It’s downright ironic that American Banker, being as it appears to be a publication aimed at covering the interests of our lords of finance, seems to have made a decent jab at uncovering potential debt collection abuse in the form of the so-called rocket docket.
Perhaps Maria Aspan’s report is simply a form of cautionary counsel to lenders: taking part in rocket dockets may be working now, more or less, because regulatory scrutiny seems not to have “trickled down” to local courthouses.
But it might not work forever.
Aspan says that rocket dockets take place across the country (including in some Illinois courthouses) and function as a means of resolving the multitude of debt-collection cases. At the courthouse, debtors cue up in a line and wait to speak to someone – not a judge – about their case. Often that someone is a representative of the debt collector.
There often is no consumer advocate or lawyer on the debtor’s side.
This, obviously, calls into question the issue of fairness. At the rocket docket, Aspan writes, many debtors may not even realize that they are not actually in “trial,” as one would normally consider it, and instead are simply shuffled down the line to have the case “resolved.”
Says one lawprof: “[P]utting [debtors] into a courtroom that doesn’t have a judge or a neutral overseeing the process just magnifies the potential for error.” This error is the same error that plagues the debt collection industry as a whole: Does the debtor even owe the debt in the first place? And how much is owed?
At rocket dockets, the potential that these questions will be asked is closer to zero than otherwise. After all, if there is no judge or other neutral party around, the only question that matters – to a debt collector – is “where’s the money?”
The Rocket Docket Simply Helps Debt Collectors Get Paid