Author Archives: Aurora Harris

About Aurora Harris

Ms. Harris has both a litigation and appellate practice and is an active trainer and mentor for new consumer lawyers. She was admitted to the California State Bar in 1980, and has been representing consumers in actions against car dealers and finance companies since 1983. Ms. Harris is the President of the Christian Legal Aid Organization in Orange County. She was a former Co-Chair and Board Member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA), and is a partner of the National Consumer Law Center. She has represented NACA as an advisor before a committee of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law (NCCUSL) that was drafting a proposed uniform state Consumer Leasing Law. She was also a principal drafter of a NACA amicus brief on dealer advertising.

Minnesota AG Files Robo-Signing Suit

Attorney General Lori Swanson of Minnesota has alleged in a new suit that Midland Funding LLC created false, unreliable affidavits as proof of consumer debt.

The Minnesota Attorney General went to court seeking an injunction against the large Midland Funding debt collection agency that would put an end to the company’s practice of “robo-signing” court affidavits which, she alleges, has resulted in false and deceptive lawsuits being filed against consumers across the nation.

Midland Funding LLC, is a San Diego based company that purchases aged consumer debt from credit card and other credit issuers.  The company has acknowledged  that its employees in St. Cloud, Minnesota, have wrongly signed affidavits falsely stating they had proof of a consumer’s debts.  These affidavits were then used by Midland as a basis for filing collections lawsuits against people who had already cleared their debt and others whose names were similar to the actual debtors.

You can read more on this at the Minnesota Star Tribune in a comprehensive article by David Schaffer.

Montana Court Awards $311,000 To Janitor

(CN) – A debt-collection law firm must pay a disabled former janitor $311,000 in damages because it pursued $3,000 credit card debt long after the statute of limitations had expired, the 9th Circuit affirmed Friday.

A Montana federal jury ordered Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger to pay Tim McCollough after the firm was found to have violated the federal and state fair debt laws, as well as state torts of malicious prosecution and abuse of process.

The court found that Johnson Rodenburg filed an average of five collection lawsuits a day in Montana between January 2007 and July 2008, which amounted to about 2,700 total. On one day, the North Dakota firm filed 40 lawsuits. About 90 percent of the firm’s suits end in a default judgment, one of its attorneys testified.

McCollough claims that he and his wife fell behind in credit card bill after he suffered a brain injury while working as a school custodian and his wife underwent surgery. He stopped making payments on his account with Chase Manhattan Bank in 1999 when there was an unpaid balance of about $3,000.

A subsidiary of Collect America, which now goes by SquareTwo Financial, paid more than $3,800 to buy McCullough’s account from Chase in 2001. It sued McCullough to collect the debt in 2005 but dismissed the case when McCullough replied that the five-year statute of limitations had already expired.

After the company retained Johnson Rodenburg to pursue collection, the firm requested Collect America to provide information to extend the statute. Collect America incorrectly replied that McCullough had paid $75 on his account in 2004, effectively resetting the clock to run through 2009.

But that 2004 activity was not a payment; it was the return of court costs to Collect America for an earlier attempt to pursue McCullough’s debt. A Johnson Rodenburg never followed up to request more documentation of the activity, however, and the firm simply sued McCullough in 2007 for about $10,000.

In a pro se answer to the complaint, McCullough again wrote that the statute of limitations had expired.

FORGIVE MY SPELLING I HAVE A HEAD INJURY AND WRITING DOSE NOT COME EASY,” McCullough wrote, as reprinted by the court. “THE STACUT OF LIMITACION’S IS UP, I HAVE NOT HAD ANY DEALINGS WITH ANY CREDITED CARD IN WELL OVER 8½ YEARS.”

McCullough went on to say that he was disabled and received just $736 a month in Social Security. He also claimed that that Chase harassed and insulted him when his Workers’ Compensation insurance ran out.

THEY CALLED AROUND THE CLOCK, SO I COULD NOT REST, THEY GOT ME SO WOUND UP AND CONFUSED THE HEALING OF MY HEAD INJURY STOPED!” he wrote.

WHEN WILL IT STOP DO I HAVE TO SUE THEM SO I CAN LIVE QUIETLY IN PAIN,” he asked.

When McCullough eventually got a lawyer, the firm fell on its sword and dismissed the suit with prejudice. McCullough then filed suit and won damages, $250,000 of which was for emotional distress. The District Court declined to reduce any part of the award or give Johnson Rodenburg a new trial.

