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From the day you are served with the debt collector’s Summons and Complaint you find yourself thrust into the Arizona civil judicial system. If the debt collector who has sued you is one of the large debt buyers like Midland Funding or Portfolio Recovery it is likely that you are now in Arizona’s justice court system.
You presume that when you enter this system that everyone is on a level playing field – that all the parties to the lawsuit will be treated the same. But is that reality? Is there bias against consumers – more specifically defendants in debt collection lawsuits?
Here are a few of the experiences I have had that have shaped my views on this question:
Almost without fail when I arrive at a courthouse and check in with the clerk for a trial the clerk will check me in as the debt collectors attorney – or they will even say to me “you represent the plaintiff, right?” Is it really that out of the ordinary or unusual for a defendant to have a lawyer?
Courts typically run on time. On a couple occasions I have walked into court a few minutes late only to find out that the court has already entered judgment against my client because we were literally 5 minutes or less late. However, I have on numerous occasions waited for 30 minutes up to over an hour for the debt collectors attorney and the court was willing to continue to wait. On one occasion the court even sought to continue the hearing to a later date so that the debt collector would have sufficient time to arrive.
I have had a judge ask me if I was going to raise my “legal arguments” while literally doing air quotes with his hands.
On several occasions I have had courts grant a request by the debt collector’s attorney to appear at a court hearing over the telephone while denying my same request.
On several occasions I have shown up to a court hearing with the attorney for the debt collector and had the judge question me at length as to reasons why my client was in the courtroom – while completely ignoring the fact that the debt collector plaintiff wasn’t there either.
On more occasions than I can count I have had the court attempt to transfer the burden of proof to my client – essentially to prove that they don’t owe a debt – even though the law plainly places that burden squarely on the debt buyer’s shoulders.
So What Does This Mean for You?
The odds are stacked against you. There is no denying that. Despite this my clients routinely prevail in their cases. To be successful in your debt buyers suit you have to pay attention to detail, have a complete understanding of the law and process you are going through, and take advantage of every advantage that the law allows you in your case.
Frankly, this is difficult to do without an attorney. Difficult, but not impossible. But as you go into the process you need to be aware that you are likely dealing with an institution that has some bias against cases like yours and that even minor missteps can be devastating to your case.