Oregon Task Force Creates New Procedures for Consumer Debt Collection Cases
In August 2017, Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer of the Oregon Supreme Court established a Civil Justice Improvements Task Force based on the Conference of Chief Justices Civil Justice Improvements Committee’s Call to Action: Achieving Civil Justice for All report and its 13 recommendations for improving the state court systems. The task force was also inspired by the three-day Western Regional Summit hosted by IAALS and the National Center for State Courts.
As recommended by IAALS and NCSC’s Roadmap for Implementation of civil justice reforms, the task force conducted a landscape of Oregon statewide trial court statistics to understand the characteristics of Oregon state court dockets. Drawing upon this landscape, the Task Force worked through each of the 13 Call to Action recommendations in order, considering how each point in Call to Action could best be applied to Oregon courts.
In all, the task force supplied dozens of recommendations, including: methods for judges to enhance procedural fairness and avoid treating attorneys better than self-represented litigants; low-cost suggestions to rebuild the state’s judicial and staff training programs; and a new court rule to better protect consumer debt defendants.
Effective August 1, 2019, Oregon has now implemented additional procedures to track new subtypes of consumer debt collection cases. Oregon’s new procedures are set forth in Uniform Trial Court Rule (UTCR) 5.180. The UTCR 15.030 makes those requirements applicable to small claims debt collection cases. The three debt collection subtypes are “debt buyers” as defined in O.R.S. 646.639(1)(g), “debt collectors acting on behalf of debt buyers” as defined in O.R.S. 646.639(1)(h), and other debt collection cases in general.
To track subtypes, parties must use specific language in the title of the initial pleading.
For debt buyers and debt collectors acting on behalf of debt buyers, the title language must include, “SUBJECT TO ORS 646A.670(1) and UTCR 5.180(2).” For all other types of consumer debt, the title of initial pleadings must include, “SUBJECT TO UTCR 5.180(3).” Court staff who review the filing will then be able to identify whether a subtype should be added to the case by looking at the title of the initial pleading.
Pursuant to UTCR 5.180(2)(ii), debt buyers are also required to include the statement: “See the Oregon Judicial Department’s website for more information about debt-collection cases” in their initial pleadings. This webpage contains a list of additional resources related to debt collection cases.
Debt buyers are also required now to include a Consumer Debt Collection Disclosure Statement with their initial pleading. If the title of the initial pleading indicates UTCR 5.180(2) applies, and a disclosure statement is not attached, UTCR 5.180(2)(c) requires courts to send a notice of dismissal and to dismiss the case if the filer does not file a disclosure statement with the court within 30 days of the date the notice was mailed. Oregon will also be tracking the dismissals for failure to attach the disclosure statement.
Oregon’s new procedures will not only help track the subtypes of consumer debt collection cases for future evaluation by the courts, but will also direct consumer debt defendants to the Oregon Courts website for questions and support for their case.