Federal marshals do not routinely arrest people in Houston for unpaid student loans. Are you likely to be arrested because you have a delinquent or defaulted federal student loan? The answer is no. But you CAN get arrested for not attending court proceedings that you were ordered to attend! That is what happened in this case.

As was recently widely reported on TV and social media, a local Houston man, Paul Aker was recently arrested in by federal marshals. He had been sued by the United States of America for an unpaid student loan of about $1200.00, plus interest and costs. An attorney that I met many years ago in connection with a student loan case, M.H. "Butch" Cersonsky of the law firm of Alonso, Cersonsky & Garcia, P.C. signed the complaint.

Mr. Aker did not answer the complaint, so a default judgment was rendered against him. Later, he was ordered by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes to attend a deposition, to testify as to what assets that he owned, so that Mr. Cersonsky could seize them (or perhaps settle with him).

Mr. Aker failed to appear, in violation of the court order. When you disobey a court order, you can be held in contempt of court. An order to arrest you can be issued by the judge, to bring you before the court. That is what happened to Mr. Aker.

So Mr. Aker was not arrested for an unpaid student loan. He was arrested for failing to appear at a deposition after he was ordered to do so by a court. Courts order the arrest of people for failing to obey their orders in all sorts of court cases, not just student loan cases. 

In fact, while there are quite a few lawsuits brought by the United States on behalf of the Department of Education for defaulted student loans in the Houston, Texas area, it is not as common as you would think. I counted about 150 in a recent year. By comparison, there are thousands of lawsuits in the Houston area each year for defaulted credit card debt.

Most defaulted student loan debt is collected through the interception of income tax refunds, and Administrative Wage Garnishment of the defaulted borrower's paychecks. The Deparment of Education can garnish 15% of your net paycheck to repay your defaulted student loans. Mr Aker probably doesn't work as a W-2 employee or the government would have just garnished his paycheck. He also may not receive tax refunds or they would have collected it by taking his tax refunds. 

Anyway, if you are ordered to attend a court hearing or proceeding, by all means follow the court's instructions and attend. If you don't, you may find yourself headed for jail. If you have debt or student loan problems that you don't know how to handle yourself, and you live in the Houston, Texas area, call our office at 713-772-8037 for your free consultation to see how we can help you.

What do you think about what happened to Mr. Aker? Do you think courts have too much power? Do you think student loans are out of control in this country? What do you think? Please leave your questions or comments below.

J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
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