The long and winding road in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) lawsuit against the Frederick J. Hanna & Associates. P.C. law firm took another turn this week.

On Monday, November 16th, The Honorable Amy Totenberg, United States District Court Judge for the Northern District of Georgia, issued an order denying Hanna’s request to certify the case for an interlocutory appeal. A copy of the order can be found here.

Here’s the brief history:

The CFPB brought an action against the Hanna law firm in July of last year. The CFPB alleged that the Hanna firm filed tens of thousands of collections lawsuits a year against consumers without any of the firm’s attorneys being meaningfully involved in the decision to sue the defendant-consumers, or in the preparation of pleadings in those suits. The CFPB also claimed that the firm used affiants to establish the validity and ownership of the debts underlying the collection lawsuits, but that they knew or should have known that many of these affiants lacked personal knowledge of the facts that they testified to.

insideARM has covered the story extensively over the past 18 months. Among the prior articles:

On May 8, 2015 we posted an article on the procedural history of the case.

On July 14, 2015 we reported on the court’s denial of Hanna’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

On August 4, 2015 we reported on Hanna’s motion to certify the case for an interlocutory appeal.

Editor’s Note: An interlocutory appeal is an appeal of a specific ruling by a trial court, asking an appellate court to review a significant aspect of a case before the trial has concluded. This type of appeal is an extraordinary action as courts prefer a case proceed to conclusion on its merits and do not like to break up litigation into multiple parts.

For a court to certify a case for an interlocutory appeal two requirements must be met. First, the order must “involve a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion.” The second is that an “immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.”]

As we noted in our August 4, 2015 article, Hanna focused their motion on three issues they felt met the above criteria: 1) the practice-of-law exclusion; 2) the meaningful attorney involvement rule; and 3) the statute of limitations. It was Hanna’s position that all three of these issues were unique and/or critical and required an immediate appellate review to ultimately resolve the case in the most expeditious manner.

 

In the court’s order Judge Totenberg rejected all of the Hanna arguments for certification. Instead of certifying the case for an interlocutory appeal the Totenberg stated: “Instead [of certifying for interlocutory appeal], the best way to determine the scope and merit of this case is through discovery and further development of the complex factual issues that undergird the Bureau’s claims.”

insideARM Perspective

The legal community is closely watching this case. If the case proceeds to trial any outcome could dramatically impact legal collection activity in the future. Likewise, if any settlement occurs, the terms of any settlement will be closely scrutinized by all other lawyers and law firms whose practice includes creditor rights.

insideARM will continue to monitor the case and report any new developments.


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