Tuesday, November 29, 2005

California Increases Small Claims Dollar Limit to $7,500

California's Small Claims Court system was created to provide a cost-efficient means for resolving smaller disputes. Through the end of 2005, the maximum amount that a party may recover in Small Claims Court is $5,000. This creates a problem for a party with a claim in the amount of, say, $7,000. Filing a Small Claims Court lawsuit will allow the party to avoid attorneys' fees but the maximum recovery will be $5,000. On the other hand, a Superior Court lawsuit will require an initial expense of about $1,000 plus perhaps thousands of dollars more if the case is not quickly resolved.

On January 1, 2006, the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court will be increased to allow claimants to recover judgments of up to $7,500. However, the new law only applies to cases filed by individuals and does not apply small claims lawsuits filed by business entities such as corporations or LLCs. The new law provides for new training regulations for people who serve as judges in small claims lawsuits.

This increase still creates issues for a person or business with, say, a $9,000 claim, for the same reasons that currently affect a claim in the $7,500 range. However, the jurisdiction increase does dramatically help parties with claims in the $5,000 to $7,500 range.

There are a few steps that all businesses should take to empower them to recover debts without having to use the court system. For example, businesses should make sure that they have attorneys' fees provisions in their form contracts that allow them the ability to recover all or most of the attorneys' fees that they incur. Obviously, it is also important for businesses to make sure that their customers are signing a contract as part of any transaction.

If you have questions regarding the Small Claims Court procedure or if you would like to learn more about terms to include in your contracts used by your business, please feel free to contact us.

About the Author
Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

Reforming the Americans With Disabilities Act

San Diego attorney Theodore A. Pinnock is a self-styled disability rights lawyer who has filed nearly 2000 lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Mr. Pinnock recently demanded more that $200,000 from 67 businesses in the historic mining town of Julian, CA for alleged violations of the ADA. Mr. Pinnock apparently claims he visited Julian over a recent holiday weekend and found a number of properties that he believes do not provide a sufficient level of disabled access.

Passed in 1990, the ADA has helped ensure equal access to public and private facilities. In addition to calling for building standards to be user-friendly for disabled patrons, the federal law also allows individuals harmed by a violation to sue for monetary damages. California is one of only three states that also allows an injured party to recover extra monetary sums (attorneys' fees, punitive damages, etc.). Allegations of abuse of the ADA law, and the gross number of cases filed in courts, have skyrocketed in recent years.

Mr. Pinnock has engaged in case-by-case litigation of ADA lawsuits for years. Now Mr. Pinnock has embarked on what he is calling the "Julian Experiment", basically to test his theory that it is more efficient to sue an entire community rather than pursue individual violators of the ADA. Unfortunately, Mr. Pinnock's approach comes with a hefty price tag and no guarantee that business owners will be protected from future ADA lawsuits.

In Mr. Pinnock's latest settlement demand (which has now been removed from his website), he proposed that all 67 Julian business owners select one attorney to negotiate a settlement agreement on behalf of the entire community. Mr. Pinnock gave the business owners less than one day to select this attorney. Mr. Pinnock also gave each business owner until December 9, 2005 to pay him $900 and he has not even provided a specific list of ADA violations for each property. The money is payable now and the scope of the unknown repairs would be subject to further negotiation.

Julian was hit hard by the fires of October 2003. Nearly one quarter of the local residents lost their homes and tourism still suffers. Mr. Pinnock's hard deadlines will only inflict further economic hardship on Julian businesses and make it nearly impossible for the owners to get qualified legal advice before the deadlines pass.

The California legislature recently rejected a proposal to give property owners a 120-day window to correct violations before an ADA lawsuit could be filed. Mr. Pinnock's "take it or leave it" settlement tactics indicate the rejection of this legislation was premature. California and the federal government should act now to protect small business owners from abusive ADA lawsuits.

