Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Eric M. Berman, P.C., Lacy Katzen, Llp v. City of New York

September 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Env Eric N. VITALIANO United States District Judge



New York City has been involved in regulating debt collection since at least 1984, when it began requiring debt collection agencies to obtain a municipal license in order to practice in the city. In March 2009, New York City Council passed Local Law 15, which, inter alia, amended the debt collection ordinance to cover debt buyers and attorneys engaging in debt collection activities. Plaintiffs contend that these amendments are contrary to New York state law, violate the Commerce and Contract Clauses of the United States Constitution, and render the debt collection ordinance unconstitutionally vague. Both plaintiffs and defendants have now moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, as is defendants'.


A.Legislative History

In 1984, New York City Council passed Local Law 65, which required debt collection agencies to obtain a license in order to practice in the city. In the prefatory legislative declaration, City Council stated that, "[w]hile the majority of those engaged in [the debt collection] business are honest and ethical in their dealings, there is a minority of unscrupulous collection agencies in operation that practice abusive tactics such as threatening delinquent debtors, or calling such people at outrageous times of the night." N.Y. City Admin. Code §20-488 (1984). In the Council's view, "[t]hese actions constitute tactics which would shock the conscience of ordinary people." Id. For this reason, Local Law 65 made it "unlawful for any person to act as a debt collection agency without first having obtained a license." Id. § 20-490. "Debt collection agency" was defined as "a person engaged in business the principal purpose of which is to regularly collect or attempt to collect debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due to another," but specifically excluded "any attorney-at-law collecting a debt as an attorney on behalf of and in the name of a client." Id. §20-489. Agencies covered under this definition had to apply for a two-year license, at an application or renewal fee of $75, or else face penalties for failure to adhere to the licensing requirements. Id. §§ 20-491, 20-492, 20-494.

In December 2007, the Council introduced Int. 660, a bill to amend the debt collection ordinance. As originally proposed, the bill made two changes to the ordinance. First, it amended the definition of debt collection agency to include "a buyer of debt who refers such debt to another for collection or to an attorney-at-law for litigation in order to collect such debt." (Decl. of Nicholas Ciapetta in Support of Cross Motion for Summary Judgment ("Ciapetta Decl."), Ex. D.) Second, the exclusion for attorneys was clarified to cover "any attorney-at-law or law firm collecting a debt in such capacity on behalf of and in the name of a client . . . through legal activities such as the filing and prosecution of lawsuits to reduce debts to judgments," but not "any attorney-at-law or law firm who regularly engages in activities traditionally associated with debt collection, including but not limited to, sending demand letters or making collection telephone calls." (Id.) In other words, under the proposed bill, "buyers of debt"-organizations that purchase debt from originating or other creditors and outsource debt collection to third-parties, including law firms-and attorneys or law firms regularly engaging in non-litigation debt collection activities would be required to apply for a debt collection license.

In hearings on the bill in February 2009 before the City Council's Committee on Consumer Affairs, witnesses discussed the growth in the debt-buying industry, a shift particularly evident in the explosion of debt collection-related lawsuits brought by these organizations. Relying largely on a 2007 study by the Urban Justice Center ("UJC"), City Councilmembers, the Director of Legislative Affairs for the New York Department of Consumer Affairs, and representatives of various advocacy groups testified that approximately 90% of the more than 300,000 consumer credit collection actions being filed in Civil Court annually were brought by debt collection organizations that did not originate the debt at issue. (See, e.g., id., Ex. E, at 13 (oral testimony of Andrew Eiler, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Department of Consumer Affairs).) The same witnesses expressed concern that these organizations have different incentives than originating creditors. In the words of the Director of Legislative Affairs, for example, "[w]hen the debt has been sold for the purpose of collecting it, the person buying it doesn't care about any ongoing relationship. The only thing he cares about is collecting the money." (Id. at 43-44.) Thus, while "[t]he originating creditor might have reasons for dampening the extent to which he pursues the claims that he may have," a debt buyer "does not have these inhibitions." (Id. at 44.)

