Constables Liable Under FDCPA

02 Oct Constables Liable Under FDCPA

A recent federal court decision held that a constable could be sued for unfair debt collection practices.

In Massachusetts, a constable is elected or appointed official within a town for serving legal papers. Oftentimes, the constable is specially appointed by a court to serve outside the usual town. That’s not enough for protection from violating collection laws.

Federal Magistrate Judith Gail Dein ruled on August 27, 2008 that neither the elected status, nor the court-appointed status, immunized the constable from liability. A constable was a debt collector, covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, when it went beyond mere serving, or delivering, a communication. It could not demand payment of unlawful “poundage” and “constable” fees, or threaten to auction off a car after seizure when it had no intention or authority to do so.

The case is Andrews v. South Coast Legal Services, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69435 (D.Mass. 2008).

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L. Jed Berliner practices exclusively in consumer bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, and related consumer protection litigation such as credit card defenses and suing debt collectors. He established his Springfield, MA practice in 1988. Attorney Berliner is a regular and active contributor to the Bankruptcy Law Network, the Bankruptcy Roundtable, and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, three specialized consumer bankruptcy forums on the Internet, and is an informal mentor to regional practitioners. He is recognized by his peers as an expert in consumer bankruptcy issues. He thoroughly enjoys being rated "excellent" in his client surveys.

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