For more information on about how you can help the citizens of Julian, please contact us or the San Diego Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

Talking Turkey About Employer Gifts

AccountingWEB.com - Nov-23-2005 - For many businesses, holiday gifts are a tradition. As with most gifts, some prefer tangible items, like turkeys or hams, other prefer things that can be used in the office, such as mouse pads, books or pens, while still others prefer cash because it is more versatile. There is another reason a company might prefer to give things like turkeys or mouse pads: taxes.

To the Internal Revenue Service, gifts such as turkeys and hams are nominal gifts having minimal dollar value meaning they fall under the de minimis fringe benefits rules. In other words, they can be given to employees without being included as part of employee wages that are subject to withholding and taxes, according to a statement from the National Association of Tax Professionals.

Click in the link below to read the full article:

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Simplify Tax Payments with Treasury’s EFTPS

AccountingWEB.com - Nov-22-2005 - Do your clients make tax payments? If so, the U.S. Department of the Treasury wants to talk to you about the benefits of paying taxes electronically.

Simplify is a national campaign launched to communicate to tax professionals and small businesses the benefits of paying taxes electronically using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment (EFTPS). EFTPS enables tax professionals, accountants, businesses and individuals to pay federal taxes electronically, including corporate, excise and employment taxes and 1040 quarterly estimated tax payments. EFTPS offers a variety of payment options including the Internet and a telephone voice response system, as well as other electronic solutions for tax preparation and planning firms of all sizes.

Click below the read the full article:

Monday, November 21, 2005

Consumer Bill of Rights for Credit Cards

We hold this truth to be self-evident - consumers have the right to fairness in lending. To secure this right, since biblical times, society has attempted to balance the unequal relationship between people who have money and people who need it. To guarantee a fair balance of power between borrowers and lenders, we establish this consumer bill of rights for credit cards.

1) Credit card companies may not unilaterally change the price, terms and conditions during the credit card agreement period. Revised pricing is prohibited and consumers are protected from rate increases on existing balances for any reason.

2) Accounting should be straightforward and fair to the consumer.

3) Credit card underwriting must consider the borrower’s ability to repay.

4) Binding arbitration is a violation of consumers’ rights to due process and is prohibited.

5) Fees must relate to the cost of providing credit services.

6) Interest rates may be priced according to risk, but must be conscionable.

7) Billing procedures must be fair with the benefit of doubt given to the consumer, i.e., accept the postmarked date as proof of on-time payments with no arbitrary cutoff time on the due date. The billing cycle must be consistent and preferably 30 days.

8) Minimum balance payments must be sufficient to reduce the principle and an explanation should be provided of how long and at what cost repayment of the existing balance will take if no further charges are made.

9) If the company approves charges above the credit limit, then an over limit penalty may not be charged without first granting the borrower an opportunity to lower the balance.

10) Consumers have a right to clear, simple and understandable explanation on the full cost, terms and conditions for credit cards.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

New California Legislation: Workplace Violence Safety Act

Under the California Workplace Violence Safety Act, employers may seek a temporary restraining order or injunction against anyone who poses a threat to the workplace, such as a disgruntled former employee or client, or the spouse of an employee who is a victim of domestic violence.

A workplace protective order protects not only the victim of the violence or threat of violence, but also the victim's co-workers. Under current law, after the protective order is obtained, the employer must serve the order on the perpetrator to ensure he or she has notice and therefore is subject to enforcement for violations of the order.

Workplace protective orders often are difficult for employers to serve, as the location of the perpetrator can be difficult to ascertain. California just recently adopted legislation to make this process easier. The new law requires law enforcement officers responding to the scene of reported unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence to provide the perpetrator with verbal notice of the protective order. The officer's verbal notice of the terms of the order constitutes service of the order and sufficient legal notice. Once verbal notice of the order has been given, the employer need only mail an endorsed copy of the restraining order to the individual within one day. This relaxation of the service requirements will make it less difficult for employers to protect employees from violence or the threat of violence.

