For those persons considering filing a complaint in small claims court because it is said to be cheaper and easier than to hire an attorney, here is food for thought on the matter. Claims that are filed in small claims court could just as well been placed on the regular civil docket. If your case is on the regular civil docket, you do not give up the right toa jury trial or the right to appeal as you do in small claims court. More importantly, you get to have an attorney – a hired gun if you will, who can easily articulate your claims for you, present witnesses on your behalf and cross examine your opponent. This you probably cannot do without feeling and becoming emotionally involved which in turn clouds your decision making abilities. Furthermore, say you do get a Judgment in your favor without an attorney. What now? It is too late to get an attorney involved to help you collect the debt owed to you. The victory is an empty one because your opponent is ignoring the judgment and this feels like pouring salt on the wound because that individual already wronged you in such a way that you had to take them to court in the first place.
Collecting on a judgment is not a simple matter. One of the first efforts you might try is to set the matter on for a ‘Show Cause’ hearing. In this proceeding, you must face your opponent once again where he must show cause why he should not be held in contempt for violating a court order. Your expectations will undoubtedly be high as you are thinking that he ignored the judgment and certainly will be forced to pay and if he does not, he will be forced to detail with proofs why he has not. To your chagrin, though this was threatened on the legal paperwork, this does not happen. Your opponent argues without proof that he does not have the money and is paying what he can. What can the judge do but admonish him to pay the judgment as soon as possible. It is rare that a judge holds a small claims party in contempt, though certainly they should if you take the position that an order is an order and it should not be ignored.
So the show cause hearing does not work; what next? You will not know what to do and will wish you had an attorney. Unless you have very personal identifying information about your debtor, you will need a creditor’s examination. In order to collect your debt, you will need to garnish wages or bank accounts, or even get the sheriff to levy on his property. In order to garnish wages or bank accounts, you generally need his social security number, driver license number, date of birth, account numbers, etc. You will be forced to confront your enemy again and this time you will have to examine him yourself. Would not you rather have an attorney handle all this for you? The attorney knows exactly what to say and do to present your position well. Perhaps your opponent would have yielded to the power of an attorney long before and the matter would not have been taken this far.
If you have hire an attorney to represent your interests and you win your case, your opponent can be made to pay your attorney fees. Not only that, but you will not have to think about the matter more than to inquire to keep up to date now and then. You will not have to trouble yourself with calling the court, the judge’s office, or with determining what to do next. Leave it up to your attorney and in the end if things do not go the way you wanted, you can always tell yourself that maybe if you had handled it, you would have done better.