Link: Holcomb v. Freedman Anselmo Lindberg, LLC (7th Cir., 2018)
In Holcomb, the Seventh Circuit held that where a debtor’s attorney does not file an appearance with the court, the debt collector attorney does not run afoul of the FDCPA where it serves a court paper upon a debtor directly as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 11. The court discounted the fact that the debtor’s attorney had physically appeared at two court dates and that the orders from those dates indicated that the attorney was present on behalf of the debtor. This narrow decision is explicitly restricted to the Rule 11 context.
§ 1692c(a)(2) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA” or “the Act”), which prohibits a debt collector from directly contacting a debtor who is represented by counsel absent “express permission” from “a court of competent jurisdiction.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(2).
In sum, because Finko had not filed a written appearance in the collection action, he was not Holcomb’s attorney of record for purposes of Rule 11’s service requirements. So Rule 11 expressly permitted—indeed required—Freedman to send the default motion directly to Holcomb. The law firm’s compliance with that rule did not violate § 1692c(a)(2). Accordingly, we REVERSE and REMAND for entry of judgment in Freedman’s favor.