Friday, June 11, 2010

Pay Your Bill or Go to Jail
Bench Warrants to "Pay or Stay"

The Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune is featuring a series of articles about ordinary folks who are thrown in jail for not paying their collection accounts. Actually, the most frequent occurrence is for someone to be thrown in jail for not appearing at a post-judgment remedies hearing, in which case it is common practice for the court to issue a bench warrant for a law enforcement officer to pick up the person for a later court appearance. When the person is picked up at a time the court is closed, it's common for them to be held a couple days until the court is in session. This type of bench warrant is pretty much accepted as within the court's inherent powers to remedy contempt of court. Still, it sure seems like being thrown in jail for not paying a bill.

In some states it is common for a judge to order a debtor to make a payment or face jail time. Such an order is called "pay or stay". Pay or Stay orders may violate a state constitutional provision against imprisoning debtors. It would be interesting to see what kind of offensive civil rights case could be made out of a "pay or stay" detention.

According to the Startribune's investigation the two creditors which happened to use the bench warrant remedy the most were both "bottom feeder" or "Zombie" debt collectors, Unifund CCR Partners, and Portfolio Recovery Associates.

Time for the marginally relevant video of the day - We So Broke. I couldn't even tell what the name of the artist is. Language and bad taste alert, so what else is new?

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