Recently I’ve read many articles regarding debt collection agencies employing the questionable tactic of using District Attorneys' (DA) letterhead to warn (or threaten) bad check writers.  Worse yet, many DA offices across the United States have allowed for such unethical practices.  The DA's don’t even review the facts of the case; they blindly allow the debt collectors to use their name to scare debtors.  Furthermore, the district attorneys’ offices are also sharing the fees with the collection companies.  According to the New York Times, “companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices.”  There is currently a pending class action lawsuit challenging the collection process.

Unauthorized Practice of Law

This has unauthorized practice of law written all over it.  According to the American Bar Association (ABA), “a lawyer who is not admitted to practice in this jurisdiction shall not hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction.”  The DA’s offices are doing just that.  They allow collections companies to send out letters to debtors on their behalf without reviewing the cases.  A DA's office that allows unverified letters to go out on their letterhead is encouraging the unauthorized practice of law by the debt collectors (non-attorneys).  No lawyer would get away with such unethical practice and the DA’s office should be no exception.

Should a 3rd party be permitted to use the DA’s letterhead to compose the letters themselves?  Do you think the DA is breaching any Rules of Professional Conduct?

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