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Judge tosses township jurisdiction challenge in collection cases

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A federal judge has ruled that Marion County collections cases need not be filed in the township where a defendant lives or a contract was signed, a key ruling regarding a practice criticized as “forum shopping.”

On Thursday, Judge William T. Lawrence of the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana dismissed a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff who claimed that an action filed against him in Pike Township violated the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act because he neither lived in the township nor signed a contract there. Township courts in Marion County hear small claims complaints regarding sums of less than $6,000.

“The small claims township courts do not constitute judicial districts,” Lawrence wrote, citing a Circuit Court ruling from Illinois, Newsom v. Friedman, 76 F.3d 813 (7th Cir. 1996). “The venue requirements for filing in small claims court make clear that any township court may hear a claim within the limits of its subject-matter jurisdiction.”

Lawrence dismissed Mark Suesz, individually and on behalf of a class, et al., v. Med-1 Solutions, LLC, 1:12-CV-1517. Med-1 was granted dismissal on its contention that filing in the county where a defendant lived was sufficient. Lawrence wrote the Newsom ruling found that the definition of “judicial district” was unambiguous, and in Indiana, the meaning is the counties that constitute judicial circuits.

“The structure and function of the township small claims courts in Marion County do not fall with the definition of a judicial district. It follows that Med-1 was not required under the FDCPA to file in the township where Suesz lived or signed the contract,” Lawrence ruled. “It was therefore not a violation of FDCPA for Med-1 to file in another township small claims court within Marion County, and Med-1 is entitled to dismissal of the claim against it.”

Suesz also had the opportunity to request a change of venue, Lawrence noted.

Numerous class-action suits have been filed seeking relief under FDCPA for allegations of forum shopping, in which large-volume collections filers concentrated their suits in one of the nine township courts.

Allegations of abuses led to reforms in the courts spurred by an advisory committee formed after Court of Appeals Judge John Baker and Senior Judge Betty Barteau issued a report that recommended an overhaul in the way the courts were structured and reforms in the way they did business. The study and report followed a Wall Street Journal article that focused on forum-shopping.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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