Alabama Debt Collection Lawsuit Questions — Part Fourteen — Circuit Court Trial
This is our continuing series of articles where we answer your debt collection lawsuit questions. Before we jump into this article (which is about what happens in a trial in Circuit court), here is what we have previously covered:
- Overview of the complaint or lawsuit filed against you
- What does it mean to be served?
- Overview of 5 options you have when sued
- Bankruptcy option
- Fighting the lawsuit on your own option
- Settling the lawsuit on your own option
- Hiring a lawyer to fight the lawsuit
- Hiring a lawyer to settle the lawsuit
- Filing an answer in the lawsuit
- What happens before trial?
- General questions about trials
- Trials in Small Claims court
- Trials in District court
OK let’s jump into our topic in this article which is a series of questions specifically about ta rial in Circuit court. Remember the lowest court is Small Claims and Small Claims cases can be up to $6,000. District court is between $6,000 and $10,000. And Circuit court — the highest trial court is anything over $6,000. (You can see there is overlap — a choice — between district and circuit from $6000 to $10,000).
I hope you find this helpful!
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE TRIAL IN CIRCUIT COURT?
“Do I need to show up for my circuit court trial?
This is true of any trial (Small Claims or District) but especially in Circuit court.
Sometimes – rarely – a judge in Small Claims or District might cut a consumer some slack for not showing up.
I never see that in Circuit court.
You must show up or you will lose. There will be a default judgment against you.
We have talked about this before but with a default judgment can come garnishment (seizing) of your wages – your bank account – even your property. Yes, even your home.
So don’t allow a default judgment to happen.
Make sure you show up to your trial.
“Should I get to the courtroom early on the day of the trial?”
Yes you should get to court early.
To make sure you are in the right courtroom.
Make sure you can catch your breath, be comfortable, and be as relaxed as possible.
Nothing like being stuck in traffic, and there’s a long line to get through security at the courthouse, and you know you’re running late. Think of it like an airport. I’m not saying you have to get there two hours early, but you don’t want to miss your flight.
You do not want to miss your trial.
So the solution is easy – get there early. Have no time pressure on yourself.
“How should I dress for trial?”
Just like in any other court – dress respectfully and appropriately, showing honor to the court with how you dress.
Don’t dress in an unnatural way for you, but whatever would be appropriate for you that shows respect. And that you can still feel comfortable in.
That’s how I would dress.
“Will my case be the only case going to trial that day?”
In Small Claims and District court, it’s pretty rare that there’s only one case set.
Occasionally, we see that in Circuit court.
Normally though, there are multiple cases set in Circuit court, so there may be a room full of lawyers and parties – the plaintiff, the one suing, and the defendant, the one who’s been sued.
So you might walk in and there are 10 people in the courtroom or 50 people in the courtroom.
This is another great reason to show up to court well before your trial – the week before even. To watch what happens.
To get a feel for how your particular judge handles the court.
It is no guarantee that your day in court will be the same as what you saw but normally things are pretty similar.
And definitely get to court early so you can get a seat near the front so you can easily hear the judge.
“What happens when the judge comes into the courtroom?”
You stand up and by doing so you show respect to that judge.
The judge may tell you to keep seated but you should always assume you should stand up when the judge comes in.
It does not mean you agree with everything the judge says or does but you show respect to the position – the office.
“What are the rules of evidence?”
Really the same as a district court. We have these formal rules of evidence called the Alabama Rules of Evidence. These can get kind of complicated and if you’re doing this on your own and you’re in Circuit court, that is really a Herculean task you’ve set before yourself to understand the rules of evidence.
We do have some resources that can help you understand what are the critical rules to know. The best thing is to know all of them, but you really need to know at least a few of them to make sure the debt collector is not allowed to get in evidence that they should not be getting in.
Just understand that the trial will almost certainly be much more formal than if you were in Small Claims court and likely even more formal than District court.
“Can affidavits be used?”
No – at least not if you object.
I’ve certainly see collection lawyers try and use the affidavits in Circuit court.
You need to object, that’s my opinion, that’s what I do is I object to them because I can’t cross-examine a piece of paper. And the rule is affidavits should not be allowed.
But again, if they offer them and you don’t say anything, the judge may allow it.
The collector may whine about how it is expensive to fly a witness to be in court so the affidavit should be sufficient. But that’s the price of filing a lawsuit – the collector has to bring the proof.
And remember the purpose of the rules of evidence is to make sure proper evidence gets in front of the judge or the jury. Can’t cross-examine a piece of paper so if you object in the right way, I think most judges will not allow an affidavit in the collection trial in Circuit court.
What is coming up next in our series?
In part fifteen, we’ll talk about questions related to what happens after your trial in Small Claims or District court. (It is basically identical so we will cover those two courts together).
Thank you for reading this and I hope these questions — and answers — are helpful to you.
Feel free to call us if you have a question about a collection lawsuit in Alabama — you can call us at 205-879-2447 or fill out our contact form and we’ll email or call you right back.
Look forward to talking to you soon!