Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So You Have a Small CLaims Case? I Have Two Words For You.

The courts are choking with small claims cases (people demanding reimbursement under $5,000.00) brought by parties in dispute with the neighbor, the auto dealer, the furniture company, the floor contracter, the plumber, the dog walker, .... you fill in the blank. There are two very important words that must be remembered before you even bring the action, and they are: BE PREPARED.
Time and time again, I see litigants appear before the judge (which may be me) without any evidence to substantiate their claims. A small claims hearing is a mini trial. That means that you must show cause or reason for making your claim against the other party. As a defending party, you do not carry the burden of proof unless you are bringing a counterclaim. However, the defendant should "be prepared" if he/she wishes to refute any discrepancy in the claim or monies demanded. Even if the defendant does not appear for the trial, the claimant must still prove the claim. If you need a receipt, bring it; if you signed a contract, show it; if you need pictures, take them; if you have a witness, bring him or her along -- whatever will be necessary to show the judge that you are entitled to the amount you want reimbursed.
Remember, that small claims court is for money only, but the court will not pay you back for aggravation, emotional distress (unless there are related medical bills), or any other annoyances that have no monetary value. There may be other remedies for that - which is another topic of discussion.
What will happen if you come unprepared to court? The chances are quite good that you will lose your case - and you may never bring that same case against that same person(s) again. If you forgot any items that you think you may need for your case, you may request an adjournment for another trial date. So, whether or not you were a girl or boy scout, use their motto and BE PREPARED.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking Charge of Your Life

People sometimes do not realize how powerful they are - and how they can initiate change whenever they need it. Even in court, when life sometimes deals a blow to one's daily routine or well being, the power is still there. The challenge for everyone is to use it, knowing that it's there when you need it. Some people think that they are too helpless, hopeless, burdened, broken, or whatever to do anything about their situation. But I am not buying that excuse. Every individual has the power to choose and take action to change their lives when they are present to the opportunities before them. In court, a man in his 40's stood before me after an arrest for drug dealing. After reviewing his rap sheet and history, I simply stated to him that he needed a job, that he had too much time to dabble in criminal activity, and that it was time for him to take charge of his life. I suggested that he discuss with his counsel the various options with agencies for job training, for handling drug abuse and for other matters. Although he nodded in agreement, I could not be sure if he was undertstanding his situation or was just placating me in court.
Well, guess what? A couple of weeks later, he was back ... to say that he had taken my advice. He entered a drug program, started a job training program and was to be placed in a position this week. What he said to me was the ultimate confirmation of my commitment. He said "no one had ever offered me a chance or opportunity like that .....", then thanked me over and over again. He also gave me his supervisor's name at the drug program who also wanted to thank me for my time and effort on this man's behalf. This was an epiphany for me as a public servant. It's this kind of positive action that defines my personal stand for contribution to the community and the world.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Seminar on Contracts at NYCounty Lawyers Assn

Please click here to see a preview of my seminar on contracts. This seminar is given at the NY County Lawyers Assn. twice a year as part of their Continuing Legal Education Bridge the Gap program.