Looking for some papers just now to serve in connection with a rare payday as a lawyer, I came across this great correspondence from my early days at law. The first letter was sent by a guy who ripped a friend of mine off, almost 20 years earlier, for $750. It is priceless, as you will see when you read the detailed response.
When I got out of law school, my friend asked how long a judgment is good for (a judge had agreed the man, a lawyer, owed her the $750). Turns out it’s enforceable in New York State for 20 years, at 9% interest. The original $750 had grown to a considerable sum over the 18 or 19 years. I grabbed that sum from his bank, legally freezing the amount owed in his bank account.
When he found out he called in a rage, to tell me that I was a fucking low-life, scum of the earth, goddamned fucking piece of shit. I allowed that all this might be true, but I was more interested to know if he would consent to the money being released to my client. He was not at all mollified by this reasonable approach, cursed me louder and hung up on me.
Later that day he decided to take the high road. Here’s how it went:
November 2, 2000
Dear Mr. W____,
I take strong exception to your heavy handed collection methods on behalf of your client. This is an eighteen year old matter which has had no activity during the intervening years. Simple inquiry would have revealed that I am a member in good standing with the New York Bar, and that I still own, reside and work at ___ Street., Brooklyn, the situs of the dispute between Z___ and myself. A telephone call or letter would have sufficed. Your behavior is typical of that which increasingly places the legal profession in disrepute in the eyes of the public.
Please send by return FAX any and all documentation regarding Z___’s claim, whether in your possession or Z____’s possession. Additionally, please send me any and all correspondence between yourself and Republic National Bank/HSBC or any other institution which in any way relates to any attempt at collection in this matter.
If you do not intend to comply with this request please so inform me by return FAX.
You may rest assured of my best intentions.
Very Truly Yours,
To which I apparently replied:
I regret that you found my collection methods heavy handed but I had little reason to expect you to pay this debt voluntarily, as you proved me right by not accepting my offer to lift the bank restraint if you paid it voluntarily now.
I relied on the representations of my client that you would do everything in your power to avoid paying the money as you had demonstrated a pattern of unwillingness to pay this $750 debt in the past; first when you breached your contract with her, then when you refused to pay Judge Michael H. F____’s judgment after trial, when you made an appeal that you never perfected and later when you brought various counterclaims that removed Dr. Z______’s next Small Claims case from the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Part– brought because there was no acceleration clause in the contract you had with her and the court had instructed her to bring a separate action for the remainder– to the Civil Court that you then had adjourned at least twice and finally defaulted on. Only the fact that M___ Z_____ was a pro se litigant saves you from having the marshal levy on twice the amount you still refuse to tender.
I had little reason to expect good will on your part and, in light of your attempts to weasel out even now, I’m glad I took the certain route to a tiny fraction of your wealth.
Regarding your belated discovery request (discovery is only permitted in Small Claims actions with prior judicial approval, by the way) nothing requires me to provide you with copies of anything, you have the ordinary access to them through the channels you know so well as an experienced attorney.
(and I might well have signed it)
“Juan Snyde-Bastid, Esq.”