P.A.T.H. to Sessions - FAQ's
This pamphlet and volunteer lawyers with P.A.T.H. provide only general information about some procedures and rules in the General Sessions Court, Civil Division. Lawsuits must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, because the circumstances of each are different. Providing this general information does not create an attorney-client relationship. You, and your lawyer if you have one, must decide how your particular case should be handled.
WHO IS THIS INFORMATION FOR? It is for plaintiffs and/or defendants whose cases are set for hearing on the Monday, 11 a.m. Civil Docket in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.
DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY? Individuals may hire an attorney or represent themselves. If you need to find an attorney, one resource is the lawyer referral service program of the Chattanooga Bar Association – the Chattanooga Lawyer Information and Provider Service, “CLIPS.” Visit www.chattanoogalaw.org or call 423-756-3222. CLIPS lists participating attorneys by the types of cases they handle. The telephone book and the Internet are some other sources. The Court will not appoint an attorney for you. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may qualify for representation without charge by Legal Aid of East Tennessee (visit www.laet.org or call 423-756-4013) or Southeast Tennessee Legal Services (visit www.selegal.org or call 423-756-0128).
CAN I SETTLE MY CASE TODAY? Yes. You may speak to the other party’s attorney, or the party if they do not have an attorney. You may ask questions and ask to see paperwork related to the case. No one can be forced to provide information, except as ordered by the Court. If you reach an agreement, it should be in writing, and both sides should sign it to avoid misunderstandings. The agreement can be written on the warrant and submitted to the Clerk in the courtroom. Make sure that what is written is what you agreed to, and then abide by the agreement. You should make a copy of the agreement. There is a copy machine in the Clerk’s Office, Room 111, First Floor. ($1 per page for the first 2 pages and ten cents for additional pages.) If you do not reach an agreement, you may set the case for trial to contest the unresolved issues.
HOW DO I SET MY CASE FOR TRIAL? Return to the courtroom and wait until your case is recalled. If you are not present, the Court may enter a judgment against you.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR AND REPRESENT MYSELF AT A TRIAL?
· Talk to witnesses that saw what happened or know the key facts.
· Gather the agreements, photos, diagrams, etc. needed to prove or defend your case.
· You have the right to subpoena witnesses and documents to the trial.
· Organize the questions you will ask your witnesses and the other side’s.
· Plan a 1 to 2 minute speech to be given before any witnesses are called, to explain the facts and the decision which you are going to ask for.
· Dress nicely – be on time – be respectful to the judge and your opponent.
· If you do not show up for trial, you will probably lose by default.
· Stay calm and be polite, even if the other party becomes hostile.
WHAT IF I AGREE TO A JUDGMENT AGAINST ME OR I LOSE, AND THE JUDGE ENTERS A JUDGMENT AGAINST ME? You may pay what you agree to or what the Court decides that you owe. If you fully satisfy a money judgment, get and file with the Clerk a “Satisfaction of Judgment” signed by the other party to prove that the judgment has been paid.
CAN I APPEAL – WHEN? If you disagree with a judgment, you may appeal to the Circuit Court by filing an appeal with the Sessions Court Clerk and paying a $207.50 filing fee. Your appeal must be filed within 10 days after the judgment of the Sessions Court Judge has entered.
WHAT IF I CANNOT PAY A JUDGMENT RIGHT AWAY? You can file a motion to pay in installments. A motion for installment payments is in the Clerk’s Office on the first floor. If you miss a payment, garnishment can be issued immediately against your wages or bank accounts against the entire unpaid amount.
HOW DO I COLLECT A JUDGMENT? You can request that the Court issue a garnishment on wages or bank accounts, and there are other means to collect through Court procedures.
WHERE CAN I FIND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND FORMS? Some “How To” forms are on the first floor in a pamphlet rack. The Clerk’s Office also has some Court forms, including subpoenas, installment payment motion forms and garnishment forms. Additional information for representing yourself, including forms, is on the following websites: www.laet.org and www.selegal.org.