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Attorney Jim Harrison

Justice Courts Can Be Effective in Resolving Disputes

James R. Harrison

March 12, 2012

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Most disputes between individuals involve a comparatively small dollar amount. These disputes can be handled easily in Justice Court or its Small Claims Division. Although the process can be time-consuming, it is not complex and court personnel are generally very helpful. You can file a complaint, have a hearing and obtain a judgment, all without the aid of a lawyer.

Justice Court may be used to resolve disputes involving car, motorcycle and truck accidents, including those with minor injuries, written or oral contracts, neighborhood nuisances, landlord-tenant matters, and many others.

If you have taken the time to successfully complete the Justice Court process, the judgment you get you get against the other individual is the evidence of your victory. This victory, however, will give you little satisfaction if you cannot get the other person to pay the judgment.

Unfortunately, our courts, including Justice Courts, are not in the collection business. The Justice Court procedures for getting your day in court are relatively simple compared with the collection process.

The most common procedure for collecting a judgment is a garnishment. Among other things, this allows you to reach an individual’s wages or bank accounts.

A garnishment can be very effective. However, if it is done improperly, you can subject yourself to a wrongful garnishment suit, in which case you may find yourself facing a judgment much larger than the one you were trying to collect.

In my opinion, the garnishment action, including the forms that must be filed and the procedures that must be followed, is too complex for most people to handle without legal advice.

It may not be as bad as it sounds. Because you already have a judgment, you have saved considerable lawyer time and expense.

Although a lawyer may have been unwilling to take your case before you had the judgment, he or she may be willing to assist you in the collection effort for a portion of the amount collected.

Giving up part of your judgment to the lawyer may not be very appealing but it is better than getting nothing for your efforts, and far better than risking a wrongful garnishment.

The collection obstacles are frustrating in many small cases, but Justice Court remains a valuable tool for resolving minor disputes.

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