The Rosenthal Act’s definition of ‘debt collector’ specifically ‘does not include an attorney or counselor-at-law’. (Cal. Civ. Code §1788.2(c)). Decisions universally hold that individual attorneys are exempt from the Rosenthal Act. (E.g. Lutge v Eskanos Adler, P.C. 2007 WL 1521551 (N.D. Cal. 2007). Cases split, however, on whether law firms enjoy the same exemption.
Cases finding law firms not exempt: Reimann v. Brachfeld, 2010 WL 5141858 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (law firms are not shielded from liability under Rosenthal Act, noting northern/southern district court split on the issue); Silva v. Jason Head, PLC, 2010 WL 4593704 * 5 (N.D. Cal. 2010); Welker v. Law Office of Daniel J. Horowitz, 699 F.Supp.2d 1164, 1173 (S.D. Cal. 2010); Robinson v. Managed Accounts Receivable Corporation, et. al., 654 F.Supp.2d 1051, 1061 (C.D. Cal. 2009); Owens v. Brachfeld, 2008 WL 3891958 *3 (N.D. Cal. 2008); Navarro v. Eskanos & Adler, 2007 WL 549904, *5 (N.D. Cal. 2007); Abels v JBC Legal Group, PC, 227 F.R.D. 541, 548 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (attorneys, but not law firms, exempt from Rosenthal Act).
Cases finding law firms exempt: Owings v. Hunt & Henriques, 2010 WL 33489342 (S.D. Cal. 2010) (“A creditor’s counsel retained for the purpose of collecting a debt is not a “debt collector” within the meaning of the Rosenthal Act. Carney v. Rotkin, Schmerin & McIntyre, 206 Cal.App.3d 1513, 1518 (1988). In Carney, the action, which included violations of the Rosenthal Act, was filed against the creditor, the law firm retained by the creditor, an attorney and a secretary of the law firm for actions taken by the law firm in collecting the debt. . . . The court held that dismissal of the claim was proper as to all defendants because attorneys are not subject to the Rosenthal Act.”); Carney v Rotkin, Schmerin & McIntyre, 206 Cal.App.3d 1513, 1526 (1988).
The decisions holding that law firms are not exempt from the Rosenthal Act do not cite Carney – a decision part of which (the litigation privilege) was overruled on other grounds in Silberg v. Anderson, 50 Cal.3d 205, 212 (1990).