. We are going to break you so that you will never see the inside of a courtroom...You don't have enough money to stand up to us."

                OUR LEGAL SYSTEM IS BROKEN, FOLKS.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Nice - time to start recording them and maybe playing these to some of the few actual journalists left in this country...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jjim120 View Post
                    OUR LEGAL SYSTEM IS BROKEN, FOLKS.
                    The "legal" system is the problem. It is all "legal", written by lawyers and for the lawyers, who don't care or understand the meaning of justice.

                    I don't want legal.

                    I want to see justice!
                    All information contained in this post is for informational and amusement purposes only.
                    Bankruptcy is a process, not an event.......

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Well said Frogger, well said. Sadly, unless and until the people wake up, we're not likely to see it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        That's why the judge in the article is packing concealed in an ankle holster...in case anyone really comes looking for justice. As opposed to what he is dispensing. The comment about debtors' "feeble protests" says it all about his attitude. The guy is scum, bought and paid for.
                        filed chapter 13..confirmed...converted to chapter 7...DISCHARGED!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by catleg View Post
                          That's why the judge in the article is packing concealed in an ankle holster...in case anyone really comes looking for justice. As opposed to what he is dispensing. The comment about debtors' "feeble protests" says it all about his attitude. The guy is scum, bought and paid for.
                          Yah, is this where the old......money talks and bullshit walks comes into play........LOL!
                          Filed CH 7 4/15/11
                          341 5/23/11
                          DISCHARGED & CLOSED ON 7/27/11

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Me, too! Lawyers, if they do anything but track their billable hours and then say sorry, just twist and spin the language of the law and pay document games. They don't care about the truth or justice.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My son went to trade school in Connecticut, where he incurred two debts from a credit union. He lives in another state, but was successfully sued by the Connecticut credit union, in a Connecticut civil court. A moot point, since he filed for Chapter 7 and his debts were discharged.
                              You cannot evade a lawsuit by moving to another state.

                              Comment

                              Unconfigured Ad Widget

                              Collapse
                              Working...
                              X