Only Line of Defense: In confusing world of civil debt proceedings, volunteer attorneys pick up the slack

For most defendants, it's the only time they will consult a lawyer about their case—the debts are often too small to justify hiring an attorney, and few could afford one anyway.

Feature (Maryland)

Baltimore City Paper
August 2, 2017

Tags: Court Debt, Debt Collection, Pro Bono

Organizations mentioned/involved: Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)


Debt buyers bring small claims cases to District Court by the thousands, clogging the court system. Many cases are auto-generated from reams of bulk-bought debt data that, despite federal penalties by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are still prone to errors. It’s errors like these that MVLS is here to find, in addition to smoothing out the patterns they see again and again: defendants who don’t recognize the third-party creditor suing them, misunderstandings about the court process, or confusion around shared responsibility of a co-signed debt.