Courthouses across the country are struggling to keep up with the flood of debt collection lawsuits filed by debt collectors and banks alike against their debtors. If you’re a merchant with a debt collection merchant account from EMB [HYPERLINK TO DEBT COLLECTION INFO PAGE] then you may find yourself knee-deep in a quagmire at the local courthouse. Yet, despite the difficulties in handling the volume of cases, advocates for debtors are finding it’s actually the debtors who are at a disadvantage in the streamlined ‘rocket docket’ approach to handling these lawsuits.
Debt collection is already an industry that suffers from a lack of regulation from the feds and state governments. The grounds and basis for legal action against debtors suffer from a lack of oversight which contributes to the sheer volume of lawsuits processed per year in courthouses around the country. Efforts to speed up case processing, so-called ‘rocket dockets’, unfortunately, put debtors without representation at a severe disadvantage.
Judges seeking to get case after case processed will encourage debtors to go out for a ‘hallway conference’ placing them in an environment where there is no neutral 3rd party to inform a debtor without representation of their rights. In some courthouses, attorneys representing the banks and collectors will hold meetings in the courtroom itself seated in the witness box and jury seating areas—causing many debtors to think they are actually already on trial.
Debtors that are defendants in these lawsuits tend to be of minority groups with low income and very little ability to legally defend themselves. A debtor summoned to the courthouse appearing in a defendant’s chair before attorneys in a courtroom may feel as though the trial process has commenced and that they must follow the lead of the legal ‘authority’ present. Without a judge or neutral 3rd party to inform them of their rights, most of the debtors are cornered into settling when in fact they have the legal right to not even sit down at the table as there is no judge present.
Alternatively, debtors who are encouraged to step out into a ‘hallway conference’ by a judge more interested in closing cases than providing neutral arbitration will find themselves trapped by a lawyer ‘at home’ in the courthouse and facing pressure to abide the lawyer’s advice—a paid representative of the collector agency.
Advocates and alarm-bell agencies are generating buzz regarding the unfair practices that are rampant in ‘rocket docket’ environments. The lack of neutral 3rd parties is a manifestation of the overwhelmed court system and is of concern for everyone including agencies with debt collection merchant accounts with online credit processors.
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