“License to Sue” or “The Debt is Not Enough”



As a part of our practice, we do some enforcement of student loan obligations. One such case arose where we sued on behalf of a large private university, which I will refer to here as “Ian Fleming University”, against a particular student: Bond. James Bond. (And yes, groans during this particular column are warranted, and expected.)


Bond attended Fleming and received a full athletic scholarship, as a Psychology major. However, in his final year, he ran into some troubles with a woman, and had to withdraw. As such, Fleming withdrew its scholarship, and sought the last semester’s tuition of over $15,000.00.  Fleming tried to locate Bond, but had no valid addresses, as the home that he listed as his permanent address had been destroyed in a freak laser shark attack. All telephone numbers were burner phones. All that Fleming could find was a Post Office box, registered to James Bond, in Manhattan.


Fleming retained my office to file suit. We sent our initial demand letter to the PO Box, and in response, we received a letter, unsigned, typewritten, on strange onion-skin type of paper, stating that “All communications are monitored, all calls are recording, and all correspondence was noted.” The letter demanded validation of the debt, while never actually disputing or denying the case.


We then sent copies of all the documents requested, to the PO Box. We then received a response, once again, unsigned, typewritten, on strange onion-skin type of paper, that Bond wanted proof that we were authorized to practice law, and that we had been retained by Fleming. I sent a letter referencing the New York Attorney Registration database, and objected to the retainer agreement with the client. I then brought a Motion to permit service by mail upon the PO Box, which was granted.


We then served the pleadings on the PO Box, as directed by the Court. Within days of service, we received a Motion to Dismiss, alleging improper service, and arguing that service upon a PO Box is inherently flawed.  The motion was signed by James Bond, and his signature matched that of the loan documents.


On the date of the hearing, Bond appeared in Court, in a midnight blue dinner suit. To describe him, he was a caucasian male, dark brown hair, brown eyes, about 6’1″, 180 pounds. Basically completely non-descript. At the oral argument, Bond’s first motion was soundly denied by the Court.  (Did I say “first motion”? Oh you bet your Octopussy that I did)


Within days of the denial, Bond brought a Motion to Reargue the decision denying his Motion to Dismiss. The Court denied this motion outright as well, since you only live twice. However, we noted that never once did Bond reveal his actual address, and despite demanding such at the second motion hearing date, Bond simply looked at me, smirked, and said “No.” Apparently, his only solution was the live and let die.


The Court then set the matter down for a pre-trial conference. At the conference, the Court asked us to discuss settlement. Bond refused to make any offer, unless the Court docket, and all traces of the debt were deleted from Fleming’s database, and from my office records. I could not agree to these terms, and as such, he refused to tender a settlement. The Court adjourned the matter for trial.


Days later, we received a Motion to Amend the Answer, to add all sorts of ridiculous counterclaims, including the failure of Fleming to be a licensed University, the lack of a retainer agreement for my firm with Fleming, and that I had a conflict of interest in that I once lost a hand of poker to Bond. (Ok, so not that exactly, but essentially that ridiculous.) We opposed the Motion, and filed a Cross-Motion to compel him to produce his address.  At the hearing, the Judge merely accepted the papers on submission.


Shortly thereafter, we received a decision denying his motion, and granting our motion. But of course,  never say never again. Days later, we received yet another Motion to Reargue, and an Order to Show Cause demand for a Stay, which was granted by the Judge. However, this time, we noticed an unusual postmark. We did some investigation, and ascertained that the postmark was from Minsk. Yes, THAT Minsk.


Once again we appeared, Bond was coy, and once again, the motion was taken on submission, and once again, we were victorious.


However, the next week, we received approximately 60 pages of discovery demands and Interrogatories which asked for everything from whom had ever touched the file at Fleming and in my office, to everyone we had ever done business with.


We brought a Motion for a Protective Order, and also a Motion to Compel the Defendant to oblige by the demand to produce his address. In response, we received a Cross-Motion for a Protective Order, and also a Motion to Compel our response to the Interrogatories, along with another Stay of the trial. This time, the postmark was from Germany.


Bond appeared for the hearing on these motions, but this time, he was disheveled, and had a suitcase with him, almost as if he had just sky fell out of a plane. The motion was submitted. Thereafter, we received the decision, granting the protective order, and denying his motion in the entirety. However, the Court did not rule on the address issue, and set the matter down for trial.


The Defendant then brought another Order to Show Cause to Reargue, but this time, the Court refused to grant a stay, and adhered to the trial date.


Since tomorrow never dies, Bond served us with demands to take seventeen depositions, including naming all the attorneys in our office, and names of several Deans of Fleming University.

You can already see what happened next: Protective Order, Cross-Motion, Bond loses, and files Reargument, which he loses. He was litigating the living daylights out of this case.


Finally, the Court ordered Bond to disclose his address, and provide proof thereof. He appeared in Court with a driver’s license from Nashville, Tennessee. The Court set the matter down for trial, and he immediately asked for a longer date, as he was schedule to be out of the country on the trial date. He explained that he would be in Russia.


The Court set a date for trial, and the Bursar as well as the Dean of Students appeared ready for trial. Bond showed up, but this time, had an attorney with him, an elderly gentleman, Mr. Quartermaster, representing him.


We began the trial. I put on my witnesses, establishing our case in chief. Mr. Quartermaster did not cross-examine. Then, I called Bond as a hostile witness.


“Mr. Bond, can you state your name and address for the Court.”

“It’s Bond. James Bone. But my address? I will not state it for public record. You have a record of my driver’s license, and I ask you not reveal it in Court today.”

“Ooook. Did you attend Fleming University?”

Mr. Quartermaster objected. “Mr. Bond objects on the basis of the International Privacy Treaty, Strasbourg.”


No one knew what that was. (I still don’t.) I think everyone in the room, including myself and the Judge wanted a license to kill Bond here.  The Judge suspended the trial, and asked for a bench conference.


“Mr. Bond, did you got to Fleming U or not?” The Judge inquired.

“I can’t answer that.”

“You realize that if you don’t answer, you’re going to lose the trial, since you’re not bringing up anything to defend yourself.”

“I will appeal that.”


The Judge decided to break for lunch, and he stressed to Mr. Quartermaster to implore Bond to settle the case. I spoke to Mr. Quartermaster in the hallway, and he said he was going to make a call.


Within ten minutes, Mr. Quartermaster said that he would offered 50% to settle the case, in cash, today. I spoke to my witnesses, who readily accepted. Shortly thereafter, we advised the Judge of the agreement. Within a half hour, a thin, wiry bespectacled man showed up, and handed an envelope to Mr. Quartermaster, which contained a bank check made out to Fleming, for 50%, which he handed to me, in full settlement.


As we all left the courtroom and headed to the elevator, Bond looked at me, and said, “Well done, counselor.”


I was disappointed that the wiry man did not have a silver briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.


(While obviously some of the names and places were adapted for the purposes of humor, the postmarks were entirely true.)