Friday, November 20, 2009
The Alaska Supreme Court has held that a suit against a law firm based on allegations of improper activities in pursuing debt-collection litigation on behalf of a client should not have been dismissed:
Robin Pepper sued an Anchorage debt collection agency and its lawyers, claiming that they violated Alaska’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA) when they: (1) sued Pepper in state district court without first sending a written demand, (2) misrepresented to the court that Pepper was competent, and (3) applied for default judgment without first informing Pepper’s attorney. The superior court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, reasoning that the Noerr-Pennington doctrine required the court to strictly construe the UTPA to avoid burdening conduct protected by the petition clauses of the United States and Alaska Constitutions. Because we conclude that it would not unconstitutionally burden the defendants’ petitioning activities to require them to litigate debt collection claims in a fair manner, we reverse the dismissal of Pepper’s complaint.