FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 4, 2023
Bar Foundation Grant Funds Clearer Language for Court Forms
Research study aimed at skyrocketing debt collection lawsuits
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Appleseed has received a $10,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation to develop a plain language debt collection lawsuit packet to educate defendants about the court process and make it easier for them to participate in the lawsuit. A report outlining Texas Appleseed’s findings, along with final language recommendations for the court forms, will be released in the first quarter of 2023.
Consumer debt claim cases have been on the rise in Texas in recent years, with an 87 percent jump in new case filings in justice courts from 2017 to 2021, the courts where the majority of consumer debt cases are filed.
State-level policy resolutions include new protections for Texans who are sued for debt collection. In 2020, the Texas Judicial Council adopted a series of resolutions to improve access to justice for defendants in debt claim lawsuits. Texas Appleseed, through funding support from the Texas Bar Foundation, designed this study to support the implementation of two of those resolutions.
“Debt collection lawsuits are exploding in Texas, and the majority of judgments are default judgments,” said Ann Baddour, Director of the Fair Financial Services Project at Texas Appleseed. “People who lose those lawsuits can face aggressive collection actions, including losing all the money in their bank account. These high stakes make it essential to have a fair court process and provide debt defendants with access to information to help them better participate in the process.”
The purpose of the research study is to help mitigate the problem of high rates of default judgments in debt claim lawsuits in Texas by developing a model plain language lawsuit packet that courts could send to debt claim lawsuit defendants to assist them in better navigating the legal process. As part of the study, Texas Appleseed developed and user-tested a plain language debt collection lawsuit packet, in both English and Spanish. The lawsuit packet tested in the study was developed with help from state and national consumer law experts. It includes a letter from the court with key information about the lawsuit and legal resources, a sample answer form, and instructions to complete and file the answer form with the court.
The project has the potential to benefit thousands of Texans who are sued each year to collect a debt by providing plain language information about the lawsuit process and possible next steps. The information provided in the debt collection lawsuit packet focuses on Texans who may not have the resources to hire an attorney and would therefore need to navigate the process on their own, providing them access to information for a pro se defense.
About the Texas Bar Foundation
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $24 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation's largest charitably-funded bar foundation.
About Texas Appleseed
As one of the most trusted resources for data-driven policy analysis and solutions, Texas Appleseed advocates at the state and local level for fair, just, and equitable laws. Our work has shaped hundreds of laws and positively affected millions of Texans by breaking down barriers through transformative policy solutions. Visit www.TexasAppleseed.org for more information.
MEDIA NOTE: In the Texas Judicial Council web link above, see page 5, numbers 1-4.