I've long been frustrated with companies that abuse the legal system and never suffer any consequences for it *cough*RIAA*cough*MPAA*cough*. But today comes the story of a New York City judge in Brooklyn, Noach Dear, who decided to do something about it. Backstory: a Mr. Hoyte was harassed by a collections agency that had the wrong Mr. Hoyte and instead of believing him that he wasn't that Mr. Hoyte or asking for any written proof that he wasn't that Mr. Hoyte, they simply sued him anyways:
In front of the judge, the lawyer, T. Andy Wang, announced that the parties had reached a stipulation dismissing this Mr. Hoyte from the suit.
Not so fast, said the judge, Noach Dear.
"Why didn't you check these things out before you take out a summons and a complaint?" Judge Dear asked. "Why don't you check out who you're going after?"
Mr. Wang said that Pressler & Pressler used an online database called AnyWho to hunt for debtors.
"So you just shoot in the dark against names; if there's 16 Mark Hoytes, you go after without exactly knowing who, what, when and where?" Judge Dear asked.
Mr. Wang replied, "That's why the plaintiff is making an application to discontinue."
The judge turned to Mr. Hoyte, who works as a building superintendent, and asked him how much a day of lost pay would cost. Mr. Hoyte said $115.
"Do you think that's fair?" Judge Dear asked Mr. Wang. "That he should lose a day's pay?"
"My personal opinion," Mr. Wang said, "would not be relevant to the application being sought."
The judge said he was prepared to dismiss the case and wanted Mr. Hoyte compensated for lost wages.
"Your honor," Mr. Wang said, "I'm personally not willing to compensate him."
No, the judge said; he meant that the law firm, Pressler & Pressler — one of the biggest in the collection industry — should pay the $115. He would hold a sanctions hearing, a formal process of penalizing the law firm for suing the wrong man.
About time. Companies that abuse the legal system and waste the time of judges and courts should bloody well have to pay for it, one way or another. Judge Dear has taken our legal system one step back towards sanity; as the old Chinese saying goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."