On July 26, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that an attorney acting as a debt collector did not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act merely because he used the word “attorney” in his letterhead and signature block. Jones v. Dufek, Case No. 15-7013 (D.C. Cir. 2016). Although the collection letter included a disclaimer that the firm was acting as a debt collector and that “no attorney with our law firm has personally reviewed the circumstances of your account,” the plaintiff claimed that the letter falsely implied that the attorney was meaningfully involved in his capacity as an attorney and was threatening to bring a lawsuit. The Court of Appeals rejected the arguments that the word attorney implied a greater level of involvement and threatened legal action. The Court stated:
(L)awyers do more than just file lawsuits. Sometimes, they try to collect debts, and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not prohibit them from doing so. The fact that an attorney was involved in collecting Jones’s debt does not mean that the collection attempt constituted a threat to take legal action.
The Court also rejected the argument that placing the disclaimer of meaningful involvement below the signature block did not mean that it was hidden. The Court said that “Even the least sophisticated debtor is bound to read collection notices in their entirety.”
Manny Newburger argued the case on behalf of the prevailing debt collector and his client.