Representing Consumers Facing Debt Collection Clears “Insurmountable Obstacles”

From left, David "Duff" Beach, Howard Slavitt and Katharine Van Dusen

From left, David “Duff” Beach, Howard Slavitt and Katharine Van Dusen

Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass scored another win for a JDC client facing questionable debt collection efforts with no means to fight back. The National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts (NCSLT) had sued the client and alleged he owed $115,000 on a student loan. Unemployed and surviving on food stamps and help from friends, the client had no means to challenge the suit or pay this amount. Further, if NCSLT obtained a judgment against him, once he returned to work as he wants to, his wages could have been garnished.

Coblentz attorneys researched problems with record-keeping at NCSLT, which is one of the country’s largest owners of private student loans, then noticed a deposition of its Person Most Knowledgeable on specific issues. Rather than testify, NCSLT dismissed the case. Coincidentally, a short while later, a New York Times article detailed NCSLT’s problems proving ownership of the debts on which it tries to collect.

Katharine Van Dusen, a partner at Coblentz who has represented seven low-income clients against debt collection, says “a relatively small amount of work can make a major difference in someone’s life. Unpaid debt can crush a person’s spirit, and it’s gratifying to help resolve what had been an insurmountable obstacle in someone’s life.”

Special Counsel David “Duff” Beach, who also contributed significantly to this case, adds that companies like NCSLT “use the legal system to their advantage against people who don’t understand the system or have the means to use it. Pro bono work rebalances the scales.”

Van Dusen brilliantly describes the value of pro bono service: “We have so many advantages and privileges as lawyers in this great city. All of us have relied on friends, family and colleagues to become the lawyers we are today. It would be an absolute waste of that support and privilege if we didn’t make use of our specialized skills to help our community whenever we can.”

With partner Howard Slavitt’s leadership, this case is just one of the many ways in which Coblentz has been an important partner in JDC’s work.

JDC applauds Coblentz’s dedication to using its legal expertise to protect vulnerable people.
The debt amount in dispute here was higher than the typical collection case but Coblentz felt prepared to take it on given its experience, as well as the help it receives from JDC Supervising Attorney Marie Appel.

 

If you’re interested in volunteering for low-income consumers with JDC training and support, email Pro Bono Manager Gloria Chun at gchun@sfbar.org.