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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Fall 2012

Court of Common Pleas Has Revised Its Administrative Directive
on Consumer Debt Collection Matters

The Court of Common Pleas has issued a revised Administrative Directive on Consumer Debt Collection Actions, effective September 2, 2012. The initial Administrative Directive No. 2011-1 was issued in an effort to improve efficiency and fairness to all litigants and better manage consumer debt collection matters. To further promote access to justice for all litigants in the Court of Common Pleas, The Honorable Alex J. Smalls, Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the State of Delaware, suggested James G. McGiffin, Jr., Esquire, President of the Delaware State Bar Association, establish the Delaware State Bar Association Committee on Access to Justice in Court of Common Pleas Consumer Debt Collection Matters (the Committee). Mr. McGiffin appointed Ian Connor Bifferato, Esquire, and William D. Johnston, Esquire, as Co-Chairs of the Committee.

Other Committee members include Court of Common Pleas Judges Kenneth Clark, Anne Hartnett-Reigle, and Andrea Rocanelli, Court staff, representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts, Office of Disciplinary Counsel attorneys (Fred Iobst and Joelle Polesky), Harvard Law School Professor James Greiner (at his request, serving as a non-voting advisory member of the Committee), and private attorneys: Doug Canfield, Kevin Carroll, Kevin Collins, Cindy DePue, Janine Howard-O'Rangers, Sidney Howe-Barksdale, Pat Scanlon, Doug Shachtman, Hillary Veldhuis, and Jeffrey Wasserman.

In addition, the Committee established two subgroups. The first subgroup " the Improvements Working Group ("IWG"), with Doug Canfield and Jeffrey Wasserman serving as Co-Chairs, is working on developing recommendations for the Court as to how best to promote access to justice for all litigants in Court of Common Pleas consumer debt collection matters. The second subgroup, the "AD Subgroup," focused on possible revisions to the Court's Administrative Directive on consumer debt collection matters. Through the work of the AD Subgroup, the Committee (with judicial members abstaining) recommended revisions to the Administrative Directive for the Court of Common Pleas' consideration.

After reviewing the revisions recommended by the Committee, the Court adopted Administrative Directive No. 2012-2 and rescinded Administrative Directive No. 2011-1. The new Administrative Directive requires the Complaint to include affidavits clarifying what is required to be submitted (1) when consumer debt collection cases (to which the Administrative Directive apply) are initiated, and (2) to pursue a default judgment, including actions in which the plaintiff is seeking an award of attorneys' fees and other expenses. A copy of Administrative Directive No. 2012-2 may be found on the Court's website at /CommonPleas/docs/AD2012-2.pdf.

The Committee continues to consider additional means of promoting access to justice for all litigants in Court of Common Pleas consumer debt collection matters.