Judge Remands FDCPA Case Back to State Court, Orders Firm Representing Defendant To Pay Double Costs, Fees

A District Court judge in Wisconsin has admonished the lawyer representing the defendant in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, calling him out for removing cases originally filed in state court to federal court five times, only then to file a motion for summary judgment in each case on the grounds the plaintiff lacked standing to sue. The judge remanded this case back to state court and ordered the firm representing the defendant to pay double costs plus attorney fees for filing a motion for summary judgment on the merits rather than stipulating to a remand for lack of jurisdiction.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Todorov v. Receivables Performance Management can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff filed suit in state court after receiving a collection letter from the defendant which allegedly contained a misleading offer to settle the debt for less than the full balance. The defendant removed the case to federal court, and then filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting “there is no evidence establishing that Plaintiff suffered anything more than an alleged procedural violation of the FDCPA, which is insufficient to confer Article III standing.”

Judge William M. Conley of the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin noted that the attorney representing the defendant “had no less than four cases” remanded within the same circuit under the exact same circumstances.

Making matters even worse for the defendant is that it alleged in its motion for summary judgment that the plaintiff’s original complaint “did not provide a basis for Article III standing,” Judge Conley wrote. If that is the case, the defendant never should have removed the case to federal court in the first place, the judge ruled.

“In particular, as a repeat offender and officer of the court with independent and higher ethical obligations, RPM’s counsel is admonished that it cannot in good faith remove a case to federal court if it believes the plaintiff lacks standing, as subject matter jurisdiction is required for removal to federal court,” Judge Conley wrote. “Doing otherwise is not just an egregious waste of judicial resources, of which counsel has apparently made habit, but a violation of a panoply of ethical duties as an advocate before this court.”

Noting that the defendant’s attorney had “more than enough notice” that his behavior was “improper” Judge Conley decided to hold the firm representing the defendant, not the defendant itself, “liable for the now repeat actions.”

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