An unbelievable day in court today, as I sat in there watching justice being administered to the chaotic world of commerce; I witnessed a judge that had me shaking in my boots as he rifled through each case brought before him. I thought I was hardened and tempered enough that most courtroom theatrics would not phase me, but this guy the judge, he took the cake: so to speak. Never in the many times that I have stood in Small-Claims Court seen a judge issue so many Warrants for Arrests, as I did today. Typically, Small Claims Court is where common people go to seek Justice without the huge expense of lawyers and other professionals. In these courts, people can spend small amounts of money, and time, on claims that in themselves are small, thus keeping the whole process in perspective. However, like all things in modern society, we live within the concept of “Rule of Law” whereby everyone is subject to the same law, no matter who you are. Today, in Courtroom 308 in the Surrey Court House, the “Rule of Law” was most certainly being applied.
I guess Small Claims Court is seen as, as one of my colleges put it, “Welfare Court, …where the poor go to have their petty differences ironed out, and are only to glad to have someone listen to them as they babble along…” However, like today proves, the Rule of Law must apply to everyone or it is worth nothing to anyone in a country such as ours. When citizens decide not to obey a “Summons to Appear,” only because it involves Small Claims court, than the Rule of Law must apply and be enforced as it does with the higher courts to maintain justice. For someone to be arrested because they decided not to appear in court for a pitiful amount of amount of money: i.e. $855.00, as in one case, then that person now has some time to reflect upon the meaning of justice while sitting in jail. Although in my case, the debtor who owes over $8000.00 from a defaulted cheque decided, to ignore everything: myself-the server, the service company, and the court, that it would just-all-go-away, now has more than money to spend. To hear the words, “Issue the Immediate Arrest Mr. Register…” by the judge, was both liberating and scary. Under the rules of Small Claims court, the “non-compliant” can be arrested, sent to jail for a period of 20 days, then is made to appear in court fallowing, as in our case, to a “Payment of Hearing,” and he still owes the money after his time is served. Explain that one to your wife as you are hauled off by the police because you decide to default a cheque for a furnace you had installed last winter?
My simple bit of advice is: when you are called to court–show-up. If you are unable to pay a debt, than use the court to manage a payment scheme so that both you and your creditor can at least resolve it, and then walk away with some sort of dignity. If there is some differences, or wrongdoing by the other party, then the courtroom is the place to argue it, and then have it enforced. Trust me–it works. It is better than being hauled off to jail as did the defendant in the case I had in court today.