A law firm primarily engaged in debt collection can’t rely on attorney-client privilege to withhold documents in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act class action, a federal judge in Buffalo has held.

Western District Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio (See Profile) held for the plaintiffs in a discovery motion, directing Cohen & Slamowitz of Woodbury and Marine Funding to turn over a service agreement and firm manual in Hallmark v. Cohen & Slamowitz, 11-cv-842.

The suit alleges that the firm added a $140 court filing fee to consumers’ credit card arrears.

Last September, Western District Chief Judge William Skretny found that Cohen & Slamowitz violated the FDCPA by misrepresenting the amount owed and certified the class (NYLJ, Sept. 20, 2013). The firm moved for reconsideration, but in January Skretny dismissed the motion as “bewildering” and borderline “frivolous.”

In his discovery decision, Foschio noted that Cohen & Slamowitz acknowledged its primary business is debt collection. He said the documents in question were provided to Cohen & Slamowitz “for the express and primary purpose of facilitating [its] admitted debt collection activity on behalf of Midland, and not for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or services, and defendants provided no affidavit, as was their burden, to the contrary.”

Brian Bromberg and Jonathan Miller of the Bromberg Law Office in Manhattan along with Kenneth Hiller and Seth Andrews of the Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller in Amherst appeared for the class. Cohen & Slamowitz is represented by Connell Foley partner Andrew Sayles and associate Steven Kroll of Roseland, N.J. Thomas Leghorn and Joseph Francoeur, partners at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, represented Midland Funding.