Sheriff v. Gillie

The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not ban as false or misleading conduct collection letters sent by special counsel employed by the Attorney General to collect debts owed the state, using Attorney General stationery at the Attorney General’s direction.  Under Ohio law, the Attorney General appoints special counsel to collect debts owed state agencies and commands the special counsel to send collection correspondence on Attorney General letterhead.  Assuming arguendo that special counsel are not state officials exempt from the FDCPA, their collection correspondence on AG letterhead is not false or misleading since the letterhead identifies the principal and the signature block identifies the agent (the special counsel) acting for the AG in collecting the debt.  Since special counsel work closely with the AG’s staff in collecting the debts, any impression that debtors have that the letter is from the AG’s office is not inaccurate.  The correspondence also does not violate 15 USC 1692e(9)’s prohibition of falsely representing that the communication is authorized by the state, since the state has, in fact, authorized the correspondence.  Nor does the correspondence use any untrue name and so does not violate 15 USC 1692e(14).  There is no reason to interpret the FDCPA to interfere with the AG’s chosen method of fulfilling his duty to collect debts owed to Ohio.

United States Supreme Court (Ginsburg, J.); May 16, 2016; 2016 WL 2842453

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