How Can I Find a Lawyer to Sue ECMC?


Dear Steve,

I was illegally garnished by ECMC now out of Minnesota. They did not get a state court order or a United States court order which they would have had to do for a federal defaulted loan. My employer deducted more than $17,000. I was living in small-town North Dakota and it forced me to quit my job. Just took the employer to small claims court for $15000, couldn’t hire a lawyer. ECMC wrote off debt when I contacted them, therefore invalidating the claim it was a federal debt.

Want to hire a lawyer to sue ECMC for stealing as they had no debt. They sent me a statement showing that they had received some of the deductions. I don’t know if I have to get a lawyer in Minnesota, don’t know if this is in federal courts or where it needs to be filed, but need a lawyer that wants to make money for me and themselves. Hope you can lead me in the right direction. Thank you.



Dear Mary,

First off, I am not a lawyer and I can’t provide you with legal advice. To get specific legal advice you would need to talk to a lawyer that is licensed to practice law in your state. On place to look for such an attorney is here.

From what you have said, it appears you have a defaulted federal student loan. In that case your wages could be garnished by an Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG).

As the name implies, the wage garnishment is an administrative exercise and does not require the Department of Education to take you to court first.

AWGs are relatively easy to stop. Just follow this process. This process will get your loans out of default, stop the AWG, and get you onto a low dollar monthly repayment plan.

Allowing a federal student loan to get into a default status can be very expensive. As the Department of Education states, “After you default, you are liable for the costs of collecting your defaulted federal student loans. The largest of these costs are usually the costs of placing your loan with a private collection agency. They amount to 17.92% of your outstanding balance, which includes principal, interest, and fees.” – Source

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It’s just my opinion but I’m not sure how ECMC “writing off” the debt would invalidate it as a federal debt since ECMC is an outside contractor of the Department of Education.

The single best source of accurate information the Department of Education holds about your loan is the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). You should login and see the exact status of your loan there.

The issue of accounting for wages garnished is an interesting matter. It is possible that your employer withheld wages in accordance with the AWG but if they were transmitted and accounted for correctly is a different matter. Comparing the AWG deductions with the accounting on NSDLS, and adding in a collection fee, if charged, should get you to a rough approximation of your stated current balance owed.

So, in general, the Department of Education, or its agents or contractors should have notified you in writing of its “intention to garnish your wages in 30 days, the nature and amount of your debt, your opportunity to inspect and copy records relating to your debt, your right to object to garnishment, and your option to avoid garnishment by voluntary repayment.”

You should have been given an opportunity for a hearing to dispute the claim and raise “any objection you have to the existence, amount, or enforceability of the debt.”

More about the exact wage garnishment requirements can be found in 20 U.S. Code § 1095a. Wage garnishment requirement.

Now that the ship sailed a long time ago, you can either pursue the fight you originally stated or you can embark on a path to get your loans out of default and avoid a future AWG with a future employer. Getting the loans out of default will also prevent a tax refund intercept if that is in the works. It can also prevent a future Social Security check garnishment as well.

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Federal student loans have a lot of negative side effects that don’t require the court to initiate.

Below is a state guide that explains the AWG to employers if you really want to get in the weeds about them.

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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