Take A Debtor To Court - Part 2 of 2
000aIn this second of two videos, learn how to prepare for victory in small claims court and how to make sure you will get paid when the judge rules in your favor. More great advice from attorney Cliff Ennico. (part 2 of 2) 000a000a
Hi I’m Cliff Ennico, Legal Editor of SBTV.com and author the best selling book, Small Business Survival Guide. So somebody owes you some money and they refused to pay. You beg them you could chill them. You beat enough on them, but they still don’t pay. Now it’s time to take them to small claims court. You’ve done your homework. You’ve file papers in court. They even served on the debtor. You have a court date and now it’s your day in court. You’re going to be standing up in front of a judge alone and pleading your case. One of life’s scarier experiences. How do you survive that? Well, step number one, be prepared. I cannot say this often enough the victory in small claims court 95% of the time goes to the party that’s better prepared. Meet with an attorney. Have him or her ask you a whole bunch of questions see if they can poke holes in your case, and if there are holes in your case try to figure out a way that you can explain it to the judge in a way that it will make the judge believe and like you because that’s 90% of the game in small claims court. Getting the judge to like you and believe that you are the one telling the truth. Bring all your paperwork with you in the court, bring all your witnesses, but don’t be surprised if they better shows up in court in the lobby and hands you a check for what they owe you. Appearing in court is a very scary experience and a lot of the times my clients find that when they actually go to court and the other side sees that they are serious about enforcing their rights they just roll over and bring a certified check to the courtroom because they don’t want to appear in front of that judge and yell that, so don’t be surprise if that happens. If that happens it’s a good thing. Although the guy still owes you for all your court fees and everything like that at least you’ve got the money that you initially wanted to collect. But let’s say that doesn’t happen and you’re up in front of the judge. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Do not ramble. Focus on the facts. Make sure you have all your paperwork there. Give it to the judge. Make sure you have extra copies to give to the other side. Do not bring an attorney with you. It’s okay to have an attorney prep you for small claims court, but it’s not a good idea to bring one to the courtroom with you. Judges really don’t like it when one side is represented by an attorney and another one is not. The judge automatically goes to the side of the person who is not represented, so do not bring an attorney with you. This is one time where you have to stand alone and do it yourself. Focus on the facts, be prepared to ask questions and be prepared to ask tough questions when the judge ask you them. Now here’s how small claims court work and if you watched lots of these TV judge shows. They are very true to life. A representation of what happens in the small claims court. The judge listens to both sides very patiently. They listen to your side. They listen to the other party side, and then the judge decides which person they like the best. Who is telling the truth? Who is giving them the straight dope and who is lying? Who is playing games? Believe it or not in the first few minutes of that preceding the judge can make that determination and almost always the judge will side with the party who is telling the truth, who is not playing games. That’s the good news. The bad news is you have to get the judge to like you. If the judge does not like you, if the judge thinks that you’re the one playing games, it really doesn’t matter if the law is on your side. You’re heading to a defeat in small claims court. But let’s say that doesn’t happen. You keep you’re cool. You keep your pose. Don’t get rattled. Keep it short. Do not ramble. Never interrupt the judge when they are talking. And low and behold the judge bangs he’s gobbling and says, “Boom you win. Hey, now what do you do?” Okay, the first thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to ask the court for an execution. That means that the court is going to issue an order saying that if the other person owes you money that you don’t want to have to enforce that order again. You don’t want to go to this process again. Ask the judge for an execution on the debtor’s wages, property or anything else, any other property he owns. Most courts will do that sometimes the judge if they feel sorry for the other side will let the other person pay in installments. That’s okay, ask the judge for some security like a third or fourth mortgage on the person’s house to secure your judgment. Don’t walk out on that courtroom without getting some assurance that that debtor will in fact pay because a lot of people frankly ignores small claims court orders. Still, by having the order if the person doesn’t pay later on. You can go back to court. You can get an enforcement proceeding on that and they’ll treat that the same way that they will. A regular court proceeding at least most courts will. Always be sure to ask for an execution on the person’s wages why? Because then they have to go home and explain to their spouse or their boss exactly what is going on and chances are they’ll pay on the spot to avoid the embarrassment of having to do that. I’m Cliff Ennico for SBTV.com.