Welcome to the Alaska Court System Self-Help Service’s web page. With just one click, anyone can travel back to the internet as it was in the 1990’s (if only it had an animated GIF).
The thing is, they know it isn’t great and they want to change it. But that’s not my project.
Back in 2016, Alaska developed their Justice for All project. It aims to create justice for all Alaskans by building an ecosystem of justice services. My project focuses on automating the debt collection forms, so when I read the report, I paid special attention to those sections.
Close to 99% of the cases involved lawyer representation1.
Great. Why is this a problem?
Almost all the lawyers represented those trying to collect the debts: 92% of the cases had only the debt collectors represented2.
Okay. But, this isn’t necessarily problematic.
Our efforts to positively address the consequences of debt will involve building out the network of resources available to debtors; debtors may be more likely to engage in services in a preventative fashion before the issues result in a debt collection matter, or respond to a debt collection action in court, reducing the likelihood of a default judgment and additional amounts added to the judgment3.
What? Who are these lawyers even collecting debts for?
Most civil cases today are brought by businesses against individuals for money owed. The most recent national data available show that, as the overall volume of cases has declined, business-to-consumer suits, particularly debt collections, mortgage foreclosure, and landlord-tenant disputes, have come to account for more than half of civil dockets4.
Professionals are bringing suit against people without representation on behalf of debt buying companies. The amount of money grows from what is set out in the complaint and may not even actually apply to the person, but default judgment forgoes the need to figure this out.
Debt collection is out of control. And this isn’t new. If I was swanky enough to afford an HBO subscription, John Oliver could’ve gotten me riled up about this over four years ago:
Hello, Alaska. Welcome to The Now!