What Is The “Rooker-Feldman” Doctrine And What Does That Mean To Alabama Consumers?


We will probably expand this post in the future but the basic gist of this law or doctrine is that if something goes against you in state court (like a collection lawsuit) you cannot go to federal court to get it “undone” or “set aside”. You have to handle that in state court by appealing it to the state supreme court or whatever the procedure is in your state.

Normally this hurts consumers in that there may be a bogus judgment against you in state court and you go to federal court and file a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) case against the collector or lawyer and claim the judgment was bogus. The federal court will normally not accept this as you have to go through the state appeals process.

This doctrine helps us, though, when we win the state court collection suit. We’ve previously talked about how winning your collection lawsuit means, under Alabama law, that you do not owe the collector any money. If the collector does not appeal, then the case is over. That issue is forever closed. When you sue in federal court, the collector (debt buyer) will say that you didn’t really prove you don’t owe the money – but the federal judges will be quick to point out the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine and say to the debt buyer “you should have handled this in state court if you really believed this” which is poetic justice given all the times debt buyers and collectors have used this doctrine against consumers.

So, if you have won your collection suit, this has powerful implications if you then sue the debt buyer, for example, because the debt buyer has not removed the false account from your credit report (given that you do not owe it). Contact us if you live in Alabama and want to discuss this in detail.

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