In addition to expressing continued concerns regarding the harassing practices that had motivated Local Law 65, many of the witnesses testified to the use of aggressive tactics by debt buyers and their lawyers in collection actions against vulnerable consumers.*fn1 For example, of the consumer credit cases brought by debt buyers in 2006, the UJC found that 99% were submitted using invalid evidence. (Id.,Ex. G, pt. 2, at 6-7 (written testimony of Harvey Epstein, Project Director of UJC Community Development Project); see also id. Ex. E, at 113 (oral testimony of Claudia Wilner, Senior Staff Attorney, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project ("NEDAP")) (estimating that in cases brought by debt buyers in which NEDAP was involved, 40% were completely devoid of merit).) Thus, according to several legal services organizations that testified before the committee, in cases in which these organizations represented debtors against debt buyers, they rarely lost. (See, e.g., id., Ex. G, pt. 1, at 2 (written testimony of Legal Aid Society) ("In several years of representing clients against debt buyers in the Civil Court, we have never lost a case against a debt buyer-why? Because when put to the test, most debt buyers cannot prove their case."); id. Ex. G, pt. 3, at 19 (written testimony of Claudia Wilner on behalf of NEDAP) ("If challenged, debt buyers are often unable to come up with any admissible evidence that the defendant owes any money at all."); id. at 2 (written testimony of Carolyn E. Coffey, Staff Attorney, Consumer Rights Project, MFY Legal Services) ("[O]ver the past three years, not one consumer credit case handled by the Consumer Rights Project . . . has gone to trial, chiefly because the debt buyer could not prove its case . . . or could not prove that it actually owned the debt in question.").) In the vast majority of cases, however, debtors were not represented or failed to appear, often because of inadequate notice. (See id., Ex. E, at 113 (Wilner oral testimony) (finding that in cases brought by debt buyers in which NEDAP was involved, 79% of debtors were not properly served with a summons and a complaint).) Indeed, of the cases sampled in its study, the UJC found that over 80% resulted in default judgments, allowing debt buyers to garnish the wages and freeze the bank accounts of defaulting debtors. (See id.,Ex. G, pt. 2, at 7 (Epstein written testimony).)

Over the strenuous objections of representatives from the debt collection industry that Int. 660 would violate the federal Constitution and New York state law, witnesses testified that the proposed amendments were necessary to address these problems and bring previously unlicensed debt buyers and their agents under the licensing aegis of the City. In the words of one witness, debt buyers that contracted collection activities to third parties were "among the worst perpetrators of abusive collection practices against city residents." (See id., Ex. E, at 107 (oral testimony of Janet Ray Kalson, Chair of the Civil Court Committee of New York Bar Association).) However, because many debt buyers outsourced actual collection to other organizations and employed law firms to pursue legal action, they arguably were not covered by Local Law 65's definition of "debt collection agency." (See id. at 5 (introductory remarks of Leroy Comrie, Chair of Committee on Consumer Affairs) ("[D]ebt buyers claim that since they outsource the collection duties to other parties . . . they [are] exempt from the licensing requirements.").) Int. 660 accordingly was drafted to require these organizations, as well as law firms regularly engaging in debt collection activities, to obtain a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs. (See id. at 8 (oral testimony of Councilmember Dan Garodnick).). Obtaining a license would also subject them to the Department's investigatory and sanctioning authority. (See id. at 30 (Eiler oral testimony) ("The most important thing is that the department, with respect to licensees, has hearing authority and the commissioner has the authority to award restitution for damages that a consumer suffers as a result of violations of the law."); see also id., Ex. G, pt. 1, at 20 (written testimony of Robert Martin, Associate Director, District Council 37, Municipal Employees Legal Services) ("[T]he biggest single rationale for this amendment is to enable DCA to perform investigations of debt buyers and to bring cases against those who violate the law."); id., pt. 3,at 24 (Kalson written testimony) ("While these issues can be raised in individual cases, litigants, almost all of whom are unrepresented, and overworked judges should not be the only enforcers of the law.").)

Following the February 2009 hearings, Int. 660 was amended as Int. 660-A. In March 2009, the Committee on Consumer Affairs published a report on the amended bill that echoed much of the testimony from consumer activists at the February hearings and extensively cited the UJC study.*fn2 (See id., Ex. H.) The report noted that one-third of the bottom 20% of income-earners in New York City were saddled with high credit-card debts. (Id. at 2.) These debts increasingly were owned by debt buyers, not debt originators, who often relied on legal action to facilitate their collection efforts. (Id. at 4 ("While debt collection practices used to include such outreach to the debtor as phone calls and postal letters . . . the new crop of debt buyers have opted instead to go directly to the New York City Civil Court.").) The Report also pointed to debt buyers' aggressive legal tactics and the large number of default judgments being obtained against debtors. (See id. at 5(citing UJC finding that, of 600 sampled cases, 99 percent involved invalid evidence); see also id. at 4 ("Approximately 93.3 percent of defendants in consumer debt cases do not appear in court. Failure to appear in court, often the result of inadequate notice of the lawsuit, invariably results in a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff, which then allows the debt collector to acquire payment through such means as garnished wages or frozen bank accounts.").)