The 9th Circuit, which heard arguments for the case in Billings, Mont., affirmed Friday. A three-judge panel, which included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner sitting by designation, said the firm’s error was its own to prevent.

Substantial evidence supports the jury’s findings of both a lack of probable cause and malice,” the 30-page decision, authored by Judge Sidney Thomas, states.

McCollough acknowledged his disabling pre-existing condition but characterized the impact of JRL’s lawsuit on him as ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Thomas continued. “He thought that the lawsuit wasfrivolousandan insult,and that he was ‘being shoved around.’ We thus must conclude that the award was not based on speculation and guesswork, but rather on the jury’s valuation of McCollough’s emotional distress.” 

Debt Collection Law Suits Engulf Courts

Many debt buyers do not have the evidence to prove their claims in court if they are challenged.  Consumers are frequently being sued for inflated amounts or for debts they do not owe and should consider hiring a lawyer to defend themselves from unscrupulous collectors.

This recent article in the New York Times about the problems of huge numbers of debt lawsuits being filed in courthouses all over the country.  The collection companies buy the debts for mere pennies on the dollar but often really have nothing but electronic data and no live  witnesses to prove their claims.  The debt collectors hope to make money on those cases where people are frightened by the often intimidating collector, or give up and do not even question the debt.  Many times the claims being filed are for monthly late charges and over limit fees and inflated interest charges charged on top of the late and over limit fees themselves.

As a consumer advocate and attorney I have extensive experience in successfully defending consumers against debt lawsuits filed in Southern California courts.  If you need legal assistance I can be contacted at 661-771-2281.

Aurora Harris
Attorney at Law
The Harris Law Firm

THE FINANCING ACTIVITIES OF CAR DEALERS NEED TO BE REGULATED !

Car dealers are working hard right now putting out a false spin, claiming they do not even engage in lending, falsely asserting they just “facilitate” loans for car purchases.

Yeah, and in the process, dealers “facilitate” low and moderate income people out of billions in extra finance charges! The truth is that dealers make a huge percentage of their profits secretly from kickbacks on markups in vehicle financing.  No wonder dealer advertising lures the public with promises of “easy financing”.

Many crooked dealers actually falsify a buyer’s credit– frequently without the buyer’s knowledge or consent. This was exactly the same problem that occurred with the mortgage meltdown.

Don’t Be Mowed Over By Debt!

Worried about Debt Lawsuits?
Act Quickly and File an Answer if you are Sued!

As a general rule the law will NOT protect people that “sleep” on their rights. If you do not fight a lawsuit promptly – as soon as you do find out about it- you may end up legally bound to a debt, even one that you never owed in the first place, or you could be  bound to pay a default judgment which you were totally unaware of at the time if was taken.

You can be sued whether or not you owe someone money.  Worse yet, you can have a default judgment against you whether or not you have received proper notice.  These types of default judgments happen all the time and you  need to act quickly when you discover it.  Whether someone is trying to sue you or  as  soon as  you discover that a judgment has been secretly taken against you, a quick response is necessary.  Defaults can be attacked by a motion to set aside but the time in which to challenge the default is limited in time.

It is your responsibility to be vigilant. Consumer advocates are noticing that there are a number of  aggressive collection lawyers and unscrupulous bill collectors looking for easy cash and they may be trying to get it from you!  Sometimes crooked process servers are signing false proofs of service  and lie about serving  someone with legal papers in order to take a sneaky default judgment without any notice.  This fraud needs to be challenged as soon as discovered or it may be too late.

Just because you did not incur any debt does not mean that there will never be claims against you.  Someone may have stolen your identity and incurred debt in your name. Even having a similar name to an actual debtor could mean you end up saddled with the debt unless you timely protest.  Never just ignore correspondence from collectors, especially not legal papers. The law presumes a reasonable person will write back, disputing the debt, not ignoring it. You can actually incur a legal obligation just by ignoring bills that come to you out of the blue.  So at a minimum write back, “I dispute this bill, I don’t owe this money”   on any false statement you receive.  And keep a copy.  Without appropriate action, you could end up being held responsible for someone else’s debt.

