Philadelphia's district court has given bad court fee debts to collectors at such an alarming rate that it had to enjoin all collections.
The First Judicial District of Pennsylvania is in some trouble. Several years ago, the court shopped out its huge backlog of court-fee debt records to twelve different collection agencies and debt collection law firms. The only problem is that these records were produced and maintained by the Clerk of Quarterly Sessions, an elected job so prone to bureaucratic incompetence that in 2010, after leaving $1.5 billion in court fees uncollected since 1971, the city eliminated the position. Needless to say, selling their records to debt collectors proved as troublesome as leaving them uncollected.
The Philly weekly City Paper collected some of the worst stories:
This past January, Andre Hawkes got the first of several unpleasant phone calls. “We have your name here,” the caller said, explaining that he was collecting old debts for the Philadelphia courts. “If this debt isn’t paid, a warrant could be put on you."
These are only some of the thousands and thousands of bad collection cases the court shopped out to collection agencies. And what collection agencies they picked!
Hired in February 2011 was St. Hill & Associates, which later changed its name to Convergent Legal Group LLC. The courts, which told applicants that their “qualifications” would be judged based on their “experience on similar projects,” will not say whether they examined St. Hill’s history. But a simple Internet search would have raised a number of questions.
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