If someone violates a restraining order under this law, the first conviction is punishable by a fien and up to one year in jail. Although a victim of harassment or domestic violence can obtain a restraining order on their own, an restraining order Workplace Violence Safety Act can also protect the victim and coworkers. Employers can proactively make the work place safer for the victim, clients and other employees.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

When Collectors Come Calling: Know Your Rights

Calls from a collection agency can certainly make an already unpleasant situation much worse. Here are four ways they're not allowed to harass you:

  • By calling you between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
  • By phoning you at the office.
  • By bothering your friends or relatives to try to collect your debt.
  • By being hostile or abusive.

If you encounter any of this behavior, tell the collector you'll be reporting the agency to the Better Business Bureau. Then do it.

About the Author: Jean Chatzky is the financial editor of NBC's Today Show. She writes regular columns in Money, Time, and USA Weekend. And now she's here to help you take control of your finances! Click here to view more of Jean's money tips

Friday, November 18, 2005

Homemaker Life Insurance

If you're a stay-at-home mom, don't assume that just because you don't "earn an income," you don't need life insurance. You do. But how much do you need?

Figure out what it would cost to replace the services you provide for your family. If you weren't around, how much would it cost to hire a person (or more likely, people) to care for the kids, transport them, do the grocery shopping, act as the family bookkeeper (if that's something you do), etc.? After you figure out how much that would cost each year, increase that number each year by 3 or 4 percent for inflation, and determine how many years you'd need such services. Perhaps until your youngest child is in junior high? Perhaps longer? Also, if your spouse thinks that he would reduce his working hours should something happen to you, you need to factor the need to replace that portion of his income into the equation, as well. The point is, not only are you of critical value emotionally to your family, you're of critical value financially—and you need insurance, too.

About the Author
: Jean Chatzky is the financial editor of NBC's Today Show. She writes regular columns in Money, Time, and USA Weekend. And now she's here to help you take control of your finances! Click
here to view more of Jean's money tips.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

San Diego Crime Statistics Revisited

The link above is to a an excellent story by Channel 10 News in San Diego on the underreporting of crime in San Diego, a subject previously discussed here. Click here to watch the actual video. In 2002, law sponsored by the California State Sheriffs' Association actually made it easier for police officers and sheriff deputies to ignore a citizen's arrest. If law enforcement fails to act on a citizen's arrest or fails to take a report of a crime, then it as though the crime never happened. It is not recorded in the official crime statistics for San Diego. Crime appears to be down when it actually is not.

In some recent cases, San Diego Police Officers have declined to take shoplifters into custody. In one extreme case, security from a local mall took a shoplifter who had taken more than $500 of merchandise into custody at the request of a store employee. Two SDPD officers later convinced the store manager to drop the charges and apologize. Police later decided to arrest the shoplifter several days later on outstanding arrest warrants.

A related problem is the issue of unserved warrants. No reasonable person would dispute that the San Diego Police Department is understaffed. San Diego needs more officers and it needs to pay them more, but it can also do more to prevent crime by using the resources it has. Law enforcement can prevent crime by enforcing outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants. Warrants are for wanted fugitives. The courts have long since relegated failure to appear for "minor" matters to referrals to collection agencies. Warrants are for felonies and for dangerous misdemeanors.

There are currently 50,000 outstanding warrants in the City of San Diego. The SDPD warrant detail consists of 2 officers, which is not nearly enough. I wonder how much crime could be prevented if patrol officers were proactively searching for criminals with outstanding warrants.

About the Author:
Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

Can a Car Dealer Ask for More Money?

Question: I bought a new car about 1 month ago. Now the dealer says they made a mistake and they want me to put down another $3,500.00 and sign a new contract or return the car. What are my rights?

It really depends on the type of mistake the dealer made. The automobile sales contract specifies your and the dealership's rights and obligations under the agreement. Once the contract is signed, the dealer general rule is that the dealer cannot come back to you and demand more money from you and the dealer cannot back out fo the contract. Unless the dealer made a mistake that you were aware of, such as incorrect sales price, the dealer is probably stuck with the price that you agreed to pay.

