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Observing trials and hearings


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I have decided that I will be observing court proceedings at least once per week so that I thoroughly understand what is expected for courtroom behavior and procedure. My observations will not be limited to debt cases. I have multiple reasons for doing this, one of which is that I expect to be a participant fairly soon, and I want the judges to be familiar with my face and know that I'm not just some quack who doesn't give a damned about the rules and procedures. That means, at the very least, coat and tie for me once a week, because I am highly recognizable.

I did attend a scheduling conference today. The case had something to do with property usage. I was 15 minutes early and the attorneys liked to talk about their jobs and were rather happy that I was interested in law. If you show up to a non-debt case, you may get lucky that way.

One thing that I did notice is that there was a dispute between both sides regarding whether or not some documents were privileged. The Plaintiff's attorney kept on complaining about not having them, and it finally got on the judge's nerves. She finally told the guy "I do not want to hear about this anymore. If it is an issue, I will appoint a special master, and that's it." Everybody backed off because while she is known for being fair, it is also said that you do not want to feel her wrath when you push her.

Lesson: If there is a legitimate issue, make sure it is clearly known, and don't then continue to complain about it. It pisses the judge off.

Other than that, the conversation was very casual and the judge liked to crack jokes. She was more than willing to work with both parties regarding setting dates and didn't seem like the scary monster that some people envision when they have to go to court without an attorney.

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Aaand another to attend tomorrow. It's an MSJ hearing and the Crap1 side will be argued by a party of interest to me. This one is especially interesting, because if the Defendant survives the MSJ and they don't drop, there's a non-jury trial in about 10 days for the same case.

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:trainwreck:

Oh man, it was bad. The plaintiff was Crap1 and the defendant was an elderly woman, probably 65-70, maybe a little older. I walked in right behind her, and tried to encourage her by telling her to hold her head high and do the best that she could, but there was really nothing that anybody could do at that point.

The attorney who was there for Crap1 seems to be the one that the law firm sends to a majority of their pre-trial hearings. He's like their jurisprudence spokesweasel. He stood up and said "Here's a bunch of statements, a signed application and a cardholder agreement. We're seeking costs and the total for the debt."

($132 for filing fees and $49 for service - the same conspicuous amount that they added to the alleged amount in a "settlement" offer that I received from them.)

Then the defendant stood up to speak, and I knew exactly what was going to happen as soon as she said "such-and-such debt settlement company and Crap1 won't work with me." Well, actually I knew what was going to happen when the judge made a comment about no written response to the MSJ being filed. The judge asked as many questions as she could, but there was really no hope. This poor woman had no clue as to how the legal system works.

At one point, Mr Spokesweasel stood up and talked about the "generous" offer that had been made for settlement and how he thinks that she was wronged by the debt settlement company. Man, he's slick. He's suing somebody's grandmother, totally destroying her and at the same time acting like he's a compassionate debt collector.

Eventually, the judge had to grant the MSJ. The woman turned around and you could tell that she had been completely destroyed. If she couldn't afford to pay off a debt that was small enough that an election of JAMS could have brought things to a grinding halt, she couldn't afford an attorney.

You could see that even the judge looked kind of guilty about having to grant that MSJ.

For all you noobs out there: What I witnessed today is exactly why "I can't afford to pay" is not a valid legal defense! Don't use it. "I couldn't pay even if it was mine, which I do not admit" may be a fine message to tell the people spending money to take yours, but it is not a defense in any way, shape or form.

And stay away from Crap1. They'll sue your grandmother.

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It may be a good thread, but I think I'm going to watch either a non-debt case next time or watch one where the defendant is either represented or there is evidence that this person is holding his or her own in a nasty way. That was depressing. I'll watch more debt cases, but this was bottom of the barrel stuff. That woman was obviously all alone with no help and scared stiff, and the look on her face when she lost terrible. The look on the judge's face when granting the motion wasn't even pretty. The spokesweasel didn't seem to mind very much though.

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Wonderful thread and probably right at the top of the best advice one can do. I did this extensively. Talk about a great help!!!! You can get a great and fast law school semester wrapped up into watching a few court sessions.

You're also correct about the lady and Crap1. That was just walking on the train tracks. The second she started making excuses that were not a legal defense it was over.

I've been saying it for years, go to court and watch, you don't realize how much it helps until you are there in person. If nothing else you can pick up on small things like when the judge wants a party to speak. The judge I was in front of would just look and stare at the party, another judge said Mr. or Ms. XXX then ask the question when they wanted a response.

I brought a note pad with me and anytime the judge might be looking my way I started writing notes, usually just drawing but wanted the judge to see me writing. I wore a suite and tie when I was a litigant and just observing I wore business casual. I tried to sit on the 2nd row as to not look to eager but close enough to be noticed and pay close attention.

I also watch some criminal cases. Obviously those were a lot more interesting. It gives you a good idea of the difference in burden of proof. Somebody in court facing 10 years for cocaine delivery gets a ton more benefit of the doubt than somebody trying to fight a 3K summary judgement from Crap1.

