Happy Fourth of July from the Attorneys at Pontello Law! We are excited to launch our “Economic Freedom” Blog on the 239th anniversary of Our Nation’s Independence from the tyranny of economic and political oppression. We at Pontello Law feel strongly that those inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence cannot be fully enjoyed while under the bonds of oppressive debt. We take pride in our mission to guide unfortunate debtors back to the path of economic freedom through the ancient institution that is Bankruptcy Law.
The earliest roots of bankruptcy can be found in the Levitical Code of Moses which calls for the release of all debts in the community every seven years. In fact, this is why one form of Bankruptcy today is called Chapter 7. Early Roman law called for the imprisonment, enslaving, and even the execution of debtors who could not pay their debts when due. But when Julius Caesar enacted the Lex Julia, debtors enjoyed a very limited form of debt discharge through the liquidating of non exempt assets and the repayment of certain creditors over time if the debtors could afford it after an allowance was made for living expenses. Only when the Justinian Code arose out of the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire did debtors have the codified right to discharge their debts and be free from personal attachment, subject to creditor’s rights of a debtor’s future enrichment. However, full discharge and permanent release of debts was not generally available until the beginning of the Eighteenth Century when the English Parliament passed an act allowing for a complete discharge, while also making bankruptcy fraud a capital offense!
The United States Bankruptcy Code in its various versions is essentially a continuation of English bankruptcy jurisprudence, minus being executed for committing bankruptcy fraud. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the United States Constitution empowers Congress to enact “uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States”. The initial basis of these “uniform laws” was the English Codes, and the modern framework for American Bankruptcy law wasn’t fully settled until the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, which contained many familiar features of debtor-creditor relations, the most important being the voluntary complete and final discharge of most debts without creditor consent, balanced against the equitable distribution of the debtor’s non-exempt property amongst his creditors.
It is also out of our western law heritage that the concept of consumer protections statutes arises, themselves a codification of common law principles. For instance the common law of fraud in connection with the sale of goods, land, or property finds its correlation with various state statues adopting the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibition against deception in consumer transactions. In Missouri, these principals are codified in the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
Congress has passed several federal consumer protection statutes which enshrine the principles of honesty, openness, and fair dealing, and prohibit unfair and deceptive practices in the collection of debts and other transactions. We at Pontello Law are experts on the subject of consumer rights and we are dedicated to ensuring that all clients who come through our doors become free from creditor harassment and abuse, and we zealously vindicate those rights which have been violated. We take seriously Congress’s intent that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act be primarily self-enforcing by allowing debtors and their attorneys to act as “private attorney generals” to bring cases against dishonest and unfair debt collectors. It is for this reason that the act is self-funded, allowing a consumer who successfully brings a FDCPA lawsuit to have their attorney’s fees paid for by the defendant debt collector.
It is our goal at Pontello Law to give our clients a “fresh start” and a “new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt.” Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244 (1934). Call us today at 636-541-7673 to become free of debt, to protect yourself from unwarranted abuse, and to start living the American Dream once again.
Authors: Dominic M. Pontello and Isaac J. Bressler