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
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 Joe Forward, Legal Writer,
State Bar of Wisconsin
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
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