One of the great things about being a lawyer is that I’m constantly seeing or doing something new. At a time when I was a very young lawyer with no real experience in criminal court, the president judge at the time appointed me as the first head of the Public Defender Office. Talk about on the job training!
At one time or another I have represented boroughs, the Parking Authority, the Transit Authority, school districts and a host of corporations. Every one of those experiences had its own challenges, but they were all new to me and always interesting. So was being admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last week I had a brand new experience. I attended “Credit Card Court” in Hollidaysburg at the Blair County Courthouse. Its full name is “Credit Card Court and Mortgage Foreclosure Court.” You won’t find one like it in Cambria County or in most other counties in the state. This is an invention of some counties to deal with the large number of mortgage foreclosures and delinquent credit card bills for which the credit card companies have brought suit. I was asked by a bank client to attend. The bank was ordered to appear at 1:30 p.m. in the jury assembly room in the Blair County Courthouse. I was really anxious to see how this “court” was going to work.
As it turned out, there must have been 60 or 70 people in the room. The ones with the suits and ties were obviously the lawyers. The rest were the debtors, mostly husbands and wives. I didn’t know any of the lawyers, but I singled out a young lawyer with a nice smile to explain things to me and about how all this was going to work, which he happily did.
The center part of the room was filled with folding chairs, but there weren’t many people sitting. Along the walls were tables with folding chairs and pieces of different colored paper attached to the walls behind the tables.
I learned that red, the color of the ticket that was given to me at the front door, was for mortgage foreclosure people.
Yellow seemed to be for credit card people.
I have no idea what the other three colors were for.
At the end of the room behind a large desk sat Judge Daniel J. Milliron. I learned that he would eventually make a court order to my “case.” In reality, there was no case. The defendant who was behind on his mortgage showed up, and we sat down at the “red” table and discussed his problem. We worked out a solution, I wrote it up, and the case continued until April. I gave the writing to Milliron, who happily smiled and signed it.
When I first heard about the procedure, I was very leery, but, all in all, I think this was a good way to get creditors and debtors to sit down face to face to solve their joint problems.
Thomas Young, a graduate of Pitt and Harvard Law School, has been a lawyer in Johnstown since 1958. He is a former professor of business law at Pitt-Johnstown. Readers may send questions to Young in care of The Tribune-Democrat. The opinions expressed in this column are general in nature and may not apply to your situation. Consult your attorney for advice on specific legal matters.