Owe money? Watch Out for Debt Collection Lawsuit "Rocket Dockets"
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Would it ever occur to you in a million years that taking the advice of the judge in your debt collection court case might not be in your best interest? Well, that's just what's happening in courtrooms across the U.S. as judges look for short-cuts to clear their growing debt-collections dockets (daily list of cases), hence the term, "Rocket Docket."
You may see or hear the official terms "pre-trial mediation" or "resolution conference" used in court notices and in court precincts that are adopting short-cut strategies, and Texas lawyer Jerry Jarzombek, who specializes in protecting defendants against abusive debt collection tactics, has seen this trend grow first-hand.
"Once in court, most people will take the advice of a judge who instructs them to pay a fee and go out into another room or even a hallway, with only the debt collector's lawyer, to settle their debt collections case," Jarzombek says, adding there's absolutely no requirement and it's often not in your best interest to settle your case on-the-spot, even if the judge advises it.
So, what's the problem with on-the-spot pre-trial mediation?
If you're being sued by a debt-collector, you should know that debt collectors buy debt very cheaply once it is written off by the original lender such as a credit card company or a bank. Debt collectors make it very profitable by suing the consumer to collect the full amount, without checking whether the debt, or even the amount, is valid, says Jarzombek. Obtaining a court judgment against a consumer gives the debt collector even more power to collect the debt by garnishing your bank account and worse.
Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) overhauled debt collection regulations making them stricter for both original creditors and these debt buyers. But the CFPB stops just short of what happens to debt collections defendants in court and denied to give Mainstreet a statement about this "pre-trial mediation" or "resolution conference" short-cut court practice.
"Most folks being sued for debt collections can't afford to miss work to appear in court, don't know how to contact the court and don't understand the negative effects of ignoring the notice to appear in court," says Jarzombek. "What happens in court with these debt collection lawsuits may differ depending on the state or even the county, but the consumer is almost always walking into the line of fire and does not know it."
Jarzombek explains there is no advantage for the debtor in complying with a for-fee, on-the-spot pre-trial mediation or a resolution conference, especially if you are disputing any part of the debt.
"When a debt is sold many times, there is a weak chain title for the debt," says Jarzombek. "Both ownership and the facts of the debt -- dates, amounts, fees and interest -- must be proven by the plaintiff for him to win a debt collection judgment in court against you. Many mistakes get carried over when debts are sold that can cause the case to be dismissed in court with no judgment against you."