Saturday, July 6, 2013

102nd Installment. The prosecutor/debt-collector complex

Installment 100, on California State Bar collusion with debt-collection thugs, concluded with this comment about its debt collector, Wakefield Associates:
Some other corrupt judicial organs must use Wakefield Associates’ services, and they succeed in deceiving the legally na├»ve into fearing that criminal justice is their pursuer. The business model of these gray-market criminals is otherwise inexplicable.
What an understatement! As I only recently discovered, the New York Times broke the scandal last January (reported online by Westword, “In 2013, debt collection is big business—really big,” by Denise Grollmus): district attorneys in more than 300 jurisdictions, including Los Angeles and New York, have privatized debt-collection prosecutions by farming out their power to punish writing bad checks.

Under contract with the district attorneys, illegal collection syndicates threaten citizens who’ve written a bad check—usually caused by ordinary carelessness and thus subject to only small civil penalties—with criminal prosecution if they don't pay to attend special financial-management classes run by the collector, who profits handsomely. The threats of prosecution are almost always empty, pure harassment, as the proportion of uncooperative threat recipients actually prosecuted by the DA is minuscule.

DAs contracting with these collection thugs commit disciplinable ethics' infractions that the state bars refuse to discipline: aiding and abetting the practice of law by nonlawyers and harassment. The DAs aid and abet illegal law practice because they even allow the collectors to use the official letterhead of the DAs' offices to issue their threats, and in practice, they even allow the collector to determine probable cause. (Credit to Ethics Alarms, “Prosecutor prosecute thyself,” on the illegal practice of law.) The DAs knowingly contract for the thugs to harass citizens. In California, Los Angeles and Riverside DAs employ Corrective Solutions, whose CEO, Mike Wilhelms, has made himself judgment proof by repeatedly declaring  bankruptcy and starting another collection racquet after losing lawsuits for harassment and unfair business practices under the Fair Debt Collection Act. (What irony!)  Most ethics codes proscribe harassment; in California, it falls under moral turpitude.

In Installment 85, I concluded that the California State Bar refrains from prosecuting prosecutorial misconduct because state-bar prosecutors themselves engage in rampant misconduct. There are additional  motives; for example, trial counsels' ambitions to graduate to become real prosecutors. State-bar prosecutors often aspire to be real prosecutors, and what chance would they have after prosecuting them? I discovered from the pattern of views on this blog that Melanie J. Lawrence is applying for a job with the DA's office in Brooklyn, New York, where she is licensed to practice. No doubt she scored points by denying the existence of prosecutorial misconduct, at conferences. But the big reason the California State Bar won't interfere with the with district attorneys’ outrageously illegal privatization of enforcement is that the California State Bar is up to its neck in gray-market crime with the collection thugs at Wakefield Associates.