In addition, the Report noted that fewer than one-third of debt buyers bringing claims against New York City debtors were licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs. According to the Report, "[m]any debt buyers have claimed that they are immune to licensing requirements of the DCA since they outsource the actual collection duties to other parties, such as debt collection law firms."*fn3 (Id. at 4.) Thus, "[b]y clarifying the definition of debt collection agency," Int. 660 "seeks to address the debt buyers' argument . . . that once they contract collection of the debt to another party they are engaged in 'passive' collection and as such are not required to be licensed as debt collection agencies by DCA." (Id. at 8.) For the same reason, the bill would require licenses for "those attorneys and/or law firms who engage in collection activities traditionally performed by debt collectors, such as contacting debtors through the mail or via telephone." (Id.) Finally, the bill included additional regulatory requirements addressing debt collectors' communications with debtors. (Id. at 8-9.)

B. Local Law 15 and Associated Regulations

Following further amendments and hearings, on March 11, 2009, the Committee on Consumer Affairs approved what would become Local Law 15 by a vote of 4-0. The same day, the City Council voted unanimously to pass the law, which was signed on March 18, 2009 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and became effective on July 16, 2009.

As enacted, Local Law 15 did not alter § 20-490, which requires debt collection agencies to obtain a Department of Consumer Affairs ("DCA") license and comply with "all other applicable laws, rules and regulations"; § 20-491, which provides that licenses for debt collection agencies are valid for two years and require an annual fee of $75; or § 20-492, which provides, inter alia, that applicants for a license must file a DCA application. The law did amend § 20-489, which defines which entities are considered debt collection agencies. As amended, § 20-489 reads as follows, with the new language underlined and omitted language bracketed:

§ 20-489: "Debt collection agency" shall mean a person engaged in business the principal purpose of which is to regularly collect or attempt to collect debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due to another and shall also include a buyer of delinquent debt who seeks to collect such debt either directly or through the services of another by, including but not limited to, initiating or using legal processes or other means to collect or attempt to collect such debt. The term does not include . . .

(5) any attorney-at-law or law firm collecting a debt [as an attorney] in such capacity on behalf of and in the name of a client solely through activities that may only be performed by a licensed attorney, but not any attorney-at-law or law firm or part thereof who regularly engages in activities traditionally performed by debt collectors, including, but not limited to, contacting a debtor through the mail or via telephone with the purpose of collecting a debt or other activities as determined by rule of the commissioner . . .

N.Y. City Admin. Code §20-489 (2009). It is to these amendments to the definition of "debt collection agency," bringing within its scope debt buyers and attorneys regularly engaging in activities traditionally performed by debt collectors, which plaintiffs' suit is primarily addressed.

Local Law 15 also added two new sections, §§ 20-493.1 and 20-493.2, setting out required and prohibited collection practices. The new § 20-493.1 mandates-in addition to any practices required under any federal, state or local law-that a debt collection agency (a) provide, in any permitted communication with the consumer, (i) a call-back number to a phone that is answered by a natural person, (ii) the name of the agency, (iii) the originating creditor of the debt, (iv) the name of the person to call back, and (v) the amount of the debt at the time of the communication, as well as (b) confirm with the consumer, in writing within five business days, any debt payment schedule or settlement agreement reached regarding the debt. Id. §20-493.1.

The new § 20-493.2 forbids-beyond any practices prohibited under any federal, state, or other local law-a debt collection agency from (a) attempting to collect or contact a consumer regarding a debt after the consumer requests verification of the debt, until the debt collection agency furnishes written documentation identifying the creditor who originated the debt and itemizing the principal balance of the debt and all other charges that remain or are alleged to remain due, or (b) contacting a consumer about, or seeking to collect, a debt on which the statute of limitations for initiating legal action has expired, unless the debt collection agency first provides the consumer such information about the consumer's legal rights as the DCA prescribes. Id. §20-493.2.

