The Failings of Small Claims Court


When I was in small claims court a couple months ago, a few things totally threw me for a loop and darn near pissed me off.

First of all, I’m sure most people have heard the expression, “winning is easy, good luck getting what you’re owed”. Well… would you like to know why this happens? I know exactly why and I will tell you…

The judge came in to give all the law suit parties that were there that day a few words before she left again for a half an hour.  She came back a half our later to commence lawsuits with everyone that still wanted one. But during that half hour, a representative came into the court room to say a few things…

This representative told everyone that it was preferred to work out the differences using mitigation and not a law suit.  This is understandable, obvious, and something everyone should have tried if they thought it would be effective.  She offered everyone the opportunity to settle in mitigation, a compromise between parties.  No one would “win” and no one would “lose”, but a compromise that satisfied both parties could be reached and going up to the judge would be unnecessary.  I agreed to try but my defendant refused, so we ended up seeing the judge anyway.

Anyway… the point I’m trying to make is how this representative went about her persuasion, the tactics she used directly sabotaged any plaintiff who won their case by the judges ruling.

The representative started her rhetoric with a variation of the expression I quoted above, saying that the losing party didn’t have to pay up!  That’s right… the representative who is supposed to serve the justice system (which itself serves justice) actually taught all the defendants how they could scam the system if they lost.

She actually said as plain as day, with all the plaintiffs sitting there listening, if you lose the case, you don’t have to pay. That is why its better for the plaintiffs to agree to mitigation – they stand a better chance of winning something.  Even though defendants could reject mitigation if they wanted to and stand the chance of losing nothing.

She went on to say, if you mitigate and the defendant still doesn’t pay up, you can go to small claims court and see the judge.

Hello?!?! I’m already here.  If I, the plaintiff, gives the defendant an out to not pay as much as she owes, and she chooses not to pay anything, I can just take her back to small claims and go through this bogus process again? And again? To what end? No thanks, I will just see the judge now.

She went on to say, if the defendant loses the case in front of the judge, she still wont have to pay. She has options.  She can declare bankruptcy and escape paying.

The plaintiff has options, too. If the plaintiff files paperwork that the defendant hasn’t paid up, and the defendant isn’t bankrupt, it will merely ruin her credit line – which will haunt her later in life when she chooses to buy a house or something.

Oh my god… whatever will she do?!?! How the hell do I get my money?

The plaintiff could also file for wage garnishing – which costs the plaintiff even more money.  But even that will fail if the defendants income is too small or she is on unemployment or she is a dependent of someone else.

My readers, forgive me but I have forgotten some of the details. It was a few months ago.  There is far more to be said. The representative for mitigation explained a hell of a lot more than what the content of this blog post says.  Her agenda was to scare every plaintiff into mitigation and serve the interests of the defendants in the process.

WOW.  After the half hour of unjust rhetoric, explaining how the losing defendant could escape her debts to the winning plaintiff, and what little the plaintiff could do about it, I was rather upset.  No freaking shit so many plaintiffs who win a suit never see a cent of it.  Most defendants are sued because they are shit-bags to begin with. So how dare the justice system explain to defendants how to legally defraud the winning plaintiff after the suit is lost.

No joke. No exaggeration. How the losing defendant could legally defraud the winning plaintiff and escape having to pay a cent was explicitly explained before the trial – by representatives of the justice system.  I sat in front of the judge posing my argument, thinking all the while this was just for show.

That is not justice! That is American justice.  Ridiculous and absurd.  The only defendants who would ever pay a lost suit are those with a reputation to keep. They have money already, most likely. And more than likely they wouldn’t have put themselves in a situation to either be sued or deserve being sued in the first place.

So does someone who deserves being sued in small claims ever have any real obligation to pay up their debts?  I don’t personally think they do.  I consider a winning or losing lawsuit to be nothing less than a court order. Why does neglecting it fall on deaf ears in the justice system?  I want to see losing defendants who refuse to pay to spend some time in county lockup.

In addition, the judge refused to look at all the evidence I had brought in to prove my case.  Refused, that was the word I used.  And I didn’t win my case to the degree that I would have liked to.  I won, but not without a minor loss; I didn’t win in full what I was claiming.  My evidence demonstrated my case perfectly and yet the judge refused to allow me to submit it, then she sided in those aspects of the case with the defendant. Refused. How is that for pursuing truth and justice?  The judge lead the court like a dictator by asked explicit questions and didn’t allow me to say what needed to be said, I had to remain on the topic of the question she asked.

I had the option before the court date to pay professional investigators to collect evidence for me. You know, handwriting specialists, polygraph, private eyes, that sort of thing.  Typically, the court will reimburse you if you win the case out of the defendants pocket. But only if the costs are reasonable.

That is another problem I scorn.  If you invest too little into your case, you stand the very real chance of losing. But if you invest “too much” in order to guarantee a win, the judge may rule your investigation “excessive” and disallow you compensation.  Even if the losing defendant pays what the court orders them to, the plaintiff still stands a chance of losing a lot of money. And like I already said in the prior paragraph, the judge didn’t even allow me to submit half the evidence I brought in – I wouldn’t have been compensated for anything she didn’t see or rulings not made in my favor.

The small claims court in King County is pretty corrupted and bogus.  Either believe my testimony and learn second-hand or experience it yourself first-hand.

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