A $10,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation will help Texas Appleseed develop a plain language packet for pro se defendants in debt collection lawsuits. The information will educate them about the court process, making it easier to participate in the lawsuit. Texas Appleseed will release a report with findings and final language recommendations for court forms in the first quarter of 2023.

According to Texas Appleseed, a social justice advocacy nonprofit, consumer debt claim cases in Texas have increased by 87% from 2017 to 2021 in justice courts, where the majority of such cases are filed.

“Debt collection lawsuits are exploding in Texas, and the majority of judgments are default judgments,” said Ann Baddour, Texas Appleseed’s Fair Financial Services Project director. “People who lose those lawsuits can face aggressive collection actions, including losing all the money in their bank account. These high stakes make it essential to have a fair court process and provide debt defendants with access to information to help them better participate in the process.”

Texas Appleseed, through funding from the Texas Bar Foundation, designed a study to implement recommendations from the Texas Judicial Council, which in 2020 adopted several resolutions aimed at improving access to justice for defendants in debt claim lawsuits.

The nonprofit’s study aims to mitigate high rates of default judgments in these lawsuits. As part of the study, Texas Appleseed developed and user tested a plain language packet in English and Spanish. In the packet is a letter from the court with information about the lawsuit and legal resources, a sample answer form, and instructions on completing and filing the form. The focus is on Texans who may not be able to hire an attorney and instead will have to navigate the process of the lawsuit on their own.

For more information about the Texas Bar Foundation, go to txbf.org. For more information about Texas Appleseed, go to texasappleseed.org.