Public Citizen served as co-counsel in this Florida-wide class action. The case challenged arrangements under which local prosecutors rented their name and authority to private debt collectors, who then used false threats of prosecution to coerce people who had written bad checks to pay various fees. The fees were then split between the debt collectors and the prosecutors. The case included claims under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (We litigated similar cases, in cooperation with private co-counsel, in Indiana and California.)
The district court dismissed the case on the theory that the company was entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. We appealed and secured an important appellate victory in the Eleventh Circuit, holding that the private contractor did not enjoy sovereign immunity. Back in the district court, we moved for summary judgment, but all proceedings were then stayed in light of the sale of all of ACCS’s assets, free and clear of liability, under a bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.