Thursday, February 24, 2011

The New Journey.......... Taking a Stand....

Part One

With the deadline for compliance in the attorney's letter being June 4, I knew I had to act quickly. Keeping in mind the conversation I had had with the equine attorney about this case, I knew if there was to be legal action, I needed to be the one starting it. I still didn't have the $5000 retainer but that didn't mean I couldn't start this legal action on my own. Who really knew this case better than me anyway?

Despite the proverb, A man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client, for me there seemed to be some advantages if I did this myself. It certainly would take less funds to file the action than to hire an attorney to do so. Already knowing how long it takes to get paperwork turned out in a lawyer's office, it would get started a lot quicker if I did it which was also a plus. I figured I would be guaranteed I had the jump getting filed first. Then there was the fact I really did understand this case better than anyone else.

The down side was going to be navigating the legal system. I was determined that I could figure that out so I began doing my research on the internet to get the job done.

Up until now I'd been working on what it would take to prove what had really happened in this case so that I would be prepared when I got an attorney. I hadn't really thought about bringing the legal action without an attorney. Now that I found myself in this situation it seemed like the only smart thing to do. Just waiting for something else to happen was putting the ball in their court and that's not where I wanted it to be. If the equine attorney said I should be the plaintiff in this matter, then that's what I was going to be.

The hardest part about the legal aspect has always been knowing the right terms. Without the exact language needed finding the proper documents on the internet was difficult and as I would later learn in the law library, that applied as well.

At this point the only thing I was really sure about was that I needed something to request a judge to return the horse to me. What that something was called or how I went about it, I had no idea. All I was sure of was I needed to ask a judge and to do that, I had to go to court. With the help of a friend we found a sample document we thought might work for this and I crafted my first legal documents.

The morning of June 4, I was ready to take my case to court even though we weren't even sure where that court was. Dave and I headed off to downtown Tacoma with my paperwork in hand to get this thing filed. The searches at the door entering the court house were intimidating and I wondered what in the heck I was getting myself into. Hibernating at the farm as the world moved around me seemed very inviting about then but I pushed through, knowing if I didn't stand up for myself now, I probably never would.

We headed to the information booth to find out where we needed to be but our questions were answered with more questions. It was clear from that first encounter with the information booth volunteer that we had a lot to learn.

We ended up at the office of the Superior Court for Pierce County. There we were faced with more questions. From those it was determined we were in the wrong court. They sent us on to the District Court which was in a different part of town.

Looking back I know what those questions were meant to accomplish and how the answers affected things along the way. The answers sounded so simple then. Now I understand the actual implications of those answers and if I ever have this to do over again, believe me District Court will not be where I file. The initial amounts (which were the purchase price of the horse) put us in the jurisdiction of District Court but the amounts we were actually entitled because of the harm done by BG's actions or lack there of actually should have put us in Superior Court. It would take time and lots of understanding for me to realize the error that I made here.

Still it was the right place for us at the time. I am sure of that but part of the reason I am going to do the posts on this process in detail is so that maybe if someone needs to know in the future they don't make the same mistakes I did along the way. This thing is complicated enough without having to go back and fix mistakes or ending in up in the wrong jurisdiction.

Once through the search at that District Court House, we headed into the Clerk's Office taking our little number and waiting our turn like everybody else. When I handed my paperwork to the person who'd called my number, I told them what I wanted to do and answered more questions. Then I was told to again take a seat and watch for someone to come for me at a specific window.

Within a few minutes I was talking with a person in charge representing the Pierce Country District Court Clerk. I explained to her I was trying to repossess a horse and then she looked over my paperwork. She told me what I was lacking and sent me on my way but not before giving me some reassurance. "You can do this. " she emphasized, "You just have to be careful and keep to the deadlines. " That last sentence turned out to be as helpful as anything else she provided for me on that day. I will always be grateful for that.

To be honest, I don't even remember all she told me I needed to do but I wrote it down at the time so I wouldn't forget by the time I got home. I do remember I specifically needed a Summons, a Complaint and a Declaration. I know now those three elements are essential to the start of any lawsuit. I also needed at least four copies of each document, one for the court, one for my records and one for each BG and WF to give to the sheriff or whoever was to serve the papers.

There was no way I could get the new paperwork done and be back to the court that day. It had taken me days to get what I had come up with accomplished. The 4th was on a Friday and I was determined I would have this new paperwork ready by the following Monday. I didn't want one more minute or court time to pass by without this operation in the works.

I worked all weekend on those documents. My friend helped me a good deal of the time doing research on the computer, input on her understanding of what I wrote and proof reading. I must have reworked the paperwork at least a dozen times before I was finally happy with them. I wanted them to look professional and respectful of the court process. I did not want them to look in any way like the "dummy" I felt.

Dave and I were once again at the district court the first thing the following Monday morning. My little number got me directed to a different window this time but as I started to explain my story, I got a nod or recognition I hadn't expected. Then I was once again given directions to that same window on the end from the previous Friday.

