A state bill that would directly address the practice of “body attachment” for debt-related judgments will be the focus of an Illinois Senate committee hearing next week having already unanimously passed that state’s House of Representatives.

The bill, HB 5434, would require subpoenas to appear to be served directly to a debtor’s person or home, rather than being mailed. It would also require that any arrest warrants issued for failing to appear to expire after a year, and it would return most bond money to the debtor, rather than allow it to be used to pay off the debt. Bonds would also be restricted to no more than $1,000.

Most jurisdictions allow law enforcement officials to take into custody defendants in lawsuits should they fail to appear in court after directly being ordered to do so. Many consumer advocates argue that debt collection law practices do not go far enough in serving notice to debtor defendants, leading to default judgments and body attachment orders to bring in the defendants.

Heavily promoted by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the bill passed the House of Representatives on a 107-0 vote in late March. The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Judiciary Committee for consideration. A hearing scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled and rescheduled for Tuesday, April 24.

Madigan’s very public airing of the “debtors prison” issue caused quite a stir in the ARM industry. Many in the practice of debt collection law noted that they were following civil procedures for courts in the state. The bill would specifically amend the Code for Civil Procedure.

Since introduction of the bill and its subsequent easy passage in the House, the proposal has picked up at least a dozen co-sponsors.


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