Saturday, August 14, 2010

Loser: My ignominious defeat in small claims court

There are many stories to tell in this naked city and I am determined to tell them all. Here's one of those stories -- about my recent resounding defeat in small claims court.

"If you can't even win a case in small claims court, then you must really be a loser," a small (but very mean) voice inside my brain keeps repeating. Hey, that's me -- the one with the big "L" on my forehead.

Here's the story. I loaned someone some money. She promised to pay me back but then later claimed that she had never made such a promise. I took her to small claims court. She married a fancy-pants lawyer. Her new fancy-pants lawyer/husband took over the case. "Can he DO that?" I asked. Apparently he can.

Apparently there's a law that says that a husband can substitute in for a wife -- with the judge's permission. But later, when I was reading the minutes of my trial, it didn't say anything about the judge having approved the substitution of the fancy-pants attorney/husband in place of the missing defendant. It didn't even mention the fancy-pants husband at all.

By law, the judge has to approve this substitution -- and, according to the trial's minutes, she didn't. But where the freak can I go to appeal this, er, oversight? Nowhere. From what I have been told, plaintiffs have no right to appeal a small claims court decision. Ever. Sorry, no Supreme Court rulings for us.

Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, the dude in the fancy suit wiped the floor with me -- by offering his infamous "Judge Judy" defense. Apparently, according to the fancy-pants lawyer-husband, the main purpose of me filing this claim was to allow me to get on the Judge Judy show! How can one even begin to fight a charge as bizarre as that one?

But, sadly, our small claims court judge bought the missing defendant's husband's whole package -- fancy suit, big words, irrelevant exhibits and all. "Claim of plaintiff denied." And now I'm a loser.

I did, however, learn one very important thing from this trial -- which I would like to pass on to all the rest of you big-time fancy-pants lawyers out there. Whenever you are arguing a case and you really really want to win it, just offer up the "Judge Judy" defense. Apparently it works like a charm.

For instance, if that recent California anti-Proposition 8 decision, the one that now makes gay marriages in California legal, ever gets appealed before the Supreme Court, all that the attorneys speaking against the repeal verdict have to do is to say, "But Your Honors, you can clearly see here that these Californians are only trying to repeal Prop. 8 so that they can get on Judge Judy!"

Then you'll win your case for sure.