This time a different woman called me to that window. Instead of a representative of the District Court Clerk, I actually had the person who held the title herself. She looked at my papers shaking her head telling me they had discussed my case and done some research and what I needed was an Order of Replevin. The woman provided me with a copy of such a document with the pertinent particulars like name, address, etc, blacked out so that I could use it as a sample and sent me on my way.

While I was upset my papers were not in proper order, I wasn't discouraged. The good thing was I still needed the Summons, Complaint, and Declaration that I had already prepared so that work was not lost. This new document was needed in addition to those and I could understand that. I'd rather get it right now than try to fix it later.

We headed back home so I could work up the new document, an Order to Show Cause, and get the proper copies made. I worked over in my head how I was going to build this document so by the time we arrived home all I had to do was put it together. It looked pretty cut and dried to me. I could pretty much take parts of my other documents to create this new one and then I'd be set. I figured I could have it turned out in no time and at thirty minutes, I think I did. Then we headed back to the District Court.

We arrived there just before lunchtime. Going through that security for the second time in less than three hours seemed like overkill to me, but hey, that's how they do it. I guess I should be relieved to know that no one with guns or knives was in the building with me but still something about all that security set me off balance. Made my world a little less safe.

Soon I was again looking at the District Court Clerk. She went over my paperwork and told me she'd get me a judge. Can you imagine? I know I couldn't. It all seemed so surreal.

Within a matter of minutes I was standing in a court room waiting for a judge wishing I was not wearing blue jeans and that I'd washed my hair. When she arrived, the judge pro tem looked over my paperwork and asked me a few questions. I got the opportunity to tell her my concerns and then she granted my motion partially and wrote a brief order including an order that the "defendants are not to dispose of or deliver possession of the property in question/dispute to anyone other than plaintiffs or their agent(s) or attorney without further order of this court and shall not commit waste to said property. "

Not only was my lawsuit officially filed but I didn't have to worry about Storm disappearing or being gelded once the proper papers had been served. I was pretty proud of myself, even if I was scared to death on the inside about what came next.

When we were finished with the judge, the clerk directed me to meet her back at her office. However, the office was officially closed for lunch and the security guards told us we had to leave. I told the guard we had been directed to wait there but she insisted we leave so that's what we reluctantly did.

We went to Olive Garden and had soup and salad for lunch passing the time until the office of the district court county clerk would be open again at 1 pm. All through lunch we talked about the ramifications of my actions.

We arrived a little early to go through yet another search and the guard began apologizing all over herself the minute she saw us. The court clerk had come looking for us with our paperwork right after we'd gone. She'd told the guard she had wanted us to wait. I assured the guard that hour wasn't going to hurt us in the big scheme of things so we were good. I could tell she was relieved that we weren't going to make a fuss.

Then I went inside waiting again for the court clerk. This time when she arrived she had all my paperwork with her. First a date needed to be selected for the hearing the judge ordered. The date needed to would work for us and be within the guidelines established by the court. Once that was done and entered on the appropriate documents, copies were made and it was time to assemble our documents into bundles. The court clerk laid out each of the appropriate documents in a specific order to form a bundle. Then she stabled each bundle together.

On the top was the Notice of Setting/Assignment of Judge, (with the date, time and location of the hearing) followed by the judge's order for a show cause hearing (this document ideally would have been prepared by me but I didn't know that so the judge wrote it out) with notice to the defendants, direction for me to secure and provide proof of a bond in the amount of $3000 and stating the order of possession would be addressed at the show cause hearing and that order about disposing or delivering the property that I mentioned above. After that my Motion for Order to Show Cause was added followed by the Complaint.

The clerk did not, however, attach the Declaration which I thought should have been in that bundle. She handed those back to me except for the one she kept for the court. Turns out, I was right that the Declaration should have been included in the bundle. As it it turned out that was not a fatal mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

Then we were given instructions on what we needed to do to have WF and BD served with these papers. Even though we were now officially filed, it was imperative the parties (WF and BG) got served with the appropriate paperwork before the hearing could actually happen.

There is a time limit to accomplishing this, just as every other step along the way has some sort of time lines built in by the court. It was imperative to have the papers served within that timeline or else we had to start all over again. The second time around you must pay all your fees again as well as more fees to have them served. Also you can figure it would be much harder to get it done because by then, they would probably know it was coming so they'd be taking evasive actions.

Because we didn't want to end up in that situation, we opted to go with having the papers served by a Sheriff. It was more expensive but should we have problems getting both parties served, the testimony of a sheriff in our behalf would be more effective than a process server. I suspected that if they did not get caught together to be served initially (which there was little if any chance that might happen) that it would be very difficult to get the papers served on the second party.

Besides, I knew how vile BG's temper could be and I didn't want to take any chances. I expected he would be more respectful of a sheriff than a process server. A strange sheriff even with paperwork walking onto his property would be one thing, a stranger in plain clothes with paperwork might just be run off and then my hand would have been tipped. I wanted to be able to count of the paperwork hitting its target the first time.........and for me that target was BG.