In any contract dispute, you should be able to find an affordable attorney to review the contract to advise you of your rights before listening dealer. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Collection Agencies & Liens

Question: Can collection agencies or their attorneys put a lien on my vehicles or property on charges that I have disputed totaling $15,000?

In most cases, the answer is no. Unless you voluntarily grant the creditor a lien on your property, the collection agency must take you to court and get a judgment before it can put a lien in place.

If a collection agency threatened you with a lien, this may be a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The FDCPA prohibits abusive practices by debt collectors. Under Section 808 of the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot legally threaten to take your property if they do not legally have the right to do so.

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered plus an additional amount up to $1,000. Court costs and attorney' s fees also can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector' s net worth, whichever is less.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Is a New Bankruptcy Crisis Looming?

While the new bankruptcy laws have received wide attention in the media, there is another potential crisis looming that my cause credit card holders to think twice about what they purchase on credit this Christmas. In response to new federal regulations, card companies over the next three months plan to raise the amount card holders must pay each month. In many cases, consumers might see their minimum payment nearly double.

The new minimums are designed to prevent consumers from being hobbled for decades by credit card debt. Many credit card holders do not realize that they will never pay off the debt by simply paying minimum payments.

It would take a consumer making only the minimum monthly payment nearly 30 years to pay off a $2,000 credit card balance at 18 percent interest. Total interest payments over that period would be about $5,000. Increasing the monthly payment from 2 percent to 4 percent of the outstanding balance will require only 10 years and $1,100 in financing costs to pay off the same amount.

In the long run, this will benefit consumers because they will pay off their credit card more quickly. In the short term, families that are barely making ends meet with minimum payments may be forced into credit counseling or even bankruptcy. The higher minimum payments must be implemented by the end of December 2005.

Under the new bankruptcy laws, most consumer debtors must obtain credit counseling before they may file for bankruptcy. If you are still unable to meet your obligations after credit counseling, you may be eligible for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For some debtors that cannot meet the new minimum payment requirements, bankruptcy may be the only option.

The decision should not be taken only lightly and only after consultation with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Please contact us for a free initial consultation if you need further assistance. We are a bankruptcy and debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fraud Tip: Change Perspectives

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT...If there's a police car parked at the same corner when you drive to work every day, you slow down as you approach the corner, then speed up when you pass by. That's why cops move their cars around. So why do we 'park our cars to catch speeders' in the same spot every year? That is, why do we perform the same procedures every year? Want to protect yourself? You don't have to do more, just do different procedures. Mix it up to keep client off balance. It's not an effective control if the client knows how to avoid detection because you do the same thing every year.

Provided by Gary Zeune, CPA

Friday, November 04, 2005

“Open Enrollees” and "Wranglers”

The San Diego city management claims that they again have to "cut" the budget and there is just nothing that they can do about that.

Sound familiar?

Only the government can call an increase in annual expenditures a “cut.” And only the government can cost us more and give us less each year and then blame us for their management problems.

They don’t just blame us. They also punish us by cutting our services.

You never see them cutting overhead.

I give you solutions in this space in hopes that you will bend the ear of your favorite elected official one day soon.

Here are a couple hot ideas.

We have long since taken for granted that the “normal” way to hire police officers and fire fighters is to recruit for, fill, and then conduct the appropriate police or fire “academy.”

We may assume that somewhere there is an exalted facility, hoary with red-suspender tradition, the historic functioning of which essential to our well-being.

In the case of the Los Angeles Police Department, that is true.

But for most other cities and counties, the “academy” simply consists of a campus representative of the employing agency coordinating a focused series of community college courses. The college districts pay for those classes.

Providing a “platform” for vocational education, that is education that results in employability, is a major mission of the community college systems throughout the state.

Completing the requisite police or fire courses in the employment of and under the tutelage of city representative results in becoming a “rookie” police officer or firefighter.

While these students are in school, they are earning a salary, being covered by workers compensation and other insurance programs, and all the while accumulating equity in the retirement system.

