Debt collectors who use unfair or deceptive tactics during collection litigation cannot rely on the First Amendment’s petition clause as a defense, ruled the Alaska Supreme Court recently in the first appellate decision on the issue.

In an increasing number of consumer cases, debt collection agencies have been arguing that their litigation tactics are immunized from suits under state and federal unfair trade practices laws because those suits burden their constitutional right to petition the courts, according to Deepak Gupta of Public Citizen Litigation Group, appellate counsel to the debtor in the Alaskan case.