A federal appeals court has reversed a California ruling in favor of debt collectors who send letters to someone's workplace.
The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals also took the case away from Sacramento federal Judge John Mendez — because of his dismissive attitude toward it disparaging remarks he made about it and the attorney who filed the case, the Sacramento Bee reports. They've ordered the case reassigned to another judge.
Mendez ruled two years ago that a Southern California debt collector's custom of sending letters "in care of" employers did not violate the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, according to the Bee.
But the appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the letters have a high risk of unnecessarily stressing and embarrassing debtors, which is "precisely what the act is designed to prevent," the court says in its 40-page order.
Catherine Evon sued San Bernardino County debt collector Sidney Mickell for sending a collection letter to Evon "in care of" her place of employment. The letter was opened and read by various individuals, including people in the legal department, before Evon received it, according to the Bee. The letter said she owed a debt — and that there could be legal action if she didn't pay.
The opinion says that Congress passed the debt collection law in 1968 due to "abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors, (which) contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy," and that one of the practices Congress wanted to eliminated was embarrassing communications.