This is all unnecessary. Since these are community college classes, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that they should not be “open” to enrollment by any citizen who would like to enter either of these careers.

Are there any other employment categories where the employer provides the basic education? None that I can think of. You don’t get hired by a hospital and then get sent to medical or nursing school.

You certainly don’t get to be an administrative analyst, as I was, and then sent to college to see if you can earn a degree.

No, everyone else is required to invest the time and demonstrate the basic aptitude, motivation, and qualifications before being considered for employment.

Is there a shortage of applicants warranting this special treatment? Nope, not at all.

If you ever happened to pass by the civic center when police or firefighter applications are being accepted, you would have seen the line of applicants that threaded through the entire complex.

Since there is no shortage of applicants, why don’t they go to school on their own time as we all had to?

After graduation, the city would have some idea of their competence. The agencies could require the academy graduates to intern in the police reserve program for experience and further evaluation.

Right now, the departments have to wait for a new academy before they can fill vacancies. Under this proposal, there would be a constant supply of rookies.

There is one hitch. Complete open enrollment is against the law. The city should seek the repeal of that law right away.

And while we are changing the training process, we should go all the way.

Why should fire fighters sleep on the job? It makes no sense. It can’t be good for the guys to be awakened to be rushed into the rigors of firefighting.

Scottsdale Arizona pioneered the notion of “wranglers.” During their academy (one academy) the potential wrangler is taught to be both a front-line police officer and a firefighter.

Over ninety percent of the time, the wrangler is a police patrol officer leaving fire engine maintenance and operation to the fire specialists at the station.

When a fire breaks out, the wrangler drives to the fire in his police, sorry, wrangler car, opens the trunk, dons his protective fire gear, and reports to the fire captain for duty. Usually, the wranglers beat the fire truck to the scene.

Only when the employee is promoted above the entry-level ranks must he or she choose fire or police as a career.

In the meantime, the wranglers put the life and death of their citizens ahead of their snooze time.

Nope, our city unions will never permit this. Much easier to close libraries and cut back on services…again.

About the Author: Larry Stirling is a retired judge of the San Diego Superior Court. Mr. Stirling has served on the San Diego City Council, State Assembly and State Senate. As a police operations analyst for the San Diego Police Department, Mr. Stirling was the creator of the first 9-1-1 system, the first computer aided dispatch system and the creator of the ARJIS system. As a member of the legislature, he was the chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Avoiding E-mail Scams

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."—Benjamin Franklin

Add "e-mail scams" to Franklin's list. Fraudulent e-mails pop up with alarming regularity. Many claim to be from charities and target unsuspecting donors. Others purport to come from individuals charged with turning over a bequest or other large sum to charity. The first kind defrauds donors and damages the public trust's in the nonprofit sector; the second type bilks charitable organizations and can endanger their financial stability.

Click here to read the rest of the excellent article on how to identify and avoid email scams.

This article is provided by GuideStar.org. GuideStar is the registered trademark and operating name of Philanthropic Research, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity founded in 1994. PRI's mission is to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice with information. PRI does business under the name "GuideStar" and operates the GuideStar Web site to deliver nonprofit information.

Does Your Company Have an Email Policy?

Does your company have an email policy? Did you even know there was such a thing? Well, there is, and if your company doesn’t have one you are not only risking the professional image of your firm, but also risking potential liability issues that may arise from the misuse of your company email system.

Having a published email policy accomplishes three objectives.

First, it teaches your employees how to use email in a professional manner. What’s that? You’ve never really given much thought about the emails your employees send out? Well, you should, because ill-composed and unprofessional emails not only reflect on the employee, but on you and your company, as well.

Chances are most of your employees don’t even spell check the emails they send to your customers and partners. Chances are even greater that they are sending other items through your company email system that may get you sued.

Consider this: if one of your male employees sends an email to a female employee that might be considered harassing in nature, you may be judged to be just as liable for damages when her attorney comes calling with harassment suit in hand.

