Funded through a fellowship from the Open Society Institute's Baltimore Community Fellows program, CAPP is designed to increase access to justice to the more than 1,000 Baltimore residents filing pro se bankruptcies each year whose dreams of a "fresh start" are often thwarted by the predatory practices of some creditors taking unfair advantage of debtors who are unaware of their rights under the law. As part of the project, Civil Justice is providing training that will assist consumer attorneys in identifying and prosecuting creditor abuse claims within bankruptcy cases. Attorneys who attend the training are asked to take on two pro bono or contingency fee creditor abuse cases. This program is also aimed primarily at assisting debtors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
For more information on upcoming trainings, visit the Upcoming Events page.
On September 7, 2011, the Maryland Court of Appeals approved proposed changes to the District Court Rules that will require a debt collector seeking a judgment by affidavit to provide documentation that proves it has a right to collect the debt and that the person they are suing actually owes that money. As part of its Creditor Abuse Prevention Project (CAPP), Civil Justice submitted written comments in support of these changes. CAPP Director Rebecca Coleman also testified in support of those proposed changes at the September 7th hearing. Click here for more information related to these changes.
Each year, thousands of Maryland consumers are sued for unpaid debts. The vast majority of these cases are brought in small claims court by third party debt buyers. Usually, these debt buyers lack the proper documentation and evidence to show that (1) a debt is actually owed, (2) the amount claimed is accurate, and (3) the person they are suing is the person who owes the debt. Both nationally and in Maryland, the cases are rampant in which a debt collector sues the person it believes is the debtor, knowing full well that the defendant often will not appear to defend herself at trial. In those cases, Maryland law currently allows the creditor to obtain a “Judgment by Affidavit.” This basically means the debt collector submits an affidavit, signed under oath, from an employee of the company confirming that they have reviewed their records and those records show the company is entitled to collect that particular amount from this particular debtor. But these affidavits are regularly “robo-signed” by people with no knowledge of the accounts. In other words, the debt buyers are saying to the court “hey just trust us” and right now, the courts are doing just that. To compound the problem, although the debt collectors regularly file affidavits saying that they have served the defendant with notice of the lawsuit, in many cases those affidavits are also robo-signed and the defendant does not learn of the lawsuit until after a judgment has been entered and her bank accounts or paycheck are garnished.
The Maryland Court of Appeals Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure has proposed changes to the Maryland District Court Rules of that, if adopted by the Court of Appeals, would require a creditor seeking a judgment by affidavit to provide documentation that proves it has a right to collect the debt and that the person they are suing actually owes that money. On August 15, 2011, Civil Justice submitted comments on the proposed rules and expressed its strong support of the changes and voiced its opinion that debt buyers must be held to the same standard as all other litigants in the Maryland courts. Click here to view a copy of Civil Justice's comments.