A debt collection lawyer in New Jersey has come out and whacked the legal system in his home state, accusing judges of being biased against debt collectors and collection agencies.
The lawyer, Michael Harrison, uses two cases that have been brought against him as evidence of judicial bias, claiming that judges “have ignored the purpose of the statute and continually penalize debt collectors for conduct that is not abusive or harassing, based solely upon the judges’ bias against this group of professionals.”
While I understand that debt collectors are generally not looked upon favorably in our society, it is the job of our judiciary to treat all segments of society fairly, even those that are disliked.
The first case Harrison cites is a collection letter lawsuit, which alleged that he violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because a barcode was visible in the glassine window of the envelope containing the letter. The plaintiff argued that an individual could intercept the mail and use a scanner available on any smartphone to scan the barcode and see the individual’s account number with the collection agency. The account number was equivalent to financial information and the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
One can only conclude that the reason for his decision against Harrison is his bias against debt collectors. The decision is an extremely poorly written and poorly reasoned decision, and the obvious reason is that he could not support his biased conclusions.
Harrison uses the same case when calling out the judge for awarding the plaintiff’s attorney $500 per hour in attorneys fees. The judge also awarded nine hours for the preparation of a fee application. Harrison disagreed.
Query: How can it possibly take nine hours to prepare a fee application by an “experienced” FDCPA attorney? The answer is that it can’t. A first-year law student should be able to prepare a fee application in a fraction of that time. One can only conclude that Judge Dickson did not scrutinize the facts of this case and made a decision based on an anti-debt collector bias.
In continuing his scorching of the legal earth in the Garden State, Harrison looks at another case where a judge was “afraid” to rule in favor of a debt collector.
Unfortunately, these examples are not exceptions in the handling of FDCPA cases by the Federal Court in the District of New Jersey. They are the norm. And this treatment of debt collectors is nothing less than egregious, given the fact that the fee-shifting provisions of this statute are so weighted against the debt collector that it is near impossible for a debt collector to fully utilize the remedies available to it because of the fear of having to pay double or triple attorney fees if they lose.