• Design Thinking & Access to Justice: Consumer Debt

    In Fall 2022, as part of Professor Alice Armitage's Design Thinking and Access to Justice course, students at UC Hastings College of the Law will be tacking the ever growing problem of consumer debt. Click here to view our flyer.

    The Problem

    The California justice system has, in the 21st century, fallen short of its lofty mission, which, as stated by the San Francisco Superior Court, is “to assure equal access, fair treatment, and the just and efficient resolution of disputes for all people asserting their rights under the law.” The failure is nowhere more evident than the current system of debt collection permitted in this state as well as, in various forms, across the nation.

     

    There have been articles and books written about this failure for the last decade, and although there have been many recommendations, little has changed. I believe that it will take new methods of approaching and thinking about this complex problem before meaningful improvements can be made. This course is designed to introduce you to some of those new methods and provide the opportunity for you to use them to create possible solutions to our current crisis.

    Objective

    Through our Design Thinking and Access to Justice course, students focus within the context of a real-world problem such as homelessness and housing insecurity. The course will focus on the weaponization of the courts against individuals impact by the California debt collection system. We are seeking participants who are open to speaking with law students about their experiences with debt collection companies, have ongoing court cases related to debt, and have settled prior debts.
     

    Facts

    • Currently, state courts are clogged with millions of debt collection lawsuits.

    • Often debt collectors rely on court rules that allow them to obtain default judgments. This means most often debtors do not appear in court to fight their case.

    • Of the debtors that do appear in Court, less than 10% of consumers are represented by an attorney.

    • Most often low-income and lower middle class individuals face these issues.

    • Most often, people do not discuss their debt due to stigma, shame, embarrassment, and fear of harassment.

    Seeking Participants in the Bay Area and in California!

    We are seeking individuals who are willing to speak about their experiences. All the interviews will remain anonymous. We ask participants to:

    • Discuss their experience with debt collection and the Court system (if applicable).

    • Discuss their background and circumstances.

    • Be willing to participate in a 30-60 minutes follow up call with law students (either by phone, remote, or in person).

    • Based on these findings, students will participate in a brainstorming session to reframe the problems within the system and better identify leverage points that could improve outcomes. Finally, teams will prototype potential solutions to the current crisis. There will be no final exam. Instead, each student will prepare and deliver an oral presentation explaining in detail the problem they have chosen to solve and the solution they have devised.

    How to Participate

    Email us to arrange a time to speak. Call or text us at 415-565-4824 and provide us with your name and the best time to contact you.