The Judge I was going in front of was having a capital murder death penalty case. I attended a little bit of that but it was so heavy with national media it was hard to get around. However, you will realize real quick, just walking in the courtroom of a case like that, a debt collection case is not something the judge is getting really worked up over.

Wonderful thread and again can't say it enough, go to court and watch !!

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Yeah, criminal is going to be a whole other ballgame. We have different judges for criminal and civil matters here, however.

One of the sad things about the case today is that I think that I could have raised some issue of material fact, then had most of their evidence tossed out as hearsay during the trial what would have been a week and a half from today. This particular law firm likes to slip everything in under the initial affidavit.

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Yeah, criminal is going to be a whole other ballgame. We have different judges for criminal and civil matters here, however.

One of the sad things about the case today is that I think that I could have raised some issue of material fact, then had most of their evidence tossed out as hearsay during the trial what would have been a week and a half from today. This particular law firm likes to slip everything in under the initial affidavit.

Know exactly what you mean. Sometimes when I was watching I wanted to just stand up, pull a My Cousin Vinny and yell "Everything that guy just said is Bull**S*T."

Edited by Coltfan1972
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Know exactly what you mean. Sometimes when I was watching I wanted to just stand up, pull a My Cousin Vinny and yell "Everything that guy just said is Bull**S*T."

It was almost a conscious effort not to palm my face she started off going 180 degrees from the direction she should have been heading. She was trying to do what she though was "right," but she didn't realize that she wasn't in the justice system, she was in the legal system. You can get justice, but you need know the rules or have somebody who does. There were no signed charge slips and they had a generic cardholder agreement with no evidence that it applied. That ain't how credit cards work.

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So recommended that you do this.

One trend I've seen in my court observations: same lawyers, multiple "law firms". Basically, for the big guys like Crap1 and B of A and a number of collection "firms", you'll see the same bedraggled lawyers show up, often working off a list.

Also, often, you will see many noshow lawyers who file an MSJ after a defendant has responded. See, the defendant may be responding to the suit, but not the MSJ because the defendants often have no idea what is going on with the legal system and assume a response is enough.

Lots of judges seem slightly amused when a pro se comes in and knows their stuff. Hopefully that.comms you someday.

My suggestion is to take notes of the hearing calendars. What day of the week certain cases are heard. This helps you with your own scheduling and you can pick what day cases of your type are being heard so that you can observe.

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There's a trial tomorrow. It's with a creditor that has a better reputation for record keeping than Citibank, and the defendant is represented. The plaintiff is represented by a party of interest to me.

TAKE NOTES. Also, if you KNOW this is a case that is of interest to you, get to court EARLY and make a photocopy of the case docket. If the judge has already pulled the case for the day, as soon as court ends, secure a copy of said case from the clerk of court.

Watching is great, but following along is even better.

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I'd like to know the numbers of how many cases really go to a full blown trial if a consumer actually lawyer ups with a hot shot consumer atty. I can see them taking on a pro-se and then just being ambushed by a pro-se playing possum and waiting until trial started and res judiciata was in effect to destroy them, but wonder how often they have a trial with a represented party. I'm sure it might happen for huge amounts but less than 10K would be interesting to know.

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I'd like to know the numbers of how many cases really go to a full blown trial if a consumer actually lawyer ups with a hot shot consumer atty. I can see them taking on a pro-se and then just being ambushed by a pro-se playing possum and waiting until trial started and res judiciata was in effect to destroy them, but wonder how often they have a trial with a represented party. I'm sure it might happen for huge amounts but less than 10K would be interesting to know.

Probably only when there is a counter claim filed that they weren't able to get dismissed. That stuff is expensive, and if you're going after somebody who can't pay a $10k (or less) debt, you're probably not going to get that $20k in attorney's fees back.

The law firm that was representing the defendant has a young hotshot that's supposed to be pretty good and aggressive.

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Still, you should pull the case file. If there was a voluntary dismissal, you'll see that in the court records.

If there was a settlement, I believe that record will also be in the court's docket. If so, you may be able to see why the case was pulled from the schedule. If there was a settlement, you may be able to see some details. Know what happened with this case, as it may happen with your own.

In my case, the lawyers for the JDB would reschedule at the last possible minute. Then one day I showed up, and BAM -- "Voluntary Dismissal". The SOL expired the following week.

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Still, you should pull the case file. If there was a voluntary dismissal, you'll see that in the court records.

If there was a settlement, I believe that record will also be in the court's docket. If so, you may be able to see why the case was pulled from the schedule. If there was a settlement, you may be able to see some details. Know what happened with this case, as it may happen with your own.

In my case, the lawyers for the JDB would reschedule at the last possible minute. Then one day I showed up, and BAM -- "Voluntary Dismissal". The SOL expired the following week.

My case is done. Any future civil cases that I'm a party to will have me named as the plaintiff.

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