Debt Litigation Report

Minnesota Consumer Debt Litigation: A Statewide Access to Justice Report

The Minnesota State Bar Association Access to Justice Committee’s new report details how current practices and policies relating to debt collection through the courts impact consumers, including disproportionate impact on communities of color; and outlines and recommends data-driven ways civil courts can better serve Minnesotans.

Committee Recommendations:

1.  Develop specialized procedural rules for debt cases to better manage consumer debt cases. Requiring plaintiffs to file all consumer debt collection cases involving amounts under $4,000 in conciliation court, standardizing documentation requirements, adapting court documents and forms to address high number of self-represented litigants, and eliminating “default judgment” as a case type  are ways courts can take a more active role in case management. 

2.  Create and improve resources that enable self-represented litigants to participate in their cases. Improved court forms for consumers, including plain language defendant answer forms, self-help materials, and online tools will help court users access information relevant to their cases and make participation less burdensome for people without attorneys. 

3.  Preserve economic stability so Minnesotans can afford basic needs while repaying their debts. Ensuring funds sufficient to cover basic needs are protected from garnishment as well as improving communications and processes around garnishment, and garnishment exemptions, will ensure that Minnesotans in debt can resolve their issues without facing financial ruin. 

4.  Expand services for lower- and moderate-income people who are struggling with debt. Improving and strengthening legal aid services and resources and making them available to a wider group of Minnesotans will allow people in debt to resolve their issues with less court involvement, saving time and costs for litigants and courts.