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How Arizona Proposition 209 Protects the Next Bernie Madoff

Arizona Proposition 209A group is pushing Arizona Proposition 209, a ballot measure they say will reduce the burden of “medical debt.” But while a small portion of Proposition 209 might relieve some of the burden of medical debt, other beneficiaries are swindlers and bad actors.

Proposition 209 is designed to protect assets against all judgments. Because of its impact on all judgments, Proposition 209 will protect the assets of fraudsters and bad actors just as much as someone burdened by medical debt.

Under the banner of protecting consumers from medical debt, Proposition 209 also protects the assets of those who commit the most heinous acts and cause life-changing injuries.

If you are a victim of medical malpractice, your judgment will be difficult to collect after Proposition 209. If you lost a loved one in a car accident caused by an at-fault driver, your judgment will be harder to collect under Proposition 209. 

As an attorney who represents the credit industry, I have seen a lot of bills passed off as “consumer protection” that really do the opposite. I call these “Bernie Madoff” bills — proposals that make it harder for wronged consumers to recover judgments from bad actors.

These bills make little sense because if the goal is to protect consumers from medical debt collection, proposals like Proposition 209 would limit their scope to medical debts. But Proposition 209 does not, and you must wonder why. 

I venture to say that the total number of judgments related to medical debt are just a small subset of all Arizona judgments. In my experience, many people turn to the courts to obtain judgments for personal injuries, like car accidents, medical malpractice or because they were swindled.

I can’t imagine any of these injured persons would like to hear that Proposition 209 will make it harder to collect judgments from persons that swindled all their savings or caused them devasting personal injuries, but that is exactly what it will do under the banner of “consumer protection.” 

If you truly want to protect citizens from medical debt, make a proposition that does only that. Don’t fool them into believing Proposition 209 is all about medical debt when it also protects the next Bernie Madoff.

Photo: Nadia/

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Donald Maurice provides counsel to the financial services industry, successfully litigating matters in the state and federal courts in individual and class actions. He has successfully argued before the Third, Fourth and Eighth Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeals, and has represented the financial services industry before several courts including as counsel for amicus curiae before the United States Supreme Court. He counsels clients in regulatory actions before the CFPB, and other federal and state regulators and in the development and testing of debt collection compliance systems. Don is peer-rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell, the worldwide guide to lawyers. In addition to being a frequent speaker and author on consumer financial services law, he serves as outside counsel to RMA International, on the governing Board of Regents of the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers, and on the New York City Bar Association's Consumer Affairs Committee. From 2014 to 2017, he chaired the ABA's Bankruptcy and Debt Collection Subcommittee. For more information, see

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