November 29, 2023


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The Legislation Places of work of Kirk Cullimore have interaction in financial debt collections employing uncommon legal strategies

6 min read

Regulators haven’t heard of it, but a judge denounced it as questionable, if not ‘unconscionable.’

(Rick Egan | Tribune file image) In this March 20, 2020, file picture, Sen. Kirk Cullimore speaks at a Capitol information meeting about the state response to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The legislation firm in which Cullimore is a partner is Utah’s chief in evictions and financial debt collections. In some situations it has used an common maneuver to seize someone’s authorized assert, auction it off, order it and dismiss it. A federal decide criticized the transfer as “questionable at ideal, unconscionable at worst.”

The tale is element of a continuing sequence on Utah evictions and the state’s foremost landlord legislation organization. The next story was supported by a grant from The Economic Hardship Reporting Project and was prepared and researched by The Utah Investigative Journalism Task in partnership with The Salt Lake Tribune. Read aspect just one and element two listed here.

In 2020 the Law Offices of Kirk Cullimore submitted 45% of all eviction lawsuits in Utah but firm partner and point out Sen. Kirk Cullimore Jr. reported that he personally stepped back from that function midyear.

“There’s a good deal of do the job at our business besides just the evictions,” the Cottonwood Heights Republican mentioned. “That’s just the simplest matter for reporters and everyone else to harp on simply because it is an unappealing, but at times essential, side of home administration.”

Though Cullimore reported that evictions statewide have declined by about 40%, his law organization retained active by also filing financial debt collection claims — lodging 2,731 of them last calendar year, even far more than the 2,053 evictions it submitted.

The firm is very well versed in debt collections, and in the earlier has employed the debts of evicted renters towards them in a lawful maneuver so unusual that reps of the state courts, the Utah State Bar and the Federal Trade Fee experienced never read of it. The tactic involves seizing a defendant’s lawful declare, having it sold at auction, getting the claim at auction and then dismissing it.

The company even employed this maneuver in opposition to a girl who was suing the Cullimore organization in federal courtroom for allegedly threatening her with jail time to accumulate an eviction credit card debt, which is a violation of federal legislation. She did not know the motive why her federal situation from 2012 was dismissed right until a reporter just lately educated her that Cullimore’s firm had seized it, auctioned it, acquired it and then dismissed it.

“How the hell do you do that?” Candace Ewell requested. “Is that legal?”

[Read more: Landlords evict hundreds of Utah renters each month despite a ban during the pandemic]

In January 2011, Ewell reported, she walked into the West Jordan courthouse to take care of an alleged eviction from practically 10 many years earlier.

The setup was pretty odd, she remembered. Alternatively of likely into a courtroom, she was directed to a space exactly where a clerk from the Cullimore organization experienced established up a desk.

Ewell explained the intended eviction financial debt was a misunderstanding and she could confirm it.

The clerk for Cullimore’s business, nonetheless, explained to her that if she didn’t right away agree to a payment prepare a warrant would be issued for her arrest. Ewell was incredulous, but also flummoxed. She panicked that she may “walk out of there and get tackled by the police,” so she agreed to the plan.

She had regrets instantly afterward and later on discovered that threats of arrest ended up in violation of the federal Reasonable Financial debt Assortment Techniques Act, so she sued in federal court.

The circumstance would finally be dismissed nevertheless Ewell mentioned she did not receive notices about filings from the Cullimore business that stretched on for two much more decades.

She was unaware that the Cullimore company filed a “writ of execution,” seized her declare from the firm and sold it to spend off the aged disputed eviction credit card debt and then dismissed it.

On March 12, 2013, federal Judge Paul Warner dominated in favor of the Cullimore firm’s maneuver.

“However, the courtroom finds this form of legislation observe to be at ideal questionable, and at worst unconscionable,” Warner wrote.

In the long run, he located Ewell lacked standing and due to the fact she had not replied to Cullimore’s movement it appeared that she had deserted the lawsuit.

Dave Todd, an lawyer at the Cullimore organization, reported the Ewell situation was so previous he did not have a file of it anymore and could not remark.

Cullimore having said that was unapologetic about this questionable tactic.

“Any lawsuit involves legal service fees, time, energy to make them go absent irrespective of whether they’re legitimate or not, and in some cases our consumers would just as shortly not have to offer with them,” Cullimore Jr. explained.

He also denied the maneuver was unethical mainly because it had been uncovered to be legal.

Warner’s ruling, nevertheless, was far from an endorsement of the tactic.

“While the court recognizes that there are specified instances exactly where this exercise may possibly be completely and ethically suitable to satisfy a judgment, it seriously concerns the apply in situations these kinds of as this 1,” Warner wrote.

[Read more: Lawmaker’s firm squeezes thousands from renters months after evictions]

A lookup of court data located a several other instances where by the Cullimore business used the maneuver.

In 2016, Molly Hood filed a counterclaim to an eviction criticism in which she alleged that she had been “poisoned by her apartment” in Midvale in 2016. Her attorney alleged $300,000 in damages from problems ensuing primarily from poisonous mildew but also an alleged meth contamination. In the summertime of 2016 her ceiling collapsed from drinking water damage.

When Hood was recovering at home from operation in July 2016 to eliminate 30 cancerous or precancerous lymph nodes, she allegedly contracted 3 bacterial infections from the toxic mildew in her condominium.

“Because her ceiling was collapsed, Ms. Hood was compelled to sleep outside on her patio while she was recovering from medical procedures,” her criticism stated.

Hood’s law firm was not able to comment on the situation without having his client’s consent. Regardless, courtroom documents clearly show that the case stretched on for over a 12 months and then Cullimore’s business filed a writ to seize the assert and auction it off to fork out off an older eviction debt. The courtroom made a decision from the writ, but soon thereafter Hood’s law firm withdrew from the case and it was settled for an undisclosed quantity.

In an additional circumstance, Kim White, nevertheless recalls her shock at having her private damage claim seized and auctioned out from under her when she submitted a declare from an condominium sophisticated in Bountiful.

White had been at the apartments in 2014 checking out her daughter and when she still left, she tumbled down the stairs at the complex and broke her ankle. The lights were being out in the stairwell and she dropped her footing.

She questioned the apartment manager to address her healthcare bills but was rebuffed.

White bought a law firm who regarded a accommodate for clinical payments to be “open and shut.” That ended up not staying the circumstance later on when Cullimore’s agency identified White had an outstanding eviction credit card debt, and filed a motion, seized the assert, and experienced it dismissed.

“A Writ of Execution was requested by our clientele to keep away from service fees and charges linked with litigating what they deemed were meritless promises,” said Todd of the Cullimore organization.

White is nonetheless perplexed by the shift. She also nevertheless has not recovered from the damage and only acquired law firm bills out of submitting the assert.

“It’s like I compensated for it two times,” White explained. “And I’m however possessing complications with that ankle.” | Newsphere by AF themes.