Defenses are available. There are a number of valid legal defenses which may be available to you if you timely contest the debt. For example, even if you do owe some money to a creditor, the interest rate and charges could have ballooned unconscionably.  Many debt buyers do not own the debt and do not have the necessary paperwork to prove their claim in court.  Be aware all of your affirmative defenses need to be filed with your Answer. A Consumer Advocate like attorney Aurora Dawn Harris can help  you understand your rights and defend you in court.

The debt buyer business is ugly and thriving in these tough economic times. For more information contact Attorney Harris at 661-771-2281.  In the mean time, read this interesting article in the New York Times about the problems people are having with Debt Collection cases.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/23/us/23sfdebt.html

Submerged Car Surfaces In Court

Here is a very interesting video on You Tube about a man that purchased a car that had, at some point, been completely submerged under water. Something of a sales arbitration horror story.

There are lessons to be learned from this event.

  1. Do NOT take delivery of a car you are buying where work is orally “promised”. Even if the promise of repairs is in writing, it is best to leave the car at the dealership (do NOT even drive it home overnight) but let the dealer fix it first. Then only AFTER the dealer has attempted the promised repairs do your further inspect it before deciding whether you still want to complete the deal.
  2. Car faxes are highly overrated. They do not replace a careful inspection by a qualified mechanic. Car faxes seldom provide sufficient information about a vehicle’s history of accidents, past repairs, mechanical condition, out of state salvage title etc.to be of much use in learning much about the real history of a car.
  3. Never sign a contract that has an arbitration provision in it, giving up your right to a trial by jury. Demand that the dealer use a different form contract (yes they have them) or go shopping for a car at another dealership that does not use contracts with arbitration clauses. Yes people, this requires that you READ the contract. Try calling a dealership first before you go there and ask them if they use contracts without arbitration clauses. Then verify it when you first arrive and again before signing the actual contract.

ADH

Mission Kaizen Coming To The Honest Lawyer

Rob McLachlan and band Mission Kaizen will be coming to The Honest Lawyer this Saturday the 20th to rock the house with some great music !

You can get more information about the band and their music at the two web locations:  http://www.myspace.com/missionkaizen1 and http://my.opera.com/robertmclachlan/blog.

As usual, we will have an open mic for all performers who would like to present some music.  Refreshments are free.

We had an excellent evening in Newhall last Thursday with such a good turnout we went to 11:00 p.m. instead of the scheduled 10:00 p.m.

Hope to see you all here at The Honest Lawyer.  If you need the address or directions, please just go to the how-to-find-us page at this web site.  If you would like to know more about the evening call Robert – that’d be me – at (661) 753-7862.

God Bless
Robert & Aurora

The Harris Law Firm opens new office in LA County

12th January 2010: Aurora Harris, proprietor of The Honest Lawyer and The Harris Law Firm, announced today that she has opened an office in the Santa Clarita Valley area in Valencia to better serve clients in LA and Ventura counties.  For additional information go to The Harris Law Firm Online.


Aurora Dawn Harris is a consumer protection lawyer who defends consumers in debt collection cases and protects consumers from auto dealer fraud and other unfair and deceptive practices.  Ms. Harris especially enjoys representing elderly or disabled consumers, immigrants and other consumers who are particularly vulnerable to oppressive and fraudulent sales tactics.

She has both a litigation and appellate practice and is an active trainer and mentor for new consumer lawyers. She was admitted to the California State Bar in 1980, and has been representing consumers in actions against car dealers and finance companies since 1983.

She is the founder and President of the South California Auto Fraud Lawyers (SCAFL).  Ms. Harris has been involved in organizing and has spoken at numerous legal conferences.  She is a member of the Joseph Company, an organization of Christian business people dedicated to bringing their Christian ministry to the marketplace.

To contact attorney Harris please call (877) 490-0202.

Christian Legal Society Meeting & Luncheon

Christian Legal Society
Orange County Chapter

Christmas Meeting & Luncheon


The O.C. CLS chapter will celebrate Christmas together on Thursday December 10, 2009 at 12:00 noon.  Aurora Harris is hosting the event at her lovely office:
The Honest Lawyer
605 W. Chapman Ave
Orange, CA. 92868
(714) 288-0202
We will provide a traditional Mexican Christmas feast with fellowship and Christmas carols together.  Please RSVP to (714) 288-0202.  The cost is $10 per person.  Our president Steve Meline will make a brief presentation, and elections will be held for the 2010 year.  We very much look forward to seeing you all there to celebrate the coming of Christ.