Creating a company email policy also helps lay out the ground rules for personal use of company email. When an employee is on your clock, using your computer equipment, and your network, and your resources they should understand that personal emails should not be sent or received using the company email system.

This can be a hard rule to enforce, given that kids now email their moms at work after school and soccer coaches email everybody, but as a rule, personal use of the company email system should not be allowed.

An effective company email policy also helps cover your corporate backside against liability. Take the example above of the potential harassment suit caused by an insulting email. If your company has a clearly-stated email policy that details what is considered inappropriate, you can minimize the company’s liability by proving that employees were trained in the proper use of email.

If you can prove that employees knew that sending such emails were not acceptable under company policy, your liability can be greatly lessened.

Having a good email policy can also give you a competitive advantage over the competition. As email becomes the professional communication medium of choice, composing professional, thoughtful emails can truly put your company ahead of the pack.

I can tell you from experience that I have actually won contracts simply because the customer was impressed that I replied to his email quickly and professionally. In other words, I’ve made thousands of dollars just because I respond quickly and use a spellchecker. Is this a great country or what?

How do you create an email policy? If you have other existing policies in place, such as those that pertain to business communications, access to confidential materials, personal use of the telephone, sexual harassment, etc. you should be able to establish an email policy using the existing policies as guidelines.

If you need to start from scratch you can still write the policy yourself with a little time and research, however, many companies rely on professional consultants to do the job for them. When you realize the importance of an email policy and understand the ramifications of not having one, you’ll probably agree that its money well-spent.

An email policy doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out document. Most policies are no more than a few pages long, written in plain English that every employee can easily understand.

The key to the success of your company email policy lies in the training of your employees. You can’t just establish a policy and expect everyone to follow blindly. Once the policy is written it should be distributed to employees and can even become part of future employment contracts. Explain the policy to your employees and have them read and sign to signify that they understand and will adhere to the rules.

Many companies are now realizing the importance of email and are putting on training seminars that not only teach their employees how to stick to the policy, but how to compose and respond to emails, as well.

Here's to your success!

About the Author
: Tim Serves is the founder of
DropshipWholesale.net, an online organization dedicated to the success of online and eBay entrepreneurs.

Related Links:

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

FTC Wins $10 Million Judgment Against Fraudulent Debt Collectors

Defendants Permanently Barred from Debt-Collection Activities

The Federal Trade Commission has won a $10.2 million judgment against a debt- collection operation, National Check Control, and its principals – the estimated amount of consumer injury they caused. The amount represents the largest judgment in FTC history for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In addition, a federal district court judge has permanently banned the defendants from engaging in debt collection in the future.

In a complaint filed in May 2003, the FTC alleged that the defendants violated the FDCPA by harassing and threatening consumers with claims that they owed money for checks returned for insufficient funds. The defendants made repeated phone calls, sent threatening letters, and falsely threatened that consumers could face civil or criminal charges if they did not pay the debts. The FTC alleged that, in many cases, the consumers did not owe the money, or owed far less than the defendants claimed. At that time, the court entered a temporary restraining order freezing the defendants’ assets.

In addition to the ban on debt-collection activities and the $10,204,445 judgment, the court has banned the defendants from violating the FDCPA in the future, including harassing consumers with repeated phone calls, obscene language, or threats of legal action; misrepresenting the amount a consumer owes; failing to notify consumers of their right to dispute the debt; and misrepresenting that the person contacting the consumer is a lawyer. The defendants are further barred from selling or transferring any consumer accounts. In order to satisfy the monetary judgment, the court ordered the defendants to turn over all of their assets. It is not yet clear how much money actually will be available for redress.

The final order for judgment and permanent injunction was entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on July 15, 2005.

The FTC received substantial assistance in pursuing this matter from Postal Inspectors from the North Jersey/Caribbean Division; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey; and the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. In addition, the FTC would like to thank the following states for their invaluable assistance in investigating this matter and bringing the complaint: Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia.

