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Debt Buyers Changing Attorneys: Do I get Notified?

Debt-collection judgments often switch hands between debt buyers. But less realized is the fairly common practice of attorneys substituting each other as well. The law requires that you get notified when a new attorney takes the place of the creditor's preceding attorney. In post-judgment collection procedures, collection attorneys are often able to slip past this rule.

The creditor's counsel must file—and serve on you—a "consent to change" attorney form. Some judges enforce this rule and reject many debt-buyer cases from proceeding for this reason.

For example, in Great Seneca Financial Corp. v. Ogunbowale,[1] (January 2015), J. Straniere affirmed New York Law[2] that requires that the "consent-to-change" be sent to the consumer. Because Great Seneca Financial Corporation, represented by Eltman, Eltman & Cooper, was unable to prove that that the notice was sent, the judgment would be vacated and the case dismissed unless it was done at once.

The court appeared concerned as consumers' due-process rights.

[1] Great Seneca Financial Corp. v. Ogunbowale, 2 N.Y.S.3d 868, 2015, N.Y. Slip Op. 25006.

[2] CPLR § 321(1)(b) sets out the procedure for the "change or withdrawal of attorney" as follows:

1. Unless the party is a person specified in section 1201, an attorney of record may be changed by filling with the clerk a consent to the change signed by the retiring attorney and signed and acknowledged by the party. Notice of such change of attorney shall be given to the attorneys for all parties in the action or, if a party appears without an attorney, to the party.