Alabama Debt Collection Lawsuit Questions — Part Thirteen — District 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 District 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
OK let’s jump into our topic in this article which is a series of questions specifically about ta rial in District court. Remember the lowest court is Small Claims and the highest trial court is Circuit court. So District court is in between. Cases in the amount of $6,000 to $10,000 can be filed in District court.
I hope you find this helpful!
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE TRIAL IN DISTRICT COURT?
“Do I need to show up for my District Court trial?”
Yes. Same as Small Claims, same as Circuit court, you’ve got to show up or you will lose and the debt collector or debt buyer will get a default judgment. Remember a default judgment is a real judgment that leads to garnishment of wages and bank accounts and can even lead to losing your home.
So make sure you show up for trial!
“How should I dress for trial?”
Dress the same way as in any other court — dress respectfully.
So you don’t have to wear something that’s unnatural for you.
I mentioned this in the discussion on Small Claims court – for me wear a tuxedo would be very uncomfortable, but I’m comfortable in a suit.
For you, it may be wearing a pair of nice, casual clothes. That’s the right level for you and wearing a suit would make you very uncomfortable.
For others of you, it may be that a three-piece suit is what you are comfortable in.
The point is to wear something respectful and appropriate that you feel comfortable in.
And certainly, if you have a lawyer, your lawyer can tell you some good ideas.
If in doubt, dress up rather than down.
“Should I get to trial early?”
You don’t want to get caught in traffic. Or caught in a line going through security or you can’t find a parking space.
Keep in mind the weather can play havoc with getting to parking and then getting to the actual courthouse.
Leave yourself a lot of margin.
You don’t want to be late and have the judge be annoyed with you.
Get there early, be relaxed, and be comfortable as much as possible.
“Will my case be the only case going to trial that day?”
Almost certainly there will be other cases set the same day as your case.
So what happens is the judge will “call the docket” which means she will call the various cases, see who’s here, who’s settled, who needs to go to trial, etc.
So it’s very unlikely that you would be the only person in the courtroom.
It does not change anything but you need to be aware of this and this is another reason to make sure you go to your judge’s courtroom sometime before your trial so you can see what it will be like.
You don’t want any surprises as those tend to make us nervous.
“What happens when the judge comes into the courtroom?”
I would stand as it is considered a sign of respect for the judge.
Most – but not all – judges will tell you to keep your seat. But the expectation is you will stand.
Better to start to stand and be told not to than to not stand and be pointed out by the judge or the deputy who tells you to stand.
It costs nothing to show respect to the court and it is useful to stand up – stretch your legs and bit and get the blood flowing.
Again this is something you will see when you go before your trial – a day or week or however long before – so you can see how your particular judge handles court.
“What are the rules of evidence?”
In District court, we follow the Alabama Rules of Evidence.
These are very formal rules about who can say what I court as testimony and what types of documents can come in.
You might have heard of things called “I object based on hearsay.” Well, hearsay is a rule of evidence.
Or somebody will go, “That’s immaterial,” or “irrelevant.” Those are rules of evidence.
So the judges will follow those rules of evidence so your lawyer will know about this, but if you’re doing it on your own, you need to familiarize yourself with at least certain basic concepts of the rules of evidence so that you don’t get blindsided by something from the collection lawyer.
Here’s the key take away – the rules of evidence in District court is not the same as in Small Claims court. It tends to be more formal.
I find this very helpful to the consumer as it makes the debt buyers or debt collectors have to bring in their evidence.
“Can affidavits be used?”
They can be, unless you object, and my strong suggestion is to object to affidavits.
You want the debt collector to have to bring somebody in person so that you can question them.
They bring these affidavits, it’s just absurd. We’ve seen over the past years these robo-affidavits, robo-signed affidavits where Joe Blow signs 1,000 affidavits an hour, swearing under oath that he carefully reviewed everything.
Well, that’s not possible.
We’ve even seen where the guy signing the affidavit, he had died six months before. They just are using a stamp, a fake signature.
So I would object to affidavits. Certainly, it’s what I do when I’m in district court.
You can’t cross-examine a piece of paper so make them bring a real live person.
What is coming up next in our series?
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!