Copies of the final order are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/ and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ . The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Claudia Bourne Farrell

Gregory A. Ashe or Seena Gressin
202-326-3719 or 202-326-2717

(FTC File No. X030068)
(Civil Action No. 03-2115 (JWB))

Come On Chief, Serve the Warrants!

Crime is too important to be left to the police.

That means that the city council needs to do a much better job of demanding that the chief of police run an effective department.

Every day you read about crime in the newspapers.

But what you see in the journal is a trickle compared to the flood of pain and bad news that flow through the 9-1-1 dispatch center every 24 hours.

I am not critical of the rank and file of police officers that patrol our streets. They do what management tells them or allows them to do.

Plus, as a former SDPD operations analyst, I have ridden along with them for endless hours and attended too many police-officer funerals to have other than the greatest respect for those officers who take their job seriously.

I am the council member who made sure that there is an appropriate memorial at the door of the council chambers for each and every city employee killed in the line of duty, most of which are police officers.

But I am critical of the management of the police department.

There are several very strong concerns. For example, why has the number of police officers increased under Chief Lansdowne and the percentage of crimes solved actually decreased.

According to SANDAG, in 2000, a mere 21 percent of crimes reported to the police were solved. By 2004, the rate had fallen steadily to 17 percent. When crimes are reported to the police, they should solve them more than 17 percent or even 21 percent of the time. Something is seriously wrong with the investigative functions of law enforcement in our city.

Even more bothersome to me as a former judge is the management's nearly complete indifference to the balance in outstanding arrest warrants.

When I repeatedly raised this issue as a judge, I was given a message by the chair of the county chiefs of police association. That message was "Back off!"

Here is the key point, which seems to be lost on the chief and his management.

Criminals commit crime. Criminals are, with very few exceptions, a known group with long criminal histories.

The best way to prevent crime is to arrest criminals. The very easiest way to arrest criminals is to serve arrest warrants.

The arrest warrant itself is probable cause to arrest any defendant, any time, anywhere. Why not do it?

There are around 50,000 arrest warrants outstanding in the City of San Diego this very moment. Fifty thousand!!!

An Army division numbers around 5,000 men. That means that there is the equivalent of ten Army divisions of criminals freely walking our city streets.

The chief did not know that number. In his May 26th response to my questions, he urged me to check with the sheriff if I wanted to know how many warrants were outstanding in San Diego.

If I were chief, I would know exactly how many wanted fugitives were stalking my city.

So what is the chief doing about them?

First, the chief says that the San Diego Police Department did indeed use warrants to arrest 8,019 fugitives in 2004. That sounds like a lot, but it is less than twenty percent of the total and works out to about one warrant for each officer every three months!

I wonder if they could step it up to arresting one fugitive each month next year, one each week the following year, and one each day the year after that.

The chief admits that he does not make the warrant balance a priority. He has never mentioned the problem of unserved warrants to the city council in his regular reports. And by the way, the city council does not ask.

The chief calls the service of warrants a "collateral function" of his department and points out that the sheriff"s department is supposed to be serving the warrants.

Chief, from Judge Stirling to you, the state law is that it is the duty of every sworn police officer in the state of California to serve arrest warrants.

The chief asserts that the police are busy doing more important things such as working with "the community" at community meetings. He does not know how many hours his officers sit around these meetings.

I have attended my fair share of community meetings. So, I can save the department a lot of time.

What the community wants is to not be victims of crime. They best way to accomplish that is to arrest criminals.

If the police department wants to "hear from the community", I suggest that the department do a better job of answering the 9-1-1 calls that flood into the headquarters.

First-rate rank and file police officers deserve first-rate management. They are not getting it.

About the Author: Larry Stirling is a retired judge of the San Diego Superior Court. Mr. Stirling has served on the San Diego City Council, State Assembly and State Senate. As a police operations analyst for the San Diego Police Department, Mr. Stirling was the creator of the first 9-1-1 system, the first computer aided dispatch system and the creator of the ARJIS system. As a member of the legislature, he was the chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.