Debt collection burdens 71 million Americans, including medical bills, student loans, and credit-card debt. It’s time to reform our civil courts to give them a fighting chance.
Terry was just finishing up 16 months of costly cancer treatment when the calls started. First one, then another and another. A debt collector had found Terry’s number and was looking to recoup a debt Terry knew she had repaid a decade before. But it didn’t matter: the collector went after her in court anyway, garnishing her wages for more than $6,000.
What happened to Terry is far from unique in America’s civil justice system, where debt collection cases are decided – almost always in favor of the debt buyer or collector. Debt collection burdens 71 million Americans, including medical bills, student loans, and credit-card debt. It also perpetuates racial injustice: 45% of residents with credit reports living in predominantly nonwhite ZIP codes are affected by debt collection.
Read Terry’s story in Business Insider, where Lauren Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center and Martha Bergmark of Voices for Civil Justice argue for necessary fixes to our civil justice and debt collection systems.
There’s growing public interest in consumer debt, and medical debt in particular, with a number of stories recently highlighting the excessive lengths to which hospitals, insurers, and debt buyers will go to make hardworking people pay.
In this conversation, we shouldn’t ignore the role of civil courts: how they have facilitated the debt crisis facing American families, and how they have a role to play in fixing it so every person facing a debt collector has a chance at equal justice under the law.
In her recent op-ed for Newsweek, Voices for Civil Justice Executive Director Martha Bergmark argues: “In America, we are raised with the promise of ‘justice for all.’ But after decades as a civil rights and civil legal aid lawyer, I know firsthand that our nation falls far short of that ideal.”
In Justice Ain’t Much If You Can’t Afford It, Bergmark reflects on her early days in Mississippi, witnessing and working to end the misuse of small claims courts to strip people of their meager assets and keep them beholden to those with power and means. She makes the case for new resolve and investment in systemic reforms and civil legal aid to fix our broken civil justice system, so that it works for everyone – not just for the wealthy and the powerful.
Help us spread the word in your networks – here’s a sample tweet you can post by clicking here:
There is a crisis in this country’s civil justice system; but with investment in systemic reforms and civil legal aid, we can have a system that fulfills America’s promise of justice for all.” @MarthaBergmark in @Newsweek calling for #CivilJusticeReform. https://bit.ly/2Zmdr0A
Make sure to follow All Rise for Civil Justice on Facebook and Twitter to stay on top of the latest pieces like Martha’s!
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