Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 14

FEATURE
D.C.'S NEW
DEBT COLLECTION LAW
A PIVOTAL
REFORM
TO PROTECT
CONSUMERS
By Thomas Papson
T
here's a knock on your door. A process server
hands you legal papers naming you as the
defendant. A company you've never heard of
is suing you for a debt you don't recognize.
Welcome to debt collection court, a D.C. Superior Court calendar in
which most cases are filed by " debt buyers " - companies that purchase
charged-off consumer debt for pennies on the dollar - and where
all plaintiffs are represented by counsel. It's also a place where mostly
unrepresented defendants feel like the deck is stacked against them
as they navigate a bewildering judicial process where too many cases
result in default judgments.
Imagine owing credit card debt that you can't pay because you lost
your job or had unforeseen medical expenses. To make matters worse,
a debt collector is repeatedly calling you at all hours and sending letters
threatening to take you to court and garnish your wages if you don't pay
up, even though District law protects low-income workers from wage
garnishment.
Until recently, the District of Columbia had a debt collection law going
back to 1972, when most consumer credit was extended directly by
retailers on an installment basis. And that type of credit - which did
14 WASHINGTON LAWYER * NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
not include credit card debt or other forms of third-party financing -
was the only form of credit to which the 1972 act applied. Because that
act remained largely unchanged for the next 50 years, it offered scant
protections to consumers in the modern era.
Enter the Protecting Consumers From Unjust Debt Collection Practices
Amendment Act of 2022 (Bill 24-0357, D.C. Law 24-0154), which completely
overhauls the District's obsolete debt collection law (D.C. Code
§ 28-3814) by expanding its scope and introducing a host of new consumer
protections. With this enactment, the District now has one of the
most progressive debt collection laws in the nation, just in time to protect
D.C. consumers from an expected wave of new debt collection
lawsuits after a pause in new filings related to the pandemic.
The new law, which became effective on August 27, 2022, with an applicability
date of January 1, 2023, also is likely to have a significant impact
on racial equity. A 2015 ProPublica investigation found that Black communities
are hit substantially harder by debt collection lawsuits and
court-ordered judgments than white communities, even when controlling
for income. Specific to the District, the 2022 Racial Equity Impact
Assessment for Bill 24-0357 noted that communities of color are five
times more likely to have debts in collection than white communities.
Introduced by D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson on July 12, 2021, around
the time a COVID-19-based moratorium on consumer debt case filing
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Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Attorney Briefs
Taking the Stand
Disciplinary Summaries
On Further Review
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Speaking of Ethics
The Learning Curve
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 4
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 6
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 43
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 45
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 48
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 51
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover4
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