I can’t tell you how many times a person will call up, and say just that: “I’ve been served”.
Oh. Cool. Served what?
Isn’t that nice? For just a minute there, I figured you had been served some cabinets, or some marbles or some filet mignon (it’s pronounced ‘fil-LAY min-YON) for those of you that think you have been served “some papers”. You have not been served “some papers”. You have been served, that is to say, someone has gone to the trouble of putting INTO YOUR HAND, something very important. The person made a special trip, waited until you got home, and put it right in your hand. Do you think we should read “the papers”? I KNEW you did.
Now listen up: you have been advised, by the whole procedure, that this is important stuff. This is very important. It is very formal. All of the rules apply. You don’t even know what the rules are, and you better figure it out within 28 days. Oh, and by the way: if you don’t figure it out, they (whoever THEY are) are going to proceed without you. And if they do proceed without you, you are going to lose. And after you lose, you don’t get to undo what they’ve done.
Time is running out. Do you want proof?
Let’s look at this logically, and examine each of the documents:
- The document that says SUMMONS in big letters means that you have been SUMMONED, or CALLED, or ORDERED, to that place. That’s why they call it a summons. Think about it.
- The place that you have been SUMMONED to, is shown on that very same document. It’s spelled out pretty clearly. The whole address, including what room to report to.
- The REASON that you have been summoned is spelled out on the summons itself: it’s in capital letters, just in case you are visually impaired. Here’s what it says: YOU ARE BEING SUED. YOU HAVE 28 DAYS TO FILE AN ANSWER, AND IF YOU DON’T FILE AN ANSWER THE OTHER SIDE IS GOING TO PROCEED ANYWAY.
- You should seek legal advice. How do we know this? Because the document says, in capital letters ‘YOU SHOULD SEEK LEGAL ADVICE’. Hmmmmmmm……Food for thought, eh? And yet, I still get people who call on the phone, who says, “well, I didn’t know what I should do….” More on this later.
The other document you have been served says, in pretty plain language, that somebody has a complaint. You can probably figure this out by the fact that the document is labeled “complaint”, of all things.
In addition, that document sets forth, sentence by sentence, each fact that leads to the conclusion that that person just might be entitled to some sort of help. Here’s a very simplified example:
- I am the owner of a dog named Spot.
- The defendant is NOT the owner of a dog named Spot.
- Until Tuesday, my dog Spot lived at my house.
- On Tuesday last, the Defendant took my dog named Spot.
- I demanded that the Defendant, Harry Jones, give me my dog back
- The defendant, Harry Jones, refused to give me my dog.
WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays that this court will enter an Order, directing that the defendant return my dog Spot to me, and if he doesn’t do it, then send the deputy sheriffs over there, and TAKE my dog back.
(signed), Mary Smith, Plaintiff.
There’s one more thing that you were served. It’s called a scheduling notice, or a motion, or a notification. It says, in pretty plain language, probably in capital letters,
“THE JUDGE IS GOING TO HOLD A HEARING ON THIS STUFF ON MONDAY, OCTOBER 14TH, AT TEN IN THE MORNING. YOU REALLY OUGHT TO BE THERE, IF YOU WANT TO SAY ANYTHING TO INFLUENCE WHAT THE JUDGE MIGHT DO…”
Now, I’m not going to beat a dead horse. From this, we pretty much know what’s going to happen, and, if we think really, really, hard about it, we probably know WHEN it’s going to happen, right? Most cool. We’re really making some progress here, aren’t we?
This is America, and you have certain rights as a citizen. The principal right is, you have the right to be left alone. And, believe it or not, you are going to be. Left alone, that is. You are protected by the Constitution, which says, in one of those paragraphs, “Every Citizen has the right to be left alone”. Well, that’s what it amounts to, anyway. Anything not lawfully done is going to be UNdone by the Supreme Court.
At the same time, in another part of the city, there is a man named Judge. He might be Judge Smith, he might be Judge Jones, you get the idea. He’s an ordinary guy, and he drives to work, parks his car, and goes to his office. He has no power at all over your life. Understand this: the judge CAN NOT DO ONE DAMN THING. NOT ONE.
Unless the whole legislature of your state (by majority vote), says he can, and after that, the Governor of your state signs his approval. That’s the procedure for passing a law. And, surprise, the law is passed, and the law reads, pretty much as follows:
- IF a copy of the complaint is served on the Defendant, AND
- IF the Defendant is given 28 days to prepare his answer, AND
- IF the relief or remedy requested is spelled out in the complaint, AND
- IF the Defendant is notified of the date and time of the hearing, AND
- IF the Plaintiff appears and testifies under oath, AND
- IF the Court gives the Defendant a chance to testify, by saying, in a loud voice “does anyone want to testify against this?” and nobody appears,
- Then, and only then, the Court is authorized to enter an Order, directing that certain things be done, and certain things be not done.
And, by the way, the judge is going to do what he thinks ought to be done. Why shouldn’t he?
And yes, it’s binding. This is America. You’re entitled to a hearing, you’re entitled to your day in court. BUT by the way, YOU’RE ONLY ENTITLED TO ONE. If that hearing happens without you, then it does: that was your hearing. “Well, I want another hearing.”
“Sorry. It can’t be done. You had your day in court, you just weren’t there. By the way, weren’t you ever notified that this hearing was going to take place?”
“Well, I was served, I guess.”
What were you served?
Good luck with it.