There is, in the world, what some people call the “iron law of cause and effect.” What this means is that, for every action, something happens as a result. No matter why it happened, if it does happen, there are consequences. In reality, all of life is like this. There are no free lunches, ever.
We pretend the iron law of cause and effect does not apply to us all the time. If we’re late, we apologize, and that’s usually enough to get past the other person’s anger or hurt feelings. If we apologize sincerely enough or give enough good reasons for something we did, it seems like we get away with it. But it isn’t called the “iron law” for nothing. Even if the other person excuses us, he or she thinks we are less dependable. And if the other person doesn’t, we think of it ourselves.
Sincerity means not intending to do harm. Integrity means not doing it.
Substantive Law of Debt
If a debt collector can prove (or if you don’t make them prove) that you borrowed money and didn’t pay it back, it will be entitled to a judgment against you. Simple as that. There are events that can destroy the debt – showing payment, that it was based on fraud, or settlement to name a few. But if the debt isn’t destroyed, no amount of sincerity (desire to pay or legitimate inability to pay) will get you off the hook.
It’s surprising how often people get mad at debt collectors for trying to collect debts they (the people involved) can’t afford to pay. Just because the debt collector has a ton of money and you’re poor, that doesn’t mean they won’t get a judgment against you. Don’t think that way.
Instead, fight and make them prove their case if they can. Require them to prove the debt and their right to it. Luckily, they aren’t so good at that.
Excuses in Litigation
We’ve been talking about the substantive law of debt, which is almost absolute. It’s a little murkier in litigation, where excuses CAN make a difference – sometimes. If you make a mistake in doing something, this can sometimes be excused (and if you make a mistake, you should certainly try to get it excused). The sincerity of your excuse will matter then, so make it good and say it with feeling. And you might get away with it.
But even if you do get away with it, every mistake has consequences. As a pro se defendant, you work mighty hard to get the judge to take you and your words seriously. You want the judge to apply the law fairly and consistently – that’s really all you need in most debt cases to win. Any time you ask the judge for something special or make some kind of excuse, you will hurt your chances of that. And all too often, the court will not give you the break it probably should. Always work your hardest and do your very best to understand the law and rules of your court. As much as possible, you NEVER want to ask the judge for anything she isn’t supposed to do.
And to get your best, you must give your best. Never make excuses for yourself, and never accept them from yourself. It’s impossible to be perfect, but try not to make any mistakes you don’t have to make. And that is not a “platitude” or boring old saying – it’s encouragement to you to work your @ss off. The only way to avoid making mistakes is by figuring out things ahead of time and always going the extra mile. You can get away with less in some parts of your life, but you often cannot in litigation.