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Law firm violated debt collection statute, federal suit alleges
Court Issues | 2008/03/01 20:22
Pauline Sumowski filed suit in federal court Feb. 27, alleging the law firm Baker, Miller, Markoff & Krasny, LLC of Chicago violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. ยง 1692, when trying to collect a debt owed by her deceased husband.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Al Sumowski opened a consumer credit card account with Discover Bank roughly 30 years ago and was the only authorized user on the account.

Sumowski claims that 10 years after her husband's death in 1990, Discover began sending billing statements directly to her demanding payment on the account.

"Mrs. Sumowski assumed that she was somehow liable for the Discover account and accordingly, she tried her best to make payments on it," the complaint states.

"When Mrs. Sumowski began having trouble paying some of her debts in 2006, due to increased family and household expenses, she was unable to make any further payments to Discover."

She claims that after missing payments, the Baker firm, on behalf of Discover, filed suit against her in Madison County on March 5, 2007, despite the fact that the debt is not owed by her.

Sumowski claims she was forced to hire an attorney and learned that she was not liable for the Discover account owed by her late husband.

According to Sumowski, the Baker firm attached a purported affidavit along with purported terms and conditions for the account that the firm claimed formed the basis of the original contract between Sumowski and Discover.

"That generic agreement, however, is incomplete, is dated several years after the alleged account at issue was opened, and thus, is not the agreement that governs the account at issue," the complaint states. "In fact, no evidence of any signed agreement between Mrs. Sumowski and Discover was attached to the State Court Lawsuit."

Sumowski also claims none of the billing statements that were offered as exhibits contained any new charges but only contained a demand for payment of a past due balance, late fees, penalties and credit protection services.

She claims the day her case was scheduled for trial, the Baker firm dismissed the suit.

According to Sumowski, the Baker firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by:

  • Falsely claiming that she owed the alleged Discover debt;
  • Falsely claiming that the account agreement attached to the complaint was a contract between Discover and herself;
  • Falsely stating in a sworn affidavit attached to the complaint that Discover's business records had been reviewed and confirmed that she owed a balance to Discover; and
  • Filing a lawsuit against her on a time-barred debt.

    Represented by David J. Philipps and Bonnie C. Dragotto of Palos Hills, Sumowski is seeking a judgment for actual and statutory damages, costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. The case has been assigned to District Judge Michael Reagan.


  • U.S. Appeals Court sets deadlines in Peel case
    Court Issues | 2008/02/08 19:16
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago allowed Gary Peel's federal public defender to withdraw from his case.

    The Seventh Circuit appointed Paul Camarena of Chicago to replace Stephen Williams of the East St. Louis federal public defender's office on Jan. 25, after Williams filed a motion to withdraw just before Christmas.

    Before the appeals court would allow Williams to withdraw, it ordered him to gather all of the transcripts of Peel's trial from Stiehl's court reporter Daveanna Ramsey.

    Peel filed his notice of appeal of his final judgment and sentence to the Seventh Circuit on Dec. 4.

    He was sentenced to 12 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl on Nov. 19. He was technically sentenced to 37 years, but Stiehl ordered the time to be served concurrently.

    Peel, 63, was convicted on one count of obstruction of justice, one count bankruptcy fraud and two counts of child pornography by a federal jury in East St. Louis on March 23. He was also fined $1,000 and placed on three years supervised release.

    Peel was prosecuted for blackmailing his ex-wife Deborah Peel with nude photos taken of her 16-year-old sister in 1974.

    He and Deborah Peel were married in 1967 and divorced in 2003. During contentious settlement proceedings Gary Peel filed for bankruptcy in 2004.

    At trial, prosecutors told jurors that Peel threatened to bankrupt his ex-wife in legal fees if she did not stop trying to get a deposition of his current wife, Deborah A. Pontious-Peel.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke told the jury that Peel planned to send the nude photos to Deborah Peel's parents if she did not agree to a new divorce settlement.

    The Seventh Circuit also set the deadlines for the appeal to be filed.

    Peel has to file his written brief and short appendix by April 23. The government has until May 23 to file its brief. If Peel wants to reply to the government's brief, he must submit it no later than June 6.

    Peel originally had until Jan. 15 to file his brief, but was allowed more time since Williams withdrew from the case.


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