Massachusetts Attorney General Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Its Emergency Debt Collection Regulations

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On October 23, 2020, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a motion to dismiss in ACA International v. Maura Healey based on mootness. The lawsuit challenges the state’s emergency regulations that placed a ban on outbound collection calls. The emergency regulations were promulgated in March 2020, ACA International filed its lawsuit in April 2020, and a temporary restraining order restricting the Attorney General’s office from enforcing the ban on outbound collection calls was issued on May 6, 2020.

The emergency regulations specifically provide that they would remain in effect for 90 days from March 26, 2020 or until the State of Emergency Period expires, whichever occurs first. Massachusetts is still in the State of Emergency Period, but the 90-day period lapsed on June 24, 2020. Because the emergency regulations have expired, the Attorney General argues that the lawsuit is moot and should be dismissed.

Although the regulations are no longer in effect even if the court grants the motion to dismiss, a decision on the merits of the case could provide helpful precedent for the industry. In granting the temporary restraining order, the district court found that ACA had shown a likelihood of success on its constitutional claims that the telephone call ban was a limitation on commercial speech protected by the First Amendment and that the regulation restricted access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment, but did not make a final judgment on the merits. If the court denies the Attorney General’s motion to dismiss and reaches the merits, a decision holding that the Attorney General overreached and acted unconstitutionally in promulgating the emergency regulations would be helpful precedent for the industry in combatting similar regulations in other states.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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