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Ill. lawmakers target practice of jailing debtors

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  • Ill. lawmakers target practice of jailing debtors

    April 19, 2012

    CHICAGO — Jailed for unpaid debts? It happened to breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay.

    She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it. But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.

    Debt collectors have become so aggressive in some parts of Illinois that they commonly use taxpayer-financed courts, sheriff's deputies and county jails to squeeze poor people who fall behind on small payments of $25 or $50 a month, according to supporters of the proposed legislative reforms. Lawmakers in Springfield are pushing to make it harder to jail poor people who miss court dates or are found in contempt of court as they struggle with unpaid debts — an aggressive practice that got worse, some say, during the recession.

    Lindsay, a teaching assistant from Herrin in southern Illinois, ended up paying more than $600 because legal fees had been added to the original amount.

    "I paid it in full so they couldn't do it to me again," Lindsay said.

    The Illinois bill would require court appearance notices to be served to a debtor's home, rather than merely mailed. It would require arrest warrants to expire after a year, and it would return most bail money to the debtor, rather than allow it to be used to pay off the debt.

    Disabled roofer Jack Hinton sat in jail until he could come up with $300 on a debt he owed a lumberyard.

    According to a hearing transcript, a central Illinois judge listened to Hinton's story, noted he'd recently been paid after finishing a roofing job, and said: "Mr. Hinton, you had $1,000 in your pocket, you chose to spend it elsewhere in violation of the court order. That lands you in jail."

    Hinton's wife took out a loan to buy his freedom. Her $300 went to the debt collector.

    Michelle Gilliam, an unemployed Urbana resident, was picked up by sheriff's deputies and jailed twice for missing court dates as a debt collector pursued her in court for a decade, she and her attorney said. Gilliam got help from a nonprofit group offering free legal services and the court dismissed the case, essentially forgiving her debt on the grounds she was too poor to pay.

    The problem has surfaced in other states, but there is no model legislation. Advocates in Minnesota unsuccessfully tried to pass a bill that would have allowed debtors to fill out an affidavit stating their income and assets when the sheriff arrived at the door to execute a warrant, according to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.

    Madigan, a supporter of the bill, said informal traditions in some Illinois courtrooms "have allowed these abuses to occur." The recession heightened the problem, she said.

    "More people are unemployed, more people are struggling financially and more creditors are trying to get their debt paid," Madigan said.

    The bill, which has passed the House, is supported even by groups representing debt collectors and their attorneys, who agree with Madigan that some judges and attorneys have gone too far. Judges will retain the discretion to issue arrest warrants and to jail debtors for contempt.

    Lawsuits against debtors are a last resort, said Eric Mock of the Illinois Collectors Association. "A consumer that has been arrested or jailed can't pay a debt. We want to work with consumers to resolve issues," he said.

    Madigan learned of the problem last year. Her office was getting reports of impoverished people pursued through the courts for back rent, medical debt and payday loans, she said. One woman who owed money on a vacuum cleaner spent weeks in jail before someone lined her up with free legal services.

    "We're using public resources to collect private debts," Madigan said. "At what point do you say it's illegal?"

    Lenders can be part of the problem. In 2010, the Illinois agency that licenses lending companies went after a Carbondale storefront lender for exploiting the court system to get its customers incarcerated. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation revoked the company's license, later reaching a settlement that restored it.

    In court, debtors rarely have an attorney, while creditors hire experienced legal representation.

    That was the case for Hinton, a 57-year-old from Kenney in central Illinois who became disabled after falling off a roof. Hinton wasn't working much since he'd hurt his neck and back. He was behind on his court-ordered payment plan on an old debt. He recently had wrapped up a roofing job, but he spent the $1,000 he received to pay other bills.

    Without his own attorney, Hinton represented himself. During a quick court hearing, a lawyer representing the creditor established that the roofer briefly had $1,000. That was enough to send him to jail.

    "I got no sympathy, whatsoever," Hinton said.

    Illinois law allows some sources of income, such as Social Security, to remain exempt from debt collection. Poor people with only exempt income and no property are being pursued by certain attorneys, said John Roska, an attorney for Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation who represented Gilliam in court.

    "She doesn't have any employment income and no property," Roska said of Gilliam. "She is a turnip. You can't get blood out of a turnip. That's as protected as she can get."

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505247_1...in;contentBody
    Filed BK 7 Pro Se: August 2010 341 Meeting: September 2010
    November 2010
    Closed: January 2011!!!

  • #2
    I have lived in Chicago IL and can attest that you pay twice to get anything done. Example, pay for a permit, then pay to have the inspector pass the work. I slid through on ice a yellow light. Pulled by two cops, who chit chat for 20 minutes while I sat in the back seat. I was 19 at the time and had five dollars in my pocket. When I told them "fellas, I only have a five dollar bill to my name" They retorted "Oh no, that's not going to do" and wrote me a ticket.

    IL is the most corrupt state I have seen. Now we have same in D.C. I was under the impression there is no debtors prison, but I guess our Hope and Change just may reverse that idea. Remember, you deserve the Government you vote for. 'Hub
    If I knew it all, would I be here?? Hang in there = Retained attorney 8-06, Filed 12-28-07, Discharge 8-13-08, Finally CLOSED 11-3-09, 3-31-10 AP Dismissed, Informed by incompetent lawyer of CLOSED status, October 14, 2010.