Once we had all our papers and proper instructions, (God bless the County Clerk's heart!) Dave and I headed back to the Court House in down town Tacoma to get to the division of the Sheriff's office that handles serving court summons. We waited in line and watched as attorneys came through just dropping their paperwork off on the counter and leaving.

I had way to big an investment riding on this to be that cavalier about things. I couldn't help but think I would want someone handling my case who was more concerned about my outcome than that. I wanted to know that each and every step was going as it was supposed to go and I wanted to make sure I understood exactly how that was done so that I knew what was happening. My life had been out of control enough over these last months. Now I wanted to be in the driver's seat.

It wasn't until we had given our paperwork over to the proper person and laid out the required cash payment on the counter that I felt like I could actually breathe. We were now definitely, " officially" involved in a lawsuit over the possession of the purebred Arabian stallion, Scandalous Storm.

There was no going back. From this point forward my reputation was really hanging on the line. I had no intent of stopping short of getting my horse back or a ruling by the court against me. I couldn't imagine that would happen but then you just never know. I have experience with the courts not coming to the right conclusion in the past when they let a guilty man free with five of his victims sitting in court hearing that judgement. I wanted to believe in justice but didn't know if I should. I was determined to not leave a stone unturned so that didn't happen once again.

By this time, I was not afraid of their reaction, I was actually looking forward to it. For once BG and WF were going to be on the receiving end of some "bad news." Their attempts to intimidate me had not worked. They weren't going to be getting Storm without a fight. However. I suspected they wouldn't be all that worried with me acting as my own attorney. I intended to make that a mistake on their part, a very big mistake.

To be continued.................

One More Try and......

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  1. What an ordeal of red tape, but you sound like you were patient and had a determined attitude about it all. It sounds a lot like what we've been going through with tax paperwork.

  2. Wow good for you doing it by yourself, that had to be scary! I would be pretty afriad to do all that.
    Cant wait to hear what BGs reaction was, bet he was suprised!

  3. wow, this should be a book. I just couldn't wait to keep reading to see what you were doing next. I'm not sure I could have gone through all those steps! good for you! can't wait to read more...

  4. You did a very good job relating the process of documentation for such a case. That could be very helpful to someone else in the same situation. I believe that you were probably as sharp or sharper than any lawyer who could have executed this case.

  5. Aaahhhh-The legal system...Soooo much fun! (Yes, that would be dripping sarcasm ;-)

    Luckily, it sounds like you got a few people who were willing to help you wade through the beginning steps, even if they did forget to make sure your Declaration was in all of the packets.

    Oh to be a fly on the wall in the BG/WF home after the Sheriff served that paperwork. Wise choice going with the Sheriff BTW!

  6. Nuzz Muzz, I know what you mean about taxes although I'm more comfortable with them because I do have some background in accounting.

    Crystal, it was pretty stressful but I don't know that it was every scary to me. Maybe I was just too determined for that.

    HAOL, I've been a little worried these posts might become boring because there's so much detail that mattered to this case. I guess if you're still interested that's a good sign.

    Linda, I'm glad you could follow it. That tells me it could be helpful information if someone really needs it.

    I certainly didn't start off feeling confident. I had a lot to learn and if I had to do it over, there are things I would definitely change. BUT I did have a good understanding of the case and what it would take to prove it. That was my saving grace.

    BECG, I could easily drip sarcasm right along with you and the reasons why will come up.

    As for the women at the clerk's office, they were absolutely amazing. Between them and the women in the law library, I was in very good hands.

    I would like to have been a fly on the wall as well. I can imagine his reaction after the sheriff left. I'm sure my ears should have burned bigtime with all the explatives that flew.

  7. Good for you for doing this! I worked as a secretary for a small town lawyer part time after I graduated high school and if there is one thing I took away from there was never miss a deadline. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

  8. Well you really got the ball rolling. Legalese isn't easy to an ordinary person but once you researched you figured it out. Good for you.

    I'm sure BG and WF were spitting bullets after being served. Good they had it coming.

  9. That's really incredible that you were able to tackle this yourself. I would be way to intimidated by the legal system.
    What a blessing that some people were able to help you and encourage you, that would really make all the difference. Good for you!

  10. It's a shame lawyers are so damn expensive, because they can find loopholes that we just can't. I am so impressed with how well you handled this. I would have been completely lost.

  11. Yankee, those deadlines were what intimidated me the most. I didn't know what I should do if I was going to miss one. I knew there must be some way to get them extended but couldn't figure out how to do that.

    Arlene, you're right about the legalese. It wasn't easy and I am still not comfortable with it.

    I suspect you are right about how they felt about this.

    horsemom, there's a time I would have told you the same thing, that it was too intimidating. But it wasn't as intimidating as what would have happened had I not jumped in and done it myself. Motivation it what got me through.

    Dom, you're so right about the lawyers and their loopholes if they understand a case but I saw a statistic that said 38% of lawsuits filed today are pro se. That's a lot of people acting as their own lawyers. Knowing that helped too.