Johnson — Fighting Illegal Debt-Collection Practices

National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)
Type of Engagement
Subject Matter
Bankruptcy Code
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Multiple federal circuit courts
Key Team Members
Peter K. Stris
Douglas Geyser

The Challenge

A handful of large debt-collection companies buy time-barred debt for pennies on the dollar, and then seek to recover that stale debt in consumer bankruptcies—without disclosing to the participants or the courts that the debt is unenforceable. This troubling nationwide practice implicates over a billion dollars annually.

The Engagement

Working with NACBA and several leading consumer-protection attorneys, Daniel Geyser orchestrated a nationwide appellate strategy to challenge this practice in federal circuits throughout the country. After Mr. Geyser argued and won a key case in the Eleventh Circuit, which held the collection practice unlawful under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the case proceeded to the Supreme Court. Mr. Geyser presented oral argument in January 2017.

The Result

In a sharply divided decision, the Court ruled 5-3 against the plaintiff. The narrow loss represented one of the few times in recent years where the plaintiff garnered any votes in an FDCPA case before the Court; the plaintiffs in the last two FDCPA cases lost unanimously.

Key Case Materials

U.S. Supreme Court

Opinion (May 15, 2017)

Oral Argument (Audio) (Transcript) (January 17, 2017)

Midland's Reply Brief (January 6, 2017)

Our Respondent's Brief (December 14, 2016)

Midland's Opening Brief (November 14, 2016)


Federal Courts of Appeals

Birtchman v. LVNV Funding LLC (Seventh Circuit)

Oral Argument Audio (June 17, 2015)

Our Reply Brief (July 22, 2016)

Our Opening Brief (December 11, 2015)


Broadrick v. LVNV Funding, LLC (In re Broadrick) (Sixth Circuit)

Our Reply Brief (August 11, 2016)

Our Opening Brief (April 14, 2016)


Garfield v. Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC (Second Circuit)

Opinion (January 4, 2016)

Our Amicus Brief for NACBA (June 13, 2015)


Johnson v. Midland Funding LLC (Eleventh Circuit)

Opinion (May 24, 2016)

Our Reply Brief (November 10, 2015)

Our Opening Brief (July 10, 2015)


Martel v. LVNV Funding, LLC (First Circuit)

Our Reply Brief (October 17, 2016)

Our Opening Brief (August 29, 2016)


Nelson v. Midland Funding LLC (Eighth Circuit)

Our Rehearing Petition for Appellant (August 8, 2016)

Oral Argument Audio (March 15, 2016) (Mr. Geyser starts at 5:55)

Our Panel-Stage Amicus Brief for NACBA (January 25, 2016)


Torres v. Cavalry SPV I, LLC (Third Circuit)

Our Reply Brief (July 22, 2016)

Our Opening Brief (April 21, 2016)

Media Coverage

Chamber, Law Groups Urge Justices To Back Debt Collector (Law360, December 5, 2016) (subscription required)

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Debt-Collections Case (Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2016) (subscription required)

Justices To Resolve Clash Over Stale Debt In Bankruptcy (Law360, October 12, 2016) (subscription required)

High Court To Weigh Liability Of Professional Debt Buyers (Law360, October 11, 2016) (subscription required)

Eighth Circuit Lets the Fox in the Henhouse (National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center, August 9, 2016)

7th Circ. Weighs Frivolity Of Old Debts In Bankruptcy Court (Law360, June 1, 2016) (subscription required)

11th Circ. Finds Collectors At Risk In Pursuing Old Debts (Law360, May 24, 2016) (subscription required)

2nd Circuit Reverses Decision That FDCPA Claim Must Be Heard By Bankruptcy Court (Lexis Legal News, January 5, 2016) (subscription required)