In a 7-2 ruling, the Court has decided that debt collectors who violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can’t escape consequences by claiming to have been ignorant of or misunderstanding the laws that prohibit abusive tactics in debt collection. Claiming a mistake-of-law defense often makes enforcement more lenient and inhibits the development of the case.
Justice Breyer wrote a brief concurrence to stress that the dilemma lawyer-debt collectors may face–between zealous representation of their clients and fear of personal liability–can be cured by the FTC advisory opinion process. He notes that the FTC hasn’t issued many such opinions, but says that he “would expect” the FTC to issue more opinions if the dilemma proves serious, and joins the majority opinion “[o]n this understanding.” Justice Scalia writes separately to say that the Court could have rested on textual analysis alone.
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