If you thought I was pissed before about this situation, it doesn't compare to when I finally come to my senses and feel like I got hooked. I'll get right to the points.
I am more than likely being scammed. The problem with this scam is it's coming from a legitimate judicial district and a legitimate debt collection agency over a legitimate ticket that I have never denied receiving. Both of which have the power currently to do long term damage to my credit and driving record. The other problem with this "scam" is that there aren't any attorneys who really want to challenge the information being presented. I get why they don't. By the time they challenge them, $211.88 ends up being chump change compared to the bill that I would pay. While I certainly don't expect things to be given to me for free and I certainly do understand the concept of "It's the smallest issues that take up the most time" just from my experience in computers, it's become harder for me to imagine that a simple concept such as "principle" has taken a back seat.
The principle of the matter is the reason why I'm pissed off. Start back at the beginning:
- A "speeding" ticket for doing 72 in a 70 because the police officer "had been working accidents all night and wanted to slow people down on the wet roads." I generally respect police officers and the work they performed, but most officers give you at least a 5MPH buffer.
- A court house that waited 6+ years to even bother to notify me about the ticket not being paid. Yes, I paid it. I marched my angry ass over to Kroger, bought a money order with a company check, mailed said money order to said court house through gritted teeth the last week of July 2003 (according to my crappy records) and left it at that.
- A collection agency that is not actually providing the information their letter states they will provide. A copy of the judgement to this agency is apparently a printout of a summary screen that has the ability to be edited and looks like one of those dumb terminals with the black background and green computery writing.
Actually, here's a better visual of what I'm dealing with:
I didn't just pull that image out of my ass. You can view their website by clicking here.
After speaking with my attorney yesterday and being told that I should just pay it and be done with it, I came back to my office. I mulled it over a bit. I knew what I had going in my favor and I knew what I was missing that could just be the silver bullet (the canceled check). Since there really is no way that I've discovered to get the check without paying damn near what it costs to get the ticket paid anyway, I decided that I would call up the courthouse and offer a settlement.
My offer was that I would pay the original amount of the ticket, but I wasn't going to pay the contempt of court fee or the collection agency fee. That's about the middle of the total bill and I felt that was reasonable. The grounds for the offer were simple.
I was a dumbass and didn't keep accurate records back then. They were dumbasses and haven't kept accurate records or performed anything in a timely manner.
The whole situation is stupid.
I called them up. The lady that answered flatly refused my offer with a snide "If that's what you want to do, but it doesn't actually remove the other fees you owe from your record". When I pressed her on the timing, she backed off a bit and said she didn't have final authority on the matter and I would have to speak to her boss who wouldn't be back for a couple of hours. I asked for her name, jotted it down and that was that.
Ok, so there's still hope.
While I was waiting for the couple hours to pass, I got to looking at the information that had been sent to my attorney from the collection agency. Here at Blue Ridge, they have an attorney on staff and he owed me a favor for fixing his personal laptop. I took this information to him and pointed out the following:
- They didn't send me an actual copy of the judgement.
- The lady that faxed the information to my attorney has the same last name as the "boss" at the court house. It's not a common last name like "Smith", "Jones", etc.
"BR Attorney" looked at those points and said if they couldn't provide a copy of the judgement, then there was technically no debt. For those of you that aren't familiar with a "judgement", it's basically a stack of paper that outlines the case with various signatures from the people involved in the proceedings.
On top of that, he found the last name thing to be highly suspect, but also figured that this city is small to begin with, so same last names were probably rather common and might not mean anything at all. He then suggested I press the collection agency (who I've been trying to avoid as I've found it to be a lot easier to deal with the person/entity who says I owe them money).
Back to the collection agency I go. I asked for the lady that sent the fax. When she got on the phone, I asked for a copy of the actual judgement. I was told that what she had sent me complies with the FDCPA and if I wanted further information, I would have to contact the courthouse myself.
Wait. That's new.
WTF type of collection agency actually refers you BACK to the people they're trying to collect money for? My federal student loans have been in default for years and even when I try to call the Dept. of Education, they tell me to contact the collection agency.
BR Attorney was in the room with me when she says that to me. I put her on hold a minute and tell him what she just said. He told me not to make a huge issue out of it right then, but that was information we could use later on.
I took her off hold, talked with her a little bit more about the judgement (which got me a long lecture about how her company has always complied with the FDCPA) and then got off the phone.
That's when I posted Bullshit - Part 2.
Still an hour left until I had to talk to the "boss".
I entertained myself by doing more research and dug up a nice little tidbit about the judge herself that's on my summary report.
She was apparently suspended for 30 days, fined $100 and publicly reprimanded for discussing details of an active court case outside of the courtroom. That just screams "Good ol' boy network" to me. Really has nothing to do with my situation, but I did find it amusing that the one judge in that vicinity with any sort of disciplinary action taken against them is the judge that signed off on my case 6+ years ago.
