Wednesday, February 3, 2016

You don't always get a real judge!

Most people who think about resolving a matter in small claims court believe it's simply a matter of showing up to a courthouse, telling a judge their side of the story, and having the judge force the other guy to pay up.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the first place, all courts, including small claims courts, are to backlogged that the average duration of time from filing forms to the actual trial date is over 90 days. Some take even longer. Second, nobody just walks into court. There are forms to file and summons to be served and papers to be processed. All of that costs time and money, but eventually, you're assigned a court date. What happens next may also surprise you:

The person hearing your case might not even be an official judge.

Due to overloaded court schedules, backlogs of cases and the usual budget shortages, it's not unusual for court to find themselves in need of judges to hear cases. When they don't have official judges, they recruit nearby lawyers or elected/appointed commissioners to hear cases. These judges are often called judge pro tem, and are authorized to hear cases, but if you feel you'd rather have a real, live, qualified judge, you're within your rights to insist on one.  The only problem there is that if you do, it's likely that your case will be reassigned to another date, which means even more wasted time.

This is just one more reason why it makes sense to use an online settlement service.  Since over 85% of small claims court cases settle before getting to trial, (chances are good that the judge, commissioner or judge pro tem is going to twist your arm to settle anyway) online settlement services make way more sense: they're faster, they're less expensive and way more convenient because both you and the other party can do everything from any internet device.

Before you head to small claims court, think hard about the time, money and who's really going to hear your case. An online settlement service might be a better choice all the way around.

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