Jerman v. Carlisle, McNellie, Rini, Kramer & Ulrich
In this case, the question before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether debt collectors can claim ignorance of the law as a defense to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the federal law that protects consumers from harassing, deceptive, and unfair debt-collection practices. In September 2009, Public Citizen filed an amicus brief on behalf of national advocacy groups (Public Citizen, AARP, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumer Law Center, and U.S. PIRG: The Federation of State PIRGs). Among other things, the brief argues that excusing ignorance of the law would deter enforcement, inhibit development of the law, distort the incentives created by the statute, and encourage the very collection abuses that Congress sought to prevent. In an opinion by Justice Sotomayor that cited Public Citizen’s amicus brief, the Supreme Court rejected the debt collectors’ proposed mistake-of-law defense.