September 20, 2014
“[A] void judgment…is open to attack [ ] in any proceeding, direct or collateral, and at any time or place….”
Finch v. LVNV, 212 Md. App. 748, 768 (2013).
In Maryland, the law is clearly established that a debt collector must be licensed to collect debt in Maryland, either by letter and phone calls, or by filing lawsuits. The question arose as to whether judgments obtained by unlicensed debt collectors (many of whom later went on to obtain a license) are valid. The court in Finch stated loudly and clearly that judgments obtained in Maryland by unlicensed debt collectors are void.
Further, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals stated in Finch that “[a] judgment which is void may be collaterally attacked at any time.” 212 Md. App. at 765. The court then went on to state:
[I]f a court acts without jurisdiction its action is a nullity; and equity demands that a proceeding be reopened and a respondent be permitted to answer and defend…. The law is settled in this State. A judgment by a court without jurisdiction over the parties is not merely erroneous, but ‘is absolutely void and may be assailed at all times, and in all proceedings by which it is sought to be enforced….’
Id. (citations, quotations and some punctuation omitted).
Judgments which are obtained by fraud, mistake or irregularity are likewise subject to challenge at any time. For example, Rules 2-535(b) and 3-535(b) state: “On motion of any party filed at any time, the court may exercise revisory power and control over the judgment in case of fraud, mistake, or irregularity.”
Conclusion: under Maryland law there is no time limit within which to attack void judgments obtained by unlicensed debt collectors.