No Prison for Poverty – End Body Attachments in Maryland!

No Prison for Poverty – End Body Attachments in Maryland!

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Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition started this petition to Hon. Alan M. Wilner Court of Appeals

The Hon. Alan M. Wilner Court of Appeals
Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure
Judiciary Education & Conference Center
2011-D Commerce Park Drive
Annapolis, MD 21401

January 3, 2019

Re: Consideration of Proposed Amendments to Discovery in Aid of Enforcement

Honorable Judge Wilner:

As concerned Maryland residents, we, the undersigned, are happy to submit these comments regarding the use of body attachments in our state.

In September 2018, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC) released a new report No Exit: How Maryland’s Debt Collection Practices Deepen Poverty & Widen the Racial Wealth Gap which examined the debt collection practices for consumer and state-owed (civic) debt.

MCRC’s research found that although the Maryland Constitution says that "no person shall be imprisoned for debt," Maryland consumers are arrested – and even jailed – for contempt related to a consumer debt. One procedural issue that contributes to debt collection practices are problems related to personal service. A number of consumers who receive judgements for consumer debt, never received a summons. As the linchpin of the judicial process, ensuring proper service is critical – particularly when arrest or jail is tied to the service.

Recommendations:

The proposed amendments to Rule 2-633, 3-633, and 1-361 are important first steps in eliminating procedural loopholes that have been exploited by creditor attorneys. However, we are concerned that the proposed phrase “evading service willfully” is too vague to be useful. We recommend the following:

1.) Revise the term “evading service willfully” to “evading service purposely.” If the committee continues to use “willfully,” there should be a thorough consideration of  how “willfully” would be defined. The term lacks the level of definition and detail needed to provide useful guidance for judicial interpretation. This term could lead to unintended consequences in which a process server could claim “willful evasion” of service and it would be difficult to prove otherwise.

2.) Revise the amendments to go further and state that no person shall be imprisoned or subject to a body attachment order for a consumer debt.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Best,

 

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