Finally, Local Law 15 also amended § 20-494, creating additional penalties for violations. As amended, § 20-494 reads as follows:

Any person who, after notice and hearing shall be found guilty of violating any provision of this subchapter, shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of chapter one of this title and shall be subject to a penalty of not less than seven hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars for each violation provided further, however, that any such person found guilty of having acted as a debt collection agency in violation of section 20-490 of this subchapter shall be subject to an additional penalty of one hundred dollars for each instance in which contact is made with a consumer in violation of such section.

Id. §20-494 (new language underlined).

On April 24, 2010, the DCA promulgated regulations pursuant to Local Law 15. The regulations both amplify the requirement under §20-493.1(a) that debt collectors communicating with debtors provide a call-back number to a phone answered by a natural person and clarify the documentation debt collection agencies are required to provide to debtors to comply with §§20-493.1(b), 20-493.2(a), and 20-493.2(b). See Rules of the City of New York, tit. 6, ch. 2 §§ 2-190, 2-191, 2-192, 2-194. The regulations also set out detailed record requirements for debt collection agencies to maintain for each debt that the agency attempts to collect and for each debtor the agency seeks to collect from, as well as record requirements relating to the agency's operations and practices. See id. § 2-193.

C. Procedural History

On July 15, 2009, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against the City of New York, New York City Council, the DCA, and Jonathan Mintz, in his official capacity as DCA Commissioner. Plaintiff Eric Berman P.C. ("Berman P.C."), a New York professional service corporation with its principal place of business in New York, is a law firm engaged in the business of seeking to recover amounts due and owing on consumer debt portfolios held by debt buyers.*fn4 Plaintiff Lacy Katzen, LLP ("Katzen LLP"), a New York limited liability partnership with its principal place of business in New York, is also a law firm engaged in the business of consumer debt recovery on the behalf of debt buyers.*fn5 Plaintiff DBA Asset Holdings Corp. ("DBA"), a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in Delaware, is a buyer of consumer debt. It does not contact debtors directly, either in New York City or elsewhere, but instead enters into contracts with debt collectors and law firms, which attempt to recover amounts due on DBA's debt portfolio on DBA's behalf.

In their complaint, plaintiffs assert several challenges to New York City's debt collection regulations. First, plaintiffs claim that these regulations are preempted under New York State law, both because New York State has demonstrated its intent to preempt the entire field of debt collection regulation-thereby assumedly rendering invalid all of New York City's debt collection regulations-and because Local Law 15 is inconsistent with §§ 600, 601, and 602 of the New York General Business Law and §§ 53 and 90 of the New York Judiciary Law. Second, plaintiffs claim that the amendments violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution because they have the practical effect of regulating commerce that is wholly extraterritorial to New York State and, in the alternative, because the burdens imposed by these amendments on interstate commerce clearly outweigh their putative local benefits. Third, plaintiffs claim that the amendments violate the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution, insofar as they substantially impair the contractual obligations between debt buyers and originating creditors, debt buyers and debtors, and debt buyers and third-party debt collectors and law firms that attempt to recover on debt portfolios owned by the debt buyers. Finally, plaintiffs claim that the amendments violate the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, since the statutory phrases "solely through activities that may only be performed by a licensed attorney," "regularly engages in activities traditionally performed by debt collectors," and "other means to collect or attempt to collect such debt," that have been added to § 20-489 are unconstitutionally vague. Accordingly, plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief as to the application to them of New York City's debt collection regulations, as well as costs and attorneys' fees.*fn6

Now before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The Court will address each of the claims presented in turn.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

A motion for summary judgment is granted only if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court's responsibility in assessing the merits of a summary judgment motion is thus not to try issues of fact, but rather to "determine whether there are issues of fact to be tried." Sutera v. Schering Corp., 73 F.3d 13, 16 (2d Cir. 1995). Accordingly, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, see, e.g., Jeffreys v. City of N.Y., 426 F.3d 549, 554 (2d Cir. 2005), and the Court must resolve all ambiguities in the evidence and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion, see, e.g., Sec. Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line. Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 2004); Hetchkop v. Woodlawn at Grassmere, Inc., 116 F.3d 28, 33 (2d Cir. 1997) ("If, as to the issue on which summary judgment is sought, there is any evidence in the record from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the opposing party, summary judgment is improper."). Where, as here, cross motions for summary judgment are filed, we "evaluate each party's motion on its own merits, taking care in each instance to draw all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under consideration." Byrne v. Rutledge, 623 F.3d 46, 53 (2d Cir. 2010).

