Courtroom

District Justice or Magistrate Lawsuits

Magistrate Court (or District Justice Court, they are the same thing) is much different from the Court of Common Pleas. At the Common Pleas level, a written response needs to be filed after the lawsuit arrives. Motions Court is a likely possibility, arguments about the sufficiency of the evidence, procedural issues… there is a lot going on with a credit card case at the Court of Common Pleas level.

At the District Justice level, its a very quick and easy process. Once the lawsuit arrives, the only obligation that you have is to contact the Judge and let him/her know that you intend to defend the case (if you are going to hire an attorney, please let him do this). There is no requirement to file a written response to the lawsuit, there is no Motions Court. Its just a matter of notifying the court and then attending the hearing.

Sounds easy, right? Well, no, it’s really not that simple. Sure, you can just show up, but if you do so, the collections attorney on the other side is going to beat you pretty badly in most cases. The truth of the matter is that you should NEVER attend a credit card hearing. If you show up, the collections attorney can cross examine you and use your testimony against you. Its very simple for them to do this. The dialogue would be something like this:

  • Collections Attorney – “So Mr. Defendant, you had a credit card account with Chase Bank, right?”
  • Defendant – “Yes I did”
  • Collections Attorney – “You made purchases on that account, right?”
  • Defendant – “Yes I did”
  • Collections Attorney – “You made payments on that account, right?
  • Defendant – “Yes I did”
  • Collections Attorney – “You stopped making payments on that account, right?”
  • Defendant – “Yes I did”

With 4 simple questions from the Collections Attorney, he has effectively beaten you at this hearing. Once these questions are asked and answered, there is no coming back from that defeat. You had better be prepared to file an appeal. Rather, it is better to be prepared beforehand. Hire a consumer attorney and let him/her go to the hearing in your place. You stay home, go to work, go shopping, whatever… just don’t attend that hearing if you want to win.

The other big issue that we face at the Magistrate is that most of them are NOT attorneys. A Magistrate, in most cases, is someone who won an election. It could be a police officer, a teacher, a dentist… anyone who is an American Citizen can be a Magistrate if they win an election. Why do I bring this up? Well, to make a point that many of these individuals have not gone to law school. This is a big deal. A very big deal. Rules of evidence, rules of procedure, some District Justices give these things no weight, when in reality, they should be giving them tremendous weight. Often times it takes an experienced practitioner, like our Attorneys at Morrow and Artim, to explain to the Judges exactly why the rules of evidence and rules of procedure are important and why they must be followed. Having said that, most of the District Justices that I appear in front of are well versed in the law, they take their jobs very seriously, they are impartial, and they apply the law to the case and render a fair decision.

 

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