I was sued on an old credit card. I filed an answer in court and paid the fees. There is a Case Management Conference in a few months. Can I ignore the papers that I received from the debt collection attorney? I want to wait for the hearing and speak with the judge, but the papers show another hearing date and something about a judgment.
No, you cannot ignore these documents if you want to avoid a judgment against you. My web site has examples of debt collection lawsuits and other common papers used in court by professional debt collection attorneys against consumers. See: Case Examples from the Web Site.
Many people who try to represent themselves don’t realize that their plan to speak with the judge is not what the debt collection defense attorney wants. Judges are prohibited from giving legal advice to either side. Seasoned collection attorneys want the court to enter a judgment in your case as soon as possible, with the least amount of work. Keeping the court costs low also is important, unless they know the defendant cannot file bankruptcy, such as their income exceeds the means test or they filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy within the last few years.
Debt collection attorneys are experts in getting a judgment against unrepresented consumers and against general practice attorneys, who don’t know what weaknesses to expose at trial of the debt collection case. In most collection cases, a default judgment is entered for the debt collector after the consumer misses the deadline to file responsive papers in court and pay the filing fee. See the sample PDF of a “Request for Entry of Default form.” Many consumers believe that they may wait until the hearing to file their papers or that a verification letter can protect them. I discuss these myths on my blog posting entitled: “You are Summonsed to Court for an Unpaid Debt: Your Next Steps Count.”
After the unrepresented consumer files a response in court and pay the court fees, debt collection attorneys have several procedures that can use to get your papers stricken and a judgment entered. I discuss some of these in by blog posting entitled: “Today A Court Entered Money Judgments Against Consumers Who Tried DIY Lawsuit Defense.” They can also file a motion for summary judgment (known as an “MSJ”), which means that the consumer will almost always lose, unless they have an experienced defense attorney representing them. The main problems with the MSJ is that the state court now charges $500 to file an MSJ. Unless the collection attorney believes that the consumer will have the funds to pay this fee if a judgment is entered, they may refrain from filing an MSJ. Thus, I expect that debt collection attorneys will file fewer of these since the court fees more than doubled from $200 before October, 2010.
Thus, I would suggest that you contact an attorney whose practice focuses on helping consumers against debt collection lawsuits. Time is crucial, as many of the motions that the debt collection attorney may file have a limited amount of time in which to file opposition.