Calabrese Wraps up a Busy Year Advancing Consumer Justice

Calabrese Wraps up a Busy Year Advancing Consumer Justice

Professor Gina Calabrese helped to achieve a 2021 legal reform in New York State to protect consumers from improper debt collection lawsuits. She is also working with policy and academic institutes to expand similar reforms throughout the nation. In November 2021, New York enacted the Consumer Credit Families Act (CCFA), which changed state court procedures in consumer credit actions, safeguarding the legal rights of consumers sued for debt–nearly all of whom do not have attorneys.  Over several years, Professor Calabrese advocated for the law, contributed to drafting its text, advised legislators as the legislation advanced, and collaborated with stakeholders in the debt collection industry to resolve their objections and secure support for the bill.

Notably, CCFA establishes that a three-year statute of limitations applies in all consumer credit cases; previously, the applicable statute of limitations varied and could be up to six years. It also requires that plaintiffs plead facts sufficient to identify the debt being recovered. CCFA was a response to the proliferation of “high-volume/low-dollar amount” debt cases in lower state courts, spurred by the growth of the debt buying industry.

Professor Calabrese was invited to consult on a similar initiative being proposed on a national scale by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC). Since 2020, she has served as a Consumer Observer to the ULC’s Drafting Committee on a Model Debt Default Judgment Statute. As an Observer, Professor Calabrese shares expertise and gives input on statutory language. She made a formal presentation to raise awareness of the systemic issues that lead to excessive rates of default judgments in consumer debt cases, despite the prevalence of procedural and evidentiary deficiencies.  

Organizations involved in public policy and legal education invited Professor Calabrese to speak on issues affecting consumer debt litigation. In October 2021, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, based at the University of Denver, held convenings to evaluate the success of virtual court proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Calabrese joined judges and state policymakers as a panelist in two of these programs. In March 2022, she spoke on Ethical Issues in Consumer Space at PLI’s New York Program on Consumer Financial Services.

Professor Calabrese also spoke at two successive academic consumer law conferences hosted by the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice and the University of Houston Law Center’s Center for Consumer Law.  She co-led a workshop entitled, “Challenges of Teaching Consumer Law Clinics” for the Consumer Law Clinical Conference. At the second conference, “Teaching Consumer Law In the New Normal,” Professor Calabrese was part of a panel on online dispute resolution. Her talk was titled “Online Dispute for Consumer Credit Cases.”

Professor Calabrese supervises students from St. John’s Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic in their representation of consumer defendants in New York City’s Consumer Credit Part. Her contributions to law reform efforts are informed by observations of the systemic injustice that economically harms low-income people, people of color, and immigrants in our civil courts. She shared these observations with the St. John’s community at the Law School’s Anti-Racism Teach-In in April 2022.