WisBar News: Public utility can disconnect service despite petition for amortization of debt:

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  • WisBar News
    August
    29
    2011

    Public utility can disconnect service despite petition for amortization of debt

    Joe Forward
    Legal Writer

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    Aug. 29, 2011 – The Milwaukee County Circuit Court recently ruled that a public utility could disconnect utility service despite a petitioner's request for amortization of debt under Wis. Stat. section 128.21.

    Public utility can disconnect service despite petition for amortization of debt

    WE Energies gets go-ahead to disconnect utility services, after following other applicable rules, even if a delinquent customer files for relief through amortization of debt.

    By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer, State Bar of Wisconsin

    Public utility can disconnect service despite 
petition for amortization of debt Aug. 29, 2011 – The Milwaukee County Circuit Court recently ruled that a public utility could disconnect utility service despite a petitioner’s request for amortization of debt under Wis. Stat. section 128.21.

    Section 128.21 allows financially strapped wage earners to petition the court to stop executions, attachments, or garnishments when payments can’t be made in full. It’s an alternative to bankruptcy. The individual pays the debt back in smaller installments over a period not more than three years.

    Joyce Smith went delinquent on her utility bills to WE Energies, which disconnected service. WE Energies reconnected service after Smith filed a section 128 petition, interpreting section 128.21(2) to prevent service disconnection or requiring reconnection while a section 128 petition was pending.

    But WE Energies filed a declaratory action, asserting a right to disconnect service notwithstanding a pending section 128 petition. In In the Matter of the Voluntary Amortization of Debts of Joyce Smith, No. 11-CV-8212 (Aug. 25, 2011), Judge William Pocan ruled in favor of WE Energies.

    WE Energies argued that disconnection of service is not an execution, attachment or garnishment. “The disconnection of utility service does not give WE Energies any of the debtor’s property, or assist it (at least directly) in collecting the money already owed for past utility service,” Judge Pocan wrote. “Therefore, disconnection of services is not prohibited based on the plain language of § 128.21(2).” The court also ruled that WE Energies was not required to reconnect service once the petition was filed.