Continuing its excellent “Hounded” series, the Star Tribune ran another story last weekend about the gaps in judicial oversight for the bank and wage garnishment process in Minnesota. The story points out that Minnesota law authorizes garnishments before the debt collector’s lawsuit has even been filed with a court. And even when the debt collector does file the lawsuit with the court before garnishment (and most do), the garnishment process happens largely without any judicial supervision. Only when the debt claims an exemption and requests a court hearing, does the court get involved. The piece tells the story of a couple of consumers that have had a particularly difficult time navigating the exemption process.
After reading the story, I’m even more convinced that Minnesota needs to prohibit any garnishments before filing, and allow pre-judgment garnishment only with a court order. I’ve written about it in the past, but I’d also like to see the existing exemption process blown up, and a new process put in place that prevents creditors from freezing exempt money, even if it’s only for a few days. And as the story points out, states like North Carolina and Texas have created exemptions for money earmarked for reasonable living expenses. But in an allegedly progressive state like Minnesota, there’s no such protection–creditors can garnish money that you’ve earmarked for your basic living expenses, leaving you out of luck.
Justice denied as debt seizures soar | Star Tribune | September 1, 2010