I was hoping when I called the "boss" that I could resolve the situation entirely. Despite the information that I had learned from BR Attorney, I still felt the best course of action to avoid dragging this bullshit out was to get the settlement deal done. I called her up when the time came and...
...she was ready for me.
(Or at least she thought she was...)
She was so ready in fact, it became painfully obvious she had spoken to the lady by the same last name from the collection agency. After barely being able to get a word in edge-wise, (and after BR Attorney told me 'let her have it' over my earpiece-he could see me getting pissed off through the window in my office) I concluded there was only one way to deal with this old bitty...
Fuck this political correctness. I've had enough of this bitch.
Q: You realize you haven't given me any form of a legit excuse as to why it's taken you guys this long to take further action on this right?
Old Dirty Bitch: We don't have to, the court's not responsible for the mail.
Q: No, the court's responsible for timely action. If I failed to appear in your trailer trash of a court-room, it was YOUR responsibility to contact KY's DMV about the outstanding ticket and get my license suspended until I came correct. You had other courses of action you could have taken to resolve this long ago, yet you didn't. This tells me someone there fucked up.
Old Dirty Bitch: Hurri---
Q: Don't give me that bullshit either. You say Katrina slowed you down, I say it fucked up your records. Either way, it doesn't account for a TWO YEAR GAP between the time I got the ticket and when that hurricane blew your courthouse over, if it did. I'm of the mindset to accuse you of using it as an excuse for anything you get busted being an idiot about.
Old Dirty Bitch: What do you want me to do about it then?
Q: I've already given you my offer. I'll pay the ticket again because I'm a dumbass, but that contempt of court fee and collection agency fee? That's on your heads for dragging your feet through the mud for 6+ years.
Old Dirty Bitch: I can talk to the judge to get your hearing reset if you want.
Q: My hearing reset? You mean the hearing where I'm supposed to show up regarding the ticket? What the fuck good is that going to do for me? You guys don't have the original ticket, I certainly don't have it. I'd be surprised if you guys even had a copy of the alleged judgement against me.
Old Dirty Bitch: It coul---
Q: No. I'm not driving 7 hours to appear in your double-wide courthouse. The only purpose that hearing serves is for me to say I'm guilty or innocent regarding the ticket itself. I've told you repeatedly I'm not contesting the goddamn ticket. I'm contesting your handling of it. I paid it, I don't have proof. I'm offering to pay it again, but your handling of it tacked on fees and penalties that otherwise wouldn't have been there if you had...i don't know...addressed it within 90 days like every other respectable county?
Old Dirty Bitch: I could talk to the judge to see about getting your contempt of court fee removed, but there's nothing we can do about your collection agency fee.
Q: Why not?
I knew I had her here.
Old Dirty Bitch: We signed a contract with that agency and the fees are non-negotiable.
Q: And this would have never gone to said agency if you guys had done your jobs correctly, right?
Old Dirty Bitch: We're not responsible for the mail.
Q: That excuse again. I'm not either. Do yourself a favor. Call your fucking sister/cousin/mother or whatever relation she is, and get a pass. I'm not a dipshit. I saw both of your last names. There's not a damn thing either of your organizations do right. She doesn't want to collect this very much as she refers legit questions back to you. You guys obviously don't want to collect this very much since it's taken you six and a half years to do anything else about it beyond that sham of a hearing you have listed that allegedly took place. For all I fucking know, there's some 3-toothed, corn meal fed, inbred fucker that smells like a cow pasture sitting at one of those desks in that trailer just mashing keys on a keyboard and just happened to mash the right sequence for my stuff to come up again. There is no fucking excuse for you guys taking this long.
Old Dirty Bitch: I'll t----
Q: Also, think of your relative at the collection agency. If I find out you guys don't have that judgement on file and it violates the FDCPA? How many attorneys down there do you think would love to sue the piss out of a collection agency?
Old Dirty Bitch: I'LL TALK TO THE JUDGE TOMORROW!
Now I get to play the waiting game a bit.
After a few minutes, I stopped pacing around my office. BR Attorney comes in here and tells me if I ever decided to go to law school, I'd probably be the Happy Gilmore of justice with a performance like that.
Then he's like..."Y'know, I agree with your attorney. You should have just paid the $211.88."
If a man isn't willing to fight for his principles, he's not much of a man at all.
As cliche as that is, it's the truth. Battles have to be picked wisely and a lot would look at my decision to fight this as idiotic, but goddammit...
I stared $160,000 in debt in the face 5 years ago that was tied to my mom and dad's house. I fail, they're finding a new place to live. I have scratched and clawed my way out of that one penny at a time. I'll be damned if some goddamn idiot in Mississippi is going to take any of those pennies away from me.