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Attorney must pay credit card company

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An Illinois attorney has lost his appeal in his fight against a credit card company seeking to collect money owed on a Discover card.

Max Bonecutter, who is a member of the Illinois bar, but not Indiana’s bar, challenged a small claims judgment entered of $4,569.17 and court costs in favor of Discover Bank in LaPorte Superior Court. Bonecutter had fought the claim and moved to dismiss it. He did not respond to multiple requests for discovery from Discover for more than a year. The case eventually went to trial after denying motions for summary judgment by both parties, and the trial court granted judgment in favor of Discover and against Bonecutter.

In Max H. Bonecutter v. Discover Bank, No. 46A04-1009-SC-598, Bonecutter made three arguments to the Indiana Court of Appeals – that the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss under Indiana Trial Rule 41(E) for failure to prosecute; the evidence was insufficient to show the formation or breach of an agreement; and his due process rights were violated.

Bonecutter claimed that Discover’s attorney didn’t take any action in the case for more than a year, so the matter should have been dismissed. But there’s no history of an egregious pattern of deliberate delay on the part of Discover, and Bonecutter didn’t ask for the trial court’s assistance in resolving the matter before filing his motion to dismiss.

“Further, dismissal under the circumstances would run counter to Indiana’s oft-stated policy of having cases decided on their merits whenever possible. The record does not show that the requirements for dismissal for failure to prosecute as set forth in Rule 41(E) were satisfied,” wrote Judge Elaine Brown.

Bonecutter argued that he couldn’t determine if it was his signature on the application document because Discover provided only a copy of it, and that even if a contract existed, the company didn’t prove he breached an obligation under the contract. But Discover provided sufficient evidence for the small claims court to find that an agreement existed between Bonecutter and Discover pursuant to which Bonecutter was required to make certain payments to Discover under the terms of the cardmember agreement, and he didn’t make those payments, wrote the judge.

Finally, the appellate court found that Bonecutter’s due process rights weren’t violated. He argued that they were because he didn’t receive proper notice or a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal. He claimed that the court assisted Discover’s attorney “to conduct a kangaroo court” where the attorney tried to wring admissions from Bonecutter and treated the attorney as a court employee and allowed him to engage in ex parte communications.

The record reflects that the trial court provided Bonecutter with numerous opportunities to produce discovery and present defenses before the court. He didn’t show how he was prejudiced by any procedural error with respect to the initial notice of claim or any other alleged due process error, the court found.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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