Don’t Be “That” Guy (or Gal)

In this day and age, it’s timely (and trendy) to talk about “economic stimulus”, “recession”, and of course, “increasing recovery.” One thing to not forget, amidst the tightening of belts, and the unfortunate downsizing that may come from adding more air, and less substantive wallet content, is that whether we are employed by a collection agency, forwarder, or law firm, we must resist the urge or temptation to be “that” guy (or gal). And that’s the moral (no offense to Mother Goose) of this Tale From The Front!

I had a routine matter in a local Court, where we had obtained a default judgment against an individual, for $2,000.00 or so, and located a bank account that had over $150,000.00 in it, no part of which was exempt from any judgment enforcement. (I know, you all feel like Scrooge McDuck, diving into a pool of gold coins at the concept of those kind of funds.)  Moments before the Sheriff executed on the bank account, we received an Order for a Stay of the execution, issued by a newly retained attorney for the judgment debtor; let’s call him, “Mr. Munchausen.” However, oddly, there was no application to vacate the default judgment, merely the stay application. I, of course, opposed the application, with my plethora of case law, and readied myself for the oral argument that was pending in two weeks.

Three days before the oral argument on the Stay motion was scheduled, we received another motion from Mr. Munchausen. This time, an application to vacate the default judgment,returnable two weeks later. I thought to myself, “Self? Mr. Munchausen doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s not only wasting my time, he’s wasting his own! He’s malpractice, walking!” I appeared at the first oral argument, only to be met by a letter, which was faxed to the Court, requesting an adjournment of the first oral argument to the same date as the second motion.

What really befuddled me was that the judgment debtor was personally served, had really no defense, and certainly had the liquidity to pay the debt. Moreover, the debtor was employed by a Fortune 500 company, and had an income in the mid six figures. What was Mr. Munchausen doing?

On the adjourn date of the first motion, and the initial return date of the second motion, I appeared in Court. I filed opposition to both motions, and discovered that Mr. Munchausen had not checked in with the Clerk of the Court.  I waited a good two hours, and he showed up, disheveled and out-of-breath.

The Judge ordered us to go into the hallway to see if we could settle the case. Mr. Munchausen turned to me, and said, “I am not going to settle right now. I have to contact my client. Let’s get an adjournment.” And then he walked back in the room. Not wanting to be “that” guy, (no, an entirely different kind of “that”) I consented to the request. When I got back to the office, I telephoned Mr. Munchausen, but never received a call back. On the adjourned return date, we both appeared, and again, the Judge ordered us to go into the hallway and settle the case.

“Look,” I implored Mr. Munchausen. “You’ve made two motions, and had to appear twice to get those motions signed, and two more times for these oral arguments. Let’s just get this case settled. It’s a two thousand dollar case, and your client has over thirty times that in the account. I’ll waive interest, costs, and legal fees. Just give me the principal of my debt, and let’s call it a day.”

He said something that astounded me. “No. I’m a solo practitioner. I don’t have the clients that you do. I have to watch out for myself. No settlement.”

We went back in, and reported to the Judge that there would be no settlement. The Judge set both matters down for yet another hearing date, and for us to prove that we had properly served the Defendant.  I knew it would be futile to try and settle the case, so I appeared on the new hearing date, and this time, neither the Defendant, nor Mr. Munchausen, appeared. As such, the motions were all denied, and we were given leave to execute on the bank account, which we did, and collected the full judgment, plus interest, costs, and fees.

“That” guy, is the guy who not only bilked his client, wasted the Court’s time, wasted our time, and committed malpractice. (So yes, and entirely different “that” guy, than the “that” guy who doesn’t consent to an adjournment request… But that is a Tale for another time.)

Timothy Wan thinks that “that that”, shouldn’t be highlighted in word processing programs as improper grammar.

(Originally published in Debt3 Magazine, March 2009)