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Attorney’s report alleges trucking school small-claims abuses

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An attorney’s report examining more than 7,700 lawsuits filed by an Indianapolis-based trucking school in just two Marion County township small-claims courts alleges systemic abuses that resulted in thousands of judgments against people who may never have stepped foot in the county or the state.

“I tried to get as much data as I could to establish there are real problems here,” said Jeffrey C. Boulden, who provided copies of his report this week to key judges, Supreme Court justices, the Indiana attorney general’s office and media outlets.

Boulden asserts Driver Solutions LLC filed 7,711 suits in Franklin and Warren township small-claims courts from 2008 through April 30, 2012. That total equals about 148 cases per month – or more than six cases per business day – predominantly against driver trainees nationwide. The company has campuses around the country.

Boulden reviewed 25 percent of those case files as a sample and found 93 percent of the sample cases were filed against defendants who lived outside Indiana, which he claims violates the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692i(a). The federal law regarding venue requires such collections actions be filed in the jurisdiction where a contract was signed or where a consumer resides.

The report also claims defendants in numerous cases were improperly served notice through standard U.S. Mail, and that about 70 percent of judgments exceeded the statutory small-claims cap of $6,000. Boulden says any such judgments should be voided.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker is among the judges who received a copy of Boulden’s examination of Driver Solutions LLC. “It’s pretty sad,” Baker said after his initial review of the unsolicited report titled, “The Poplicola Report on the Marion County Small Claims Court.”

Baker, along with Senior Judge Betty Barteau of the Court of Appeals, headed the Supreme Court Task Force that in May of 2012 issued its Report on the Marion County Small Claims Courts in response to criticism of widespread abuses including perceptions of “forum shopping.”

The township courts since have instituted some reforms, but Baker said lawmakers have failed to respond to the task force report’s recommendations, including a proposal that the township courts be incorporated into Marion Superior Courts. From that standpoint, he said, Boulden’s report isn’t surprising.

“This may well cover times before some significant changes were made, but I am frustrated that notwithstanding our efforts in getting the (task force) report out, there has been no reaction from the General Assembly,” Baker said.

“I’m appreciative of his efforts,” Baker said. Coupled with the task force report, past Indianapolis Bar Association reports of small-claims problems and widespread criticism of court practices, the report joins a body of evidence that “indicates we need some structural change.”

Boulden said Driver Solutions charged a standard tuition of $5,995 for a driver training course lasting a few weeks, often financing the training with no upfront cost to students. He said company filings often sought to collect interest on defaults as well, pushing the claim past the $6,000 cap.

Attorney Brian Alsip, who filed many of the claims for Driver Solutions during the timeframe Boulden examined, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Driver Solutions attorney Garrett Lowe provided the following statement from Driver Holdings LLC CEO Michael Benkert:

“While we have not received a copy of the report in question, I am pleased with our commitment to providing career skills and employment opportunities within the trucking industry. In the past year alone, we have assisted over 4,000 individuals in obtaining gainful employment.”

Lowe said the statement would be the extent of the company’s comments regarding the report at this time.

Warren Township Small Claims Judge Garland Graves said he had seen the report and was reviewing Driver Solutions cases filed after he took the bench in 2011.

“I am concerned,” Graves said, and he noted the township no longer allows service via regular mail. But he has concerns, too, about Boulden’s report. “A lot of incomplete information was put forth,” Graves said. For instance, he said some suits might have been properly served, but notice of service could be confidential because it contained Social Security numbers.

“He never contacted me as a judge to address any concerns he may have,” Graves said.

Graves noted Driver Solutions contracts carried a venue clause in which parties agree that any litigation would be filed in a Marion County township court. But he said he couldn’t say whether that provision might violate federal collections law.

“The federal (Fair) Debt Collection (Practices) Act is something I don’t have jurisdiction over,” Graves said. That’s an issue someone could bring in federal court, he said.

Franklin Township Judge John A. Kitley Jr. could not be reached for comment. Calls to the court during business hours Friday were not answered, and a recording said messages could not be left because the court’s voice mailbox was full.

Boulden has been a legal aid attorney for a number of years and said he became familiar with Driver Solutions when representing a dozen or more defendants. He acknowledged the time he devoted to his examination of case files in the township courts cost him his job and took a personal toll, but he said he felt compelled to compile his findings in an attempt to right wrongs.

“I felt my responsibility as a legal-aid-type lawyer was to do this kind of work because no one else was going to do it,” Boulden said. He said of his report, “It is the single best piece of lawyering/advocacy I’ve done in 24 years.”
 

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  • Driver Solutions Inst. Report
    7700 lawsuits and a total amount of (mostly default) judgments approaching $50 million. Jeff, I'm glad you submitted your report. May something good come of it.
  • What?
    How and why 7,711 defaults is just unbelievable!
  • Company used an attorney
    The article stated that attorney Brian Alsip filed many of the cases.
  • UPL
    did they use a lawyer to file these suits or did they just appear for themselves? the small claims rule that corps must use a lawyer over a certain amount is often ignored by creditors, and many judges may overlook it in the absence of an active defense
    • KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK
      You will be rewarded for your great deeds. The judges etc. doesnt have a somewhat positive response b/c they have also allowed the abuse in their court to cont. How in the world do someone get a judgement over the maxium amount that is allowed. GEEZ...I believe oversight over small claims courts are definately needed. I hear horror stories all the time. Atty Boulden please keep up the good work...you are truly needed and thank you very much!!

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      1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

      2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

      3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

      4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

      5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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