    Comment


    • #3
      [QUOTE=AngelinaCatHub;568306]
      "IL is the most corrupt state I have seen"

      I guess you never lived in the South.

      "Remember, you deserve the Government you vote for."

      That is so true. States passing restrictive voter ID, anti Science and Vagina probing laws.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by jacko View Post
        Originally posted by AngelinaCatHub View Post
        "IL is the most corrupt state I have seen"

        I guess you never lived in the South.

        "Remember, you deserve the Government you vote for."
        That is so true. States passing restrictive voter ID, anti Science and Vagina probing laws.
        The last time I checked the geography books, Florida is located in the Deep South. I do not know what else you are referring to, and prefer not to. Thank you.
        Last edited by AngelinaCat; 04-25-2012, 01:22 AM.
        "To go bravely forward is to invite a miracle."

        "Worry is the darkroom where negatives are formed."

        Comment


        • #5
          Florida is geographically in the South, but culturally, definitely not the Deep South. I lived in Mississippi for 3 years, and believe me, it's a whole different thing!
          Filed CH 13 September 17, 2007
          Plan Modified July 8, 2009 from $1100/month to $400/month due to change in income, finally discharged in July of 2013!

          Comment


          • #6
            Didja see on the news this morning JD collectors posing as Hospital Staff and entering peoples rooms, stating if they didnt pay they couldn't have surgery?!

            WTFreak?! HOW are these people getting away with this ..let alone getting INTO patients rooms?!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Pandora View Post
              Didja see on the news this morning JD collectors posing as Hospital Staff and entering peoples rooms, stating if they didnt pay they couldn't have surgery?!

              WTFreak?! HOW are these people getting away with this ..let alone getting INTO patients rooms?!
              OMG.
              This is just terrifying. THEY are the ones who should be jailed.
              EVERYONE is desperate nowadays.

              Keep On Smilin'

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by woeisme View Post
                Florida is geographically in the South, but culturally, definitely not the Deep South. I lived in Mississippi for 3 years, and believe me, it's a whole different thing!
                You mean the lost years..-)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by AngelinaCat View Post
                  The last time I checked the geography books, Florida is located in the Deep South. I do not know what else you are referring to, and prefer not to. Thank you.
                  I wouldn't consider Florida having the deep south flavor due to the transplants from everywhere. But your gov is a piece of work.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Are we talking about debtors who miss a court date here. Maybe a debtor's exam and are found in contempt of court?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My wife sent me a similar article on this topic just yesterday and is sufficiently freaked out. We live in NJ-what are the chances of this kind of nonsense flying here? So far things have been pretty standard...BofA sent me to collections already, Chase just sent me a "warning" letter stating that my account will be going to collections in 30 days, and Citi has been pretty quiet. My wife has accounts with BofA and Chase that she only defaulted on two months ago so they're not even calling yet.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Deisel73L, as Dylan150 points out, these people are being jailed for contempt when they didn't appear in court or pay on a judgment as ordered by the court. Don't worry, your wife is not going to go to jail for defaulting.
                        LadyInTheRed is in the black!
                        Filed Chap 13 April 2010. Discharged May 2015.
                        $143,000 in debt discharged for $36,500, including attorneys fees. Money well spent!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          LadyInTheRed: Are you saying that if a judge order's you to pay on a judgment and you don't that is contempt of court and you could go to jail for that? I am a little confused here. There are alot of people who have judgments so what's the difference here, the judge's order to pay?
                          How does the creditor get a judge to order a person to pay? Are the judgments for something other than credit card debt?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DYLAN150 View Post
                            LadyInTheRed: Are you saying that if a judge order's you to pay on a judgment and you don't that is contempt of court and you could go to jail for that? I am a little confused here. There are alot of people who have judgments so what's the difference here, the judge's order to pay?
                            How does the creditor get a judge to order a person to pay? Are the judgments for something other than credit card debt?
                            Failing to pay on a judgement alone isn't contempt. A Judgement is not the same as an order to pay on the judgement. If, for example, the judge orders a debtor to pay a certain amount of money on a certain date or orders that the next time a debtor is paid by a customer they turn those funds over to the creditor, and the debtor doesn't do as ordered, the judge could find the debtor in contempt of court for violating the order. You would hope that a judge would only jail somebody for contempt when he has looked closely at the situation and believes the debtor really has the ability to pay but is willfully refusing to. But, it sounds like that isn't always the case which is why some are trying to pass a bill to deal with the situation.

                            I am not sure of the exact procedure a creditor goes through to get a judge to order payment and I am sure it varies by state. But, I am sure the creditor has to file some motion to request the order.
                            LadyInTheRed is in the black!
                            Filed Chap 13 April 2010. Discharged May 2015.
                            $143,000 in debt discharged for $36,500, including attorneys fees. Money well spent!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by woeisme View Post
                              Florida is geographically in the South, but culturally, definitely not the Deep South. I lived in Mississippi for 3 years, and believe me, it's a whole different thing!
                              That may be true along the coast lines and anything just north of Orlando on south. But for us living in Northern Florida in the St. Johns River valley, and along the panhandle, we are in the Deep South.
                              "To go bravely forward is to invite a miracle."

                              "Worry is the darkroom where negatives are formed."

                              Comment

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