B. State Law Preemption Claims

In New York, as in other states, the lawmaking authority of a municipal corporation such as New York City, which is a political subdivision of the state, can be exercised only to the extent it has been delegated by the state. See Albany Area Builders Ass'n v. Town of Guilderland, 74 N.Y.2d 372, 376, 547 N.Y.S.2d 627, 546 N.E.2d 920 (N.Y. 1989). The New York State Constitution "confers broad police power upon local government relating to the welfare of its citizens." N.Y. State Club Ass'n v. City of N.Y., 69 N.Y.2d 211, 217, 513 N.Y.S.2d 349, 505 N.E.2d 915 (N.Y. 1987). Under Article IX of the New York Constitution, every local government has the power, among others, "to adopt and amend local laws" relating to "its property, affairs or government" and "the protection, order, conduct, safety, health and well-being of persons or property" within its jurisdiction, so long as "not inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution or not inconsistent with any general law [enacted by the state of New York]." N.Y. Const. art IX, § 2(c); accord N.Y. Mun. Home Rule Law § 10(1). As Article IX indicates, however, there are important limitations on the police powers of local government. See N.Y. State Club Ass'n, 69 N.Y.2d at 217. For instance, a local government "may not exercise its police power when the Legislature has restricted such an exercise by preempting the area of regulation." Id. Moreover, even if the State has not preempted the entire area or field of regulation, a "local government . . . may not exercise its police power by adopting a local law inconsistent with constitutional or general law." Id. These limitations "reflect the untrammeled primacy of the Legislature to act with respect to matters of State concern." Albany Area Builders Ass'n, 74 N.Y.2d at 377 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiffs argue that Local Law 15 violates both of these limitations on New York City's police powers. In their view, New York State has created a comprehensive regulatory framework governing debt collection practices, thereby evincing the Legislature's intent to preempt the entire field of debt collection regulation. In the alternative, plaintiffs argue that Local Law 15 directly conflicts with New York General Business Law §§ 600, 601, and 602, as well as with New York Judiciary Law §§ 53 and 90. While the Court finds that plaintiffs' field preemption and conflict preemption claims as to New York General Business Law §§ 600, 601 and 602 are without merit, it agrees with plaintiffs that Local Law 15's amendments relating to attorneys are in direct conflict with New York Judiciary Law §§ 53 and 90.

1.Field Preemption

Debt collection practices are regulated at both the federal and state levels. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("the FDCPA") explicitly permits state regulation. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692n ("This subchapter does not annul, alter, or affect, or exempt any person subject to the provisions of this subchapter from complying with the laws of any State with respect to debt collection practices, except to the extent that those laws are inconsistent with any provision of this subchapter . . . ."); see also 28 U.S.C. § 3003(d) (noting that prescribed federal procedures for debt collection preempt state laws only to the extent that such laws are inconsistent with federal procedures). While the FDCPA is silent as to whether local regulation of debt collection is also permitted, the Supreme Court has held that substantively identical statutory language under other federal regulatory statutes does not preempt local regulation. See Wis. Pub. Intervenor v. Mortier, 501 U.S. 597,605-08 (1991) (holding that statute allowing states to "regulate the sale or use of any federally registered pesticide or device . . . if and to the extent the regulation does not permit any sale or use" prohibited by the federal statute did not preempt local regulation, since "[m]ere silence . . . cannot suffice to establish a 'clear and manifest purpose' to pre-empt local authority") (quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230 (1947)); accord City of Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Serv., Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 429, 432-33 (2002). In light of the requirement that Congress evince a "clear and manifest purpose" to preempt local regulation, Mortier, 501 U.S. at 605, the FDCPA should be construed to permit New York City's debt collection regulations.

