This starts out as a completely ordinary debt collection story. A consumer falls behind on their credit card bills, eventually they get sued by Messerli & Kramer, and Messerli & Kramer gets a default judgment, probably due to Minnesota’s permissive “pocket filing” rule. But in this case, the consumer in question is the Republican Minnesota House Speaker, Kurt Daudt. And it’s a little embarrassing.
The situation reveals a paradox for Minnesota’s highest-ranking Republican: He often rails against a state government for struggling to “live within our means” while failing to do so personally. And it subjects him to scrutiny over whether he’s received special treatment because of his political position.
Daudt says he’s just another Minnesotan who lost his job and struggles with credit-card debt. Maybe so, but not every Minnesotan will find Messerli & Kramer so willing to vacate judgments.
Of the nearly 650 cases reviewed, only four were vacated, including both of the cases covering Daudt.
In the two cases besides Daudt’s that were vacated, both defendants filed for bankruptcy protection, prompting collectors to back off.
Daudt says he doesn’t think Messerli & Kramer knew who he was, but those vacated judgments (and the FYI correspondence with Messerli & Kramer lobbyist R. Reid LeBeau II) smack of special treatment. Messerli & Kramer (and its alter egos) sues thousands of Minnesotans to collect debts, generally gets default judgments, and almost never vacates those judgments.
Possible special treatment aside, maybe this experience will inspire Daudt. Many consumers have lost jobs and do struggle with debt, and the ease with which debt collectors operate in Minnesota courts just magnifies the problem. Minnesota Republicans have not been particularly receptive to calls to reform the system in the past. But now Daudt knows what debt collection looks like from the inside. Maybe it will inspire him to lead the way on debt collection reform in Minnesota.
One can dream, anyway.