HOW TO READ BETWEEN THE LINES
[Posted March 5, 2015] This morning, the Fourth Circuit announced its ruling in Elyazidi v. SunTrust Bank, a published panel decision. The opinion is just over 22 pages long, and contains useful rulings on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
FOURTH CIRCUIT EDITION
But today’s sermon is about the first paragraph, in which the court first telegraphs and then summarily announces the ruling in six sentences. Let’s walk through it together.
Mounia Elyazidi (“Appellant”) overdrew her checking account when, despite having only a few hundred dollars in the account, she cut herself a check for nearly $10,000.
Here’s our first clue: “cut herself a check.” That’s a casual phrasing of the appellant’s actions in drafting, endorsing, and presenting a negotiable instrument. It foreshadows that the court doesn’t think highly of what the appellant did here, beyond merely bouncing a check.
A debt collector, acting on behalf of the bank, took her to court inVirginia and won.
Nothing really untoward here; this is a neutral description of the procedural posture. But wait; here come the fireworks:
Appellant, not content to pay the judgment and let the matter drop, filed this lawsuit against the bank and its lawyers (collectively, “Appellees”).
The phrase about her being “not content to … let the matter drop” clearly suggests that the court thinks that doing just that would have been the wisest course. At this point, midway through the first paragraph, you should have no doubt how this appeal is going to come out. Still, we have a bit more procedural posture to recite:
Her suit alleges that Appellees violated Maryland consumer protection laws, and that the bank’s lawyers violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The federal district court dismissed Appellant’s suit for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Again, this is a neutral phrasing, showing that the panel thinks there’s nothing at all wrong with the bank’s actions. The court does that uniformly throughout today’s opinion, in contrast with what I view as some transparent exasperation with the appellant’s approach. One last step:
No kiddin’. The opinion goes on to evaluate the appellant’s five appealed claims, and agrees that the district court properly dismissed them. But unless you’re really good at suspension of disbelief, this paragraph will tinge your entire reading of the remainder of the opinion.