On October 27, 2015, Atlas Consumer Law senior associate, Matthew Hector, presented an oral argument in Robert Jackson, et. al. v. Blitt & Gaines, P.C. before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The issue on appeal was whether an Illinois wage garnishment proceeding is a legal action taken against a consumer. This issue has been heavily argued in the lower courts, where consumers have sought redress for wage garnishment actions taken in a jurisdiction where they do not reside. Those garnishment actions were based on default judgments also taken in an improper jurisdiction. Several judges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois have held that a wage garnishment is not a legal action taken against a consumer.
On appeal, Attorney Hector argued that since a wage garnishment targets a consumer’s property interest in earned, but unpaid wages, a wage garnishment is, in essence, an action against a consumer. Blitt & Gaines, represented by Mr. Michael Starzec, argued that since a wage garnishment requires the involvement of a consumer’s employer, and because that employer is served with a summons, the action targets the employer.
Attorney Hector also argued that such a position is in line with the Federal Trade Commission’s commentary to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which states that if a debt collector obtains its judgment in the proper jurisdiction, it is free to collect that judgment wherever is necessary. Mr. Starzec argued that following the Appellants’ arguments would create a scenario wherein no judgments would be collectable. Once the Seventh Circuit issues its ruling, we will update our blog with an analysis of the Court’s ruling.
Audio of the oral argument can be found here.