Plaintiffs argue, however, that New York State has created a comprehensive regulatory framework governing debt collection practices, thereby rendering Local Law 15-and, assumedly, New York City's entire regulatory regime governing debt collection-invalid. Under New York law, preemption of an entire regulatory field need not be express. Rather, "[t]he Legislature's intent to so preempt a particular area can be inferred from a declaration of policy or from a comprehensive or detailed scheme in a given area." Incorporated Village of Nyack v. Daytop Village, Inc., 78 N.Y.2d 500, 505, 577 N.Y.S.2d 215, 583 N.E.2d 928 (N.Y. 1991) (citing N.Y. State Club Ass'n, 69 N.Y.2d at 217; Consolidated Edison Co. v. Town of Red Hook, 60 N.Y.2d 99, 105, 468 N.Y.S.2d 596, 456 N.E.2d 487 (N.Y. 1983)). If the state has preempted the entire field of regulation, any local law regulating the same subject matter will be deemed inconsistent with state law and will not be given effect. See id. (citing Jancyn Mfg. Corp. v. County of Suffolk, 71 N.Y.2d 91, 97, 524 N.Y.S.2d 8, 518 N.E.2d 903 (N.Y. 1987); People v. Cook, 34 N.Y.2d 100, 109, 356 N.Y.S.2d 259, 312 N.E.2d 452 (N.Y. 1974)). "This finding of preemption is justified by the belief that '[s]uch laws, were they permitted to operate in a field preempted by State law, would tend to inhibit the operation of the State's general law and thereby thwart the operation of the State's overriding policy concerns.'" Id. (quoting Jancyn Mfg. Corp., 71 N.Y.2d at 97).

Plaintiffs do not point to an express statement of preemption or a declaration of legislative policy to occupy the entire field of debt collection. Rather, they argue that New York State's intent to occupy the field can be inferred from what they claim to be the state's comprehensive regulatory scheme governing debt collection practices, as set out in New York General Business Law §§ 600, 601, and 602. Under these provisions, "principal creditors"- defined as "any person, firm, corporation or organization to whom a consumer claim is owed, due or asserted to be due or owed, or any assignee for value of said person, firm, corporation or organization," N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 600-and their agents are prohibited from undertaking a narrow enumerated set of practices, including (1) simulating a law enforcement officer or representative of a New York governmental agency; (2) knowingly collecting, attempting to collect, or asserting any right to a collection fee, attorney's fee, court cost or expense not justly due or legally chargeable against the debtor; (3) disclosing or threatening to disclose false information "affecting the debtor's reputation for credit worthiness"; (4) communicating or threatening to communicate the nature of a consumer claim to the debtor's employer prior to obtaining a final judgment against the debtor; (5) disclosing or threatening to disclose information concerning the existence of a debt known to be disputed by the debtor without disclosing that fact; (6) communicating with the debtor or any member of the debtor's family or household in an abusive or harassing manner; (7) threatening any action which the principal creditor does not normally take in the usual course of business; (8) claiming a right, or attempting or threatening to enforce a right, if the right does not exist; (9) using a communication that falsely simulates legal or judicial process or otherwise gives the appearance of being authorized, issued or approved by the government or an attorney; and (10) failing to keep complete records concerning all information subpoenas sent by the creditor if it sends more than fifty such subpoenas per month, see id. § 601. Any violation of these provisions is a misdemeanor, and the New York Attorney General or the District Attorney of any county has the authority to bring an injunctive action to restrain or prevent such practices. See id. § 602.

Contrary to plaintiffs' contention, these limited restrictions fall far short of situations in which the New York courts have found preemptory intent. See, e.g., Albany Area Builders Ass'n, 74 N.Y.2d at 377-80 (finding state had enacted comprehensive regulatory scheme in the field of highway funding); Consolidated Edison Co., 60 N.Y.2d at 105-08 (holding state had preempted local regulation regarding the siting of major steam electric-generating plants); People v. De Jesus, 54 N.Y.2d 465, 468, 446 N.Y.S.2d 207, 430 N.E.2d 1260 (N.Y. 1981) (holding that New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Law preempted local law). The mere fact that New York State has chosen to impose some restrictions on debt collection activities does not in itself require a finding of preemptory intent. See Jancyn Mfg. Corp., 71 N.Y.2d at 99("[T]hat the State and local laws touch upon the same area is insufficient to support a determination that the State has preempted the entire field of regulation . . . ."). Nor does the fact that the New York City ordinance, see N.Y. City Admin. Code ยงยง20-493.1, 20-493.2, goes beyond New York State law in imposing additional limitations on debt collection practices. See Incorporated Village of Nyack, 78 N.Y.2d at 508 ("[T]he test is not whether the local law ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.