I was very surprised to learn from opposing counsel today that my client’s wages for her allegedly delinquent student loan can be garnished…all without a judgment. Yep. Thats right. At first, I thought my opposing counsel was from Mars. After all, we have some legal safeguards in this country such as due process under the 5th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. But, I was wrong! In my 20 years as a collection attorney, this was the first time that I had ever learned of such a thing.
I learned about the Administrative Wage Garnishment for the first time today. I understand that since this law was passed in 2003, it has been a huge success in recouping defaulted student loans. Well why shouldn’t it? After all, a collector simply has to locate a debtor’s place of employment and whammo…..he can garnish the debtor’s wages without a judgment.
In this case, my client was threatened with a garnishment by a collection agency trying to collect her student loan. The agency threatened to garnish her wages even though it had no judgment on her. Ordinarily, this is a slam dunk FDCPA violation. I filed a lawsuit against the agency under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Opposing counsel enlightened me that my position was baseless. Fortunately, the collection agency also violated other provisions of the FDCPA so my case will remain in tact. But boy oh boy, you sure are never too old to learn something new.