This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
What will it cost to collect the debt? That question naturally arises, and is, very properly, one that should be considered. Of course it is impossible to determine, definitely, what the costs will be. If a lawyer be employed for an ordinary justice suit, occupying the time but an hour or so, his fee will be five dollars. Should the claim be of considerable amount, and the time of the attorney be employed a day or two, the lawyer's charge will be from ten to twenty dollars. Should the plaintiff come off victorious, and obtain judgment against the debtor, the other costs will be mainly borne by the debtor. Should it be shown that the plaintiff has no just claim, the justice, or jury, if there be a jury, will decide that there was no cause of action, and will assess the costs of suit to the plaintiff.
The costs of an ordinary justice suit in most States, will average about as follows:
Docketing the suit, 25 cents; issuing summons, 25 cents; constable for serving summons, 35 cents; each mile traveled in serving summons by constable, 5 cents; justice fee for entering up judgment, 25 cents; for discharge of docket, 25 cents; fee of justice for hearing statement of each party and giving decision, $2.
The above are the inevitable costs which will be incurred if the plaintiff and defendant have a trial without witnesses, lawyers or jury, and then settle according to the decision of the justice.
If witnesses are called, the expense is 50 cents per day for each witness, to be claimed at time of trial. Fee of justice for issuing each sub-peena for witness, 25 cents; constable for serving each subpaena, 25 cents; for mileage each way in serving a subpoena, 5 cents; for administering oath to each witness, 5 cents.
Should the suit be tried by a jury, each juryman is entitled, before a justice, to 50cents for hearing the case, should the jury agree; for entering verdict of the jury, 15 cents; fee of constable for waiting on jury, 50 cents; for entering satisfaction of judgment, 10 cents.
Should judgment be obtained against the debtor, and he refuse to settle, the justice will issue an execution to levy upon and sell a sufficient quantity of debtor's goods to pay the debt and all costs. Fee for execution, 50 cents; fee of constable for serving and returning execution, 50 cents; for advertising property for sale, 50 cents; commissions on sales, not exceeding ten dollars, 10 per cent.; for all in excess of that amount, 5 per cent.; except, when through settlement or other cause the property is not sold, in that case the commissions will be one half the above amount.
The defendant, thinking that equity may not be had before a certain justice, may have the case tried before the nearest justice; this procedure is termed a "Change of Venue." Fee of justice for transcript in change of venue, 50 cents.
Should either party desire to appeal to a higher court, the expenses of appeal before the justice will be: For bond, 35 cents; for entering appeal, 25 cents; for transcript of judgment and proceedings in case of appeal, 50 cents.
In the higher court the cost of trial will usually average from twenty to fifty dollars.
When the amount to be collected exceeds the jurisdiction of the justice, the plaintiff will apply to the clerk of such higher court as has jurisdiction in the case. This is the circuit court, district court, court of common pleas, or other court of similar character. The clerk of this court, upon application, will issue a summons, which is placed in the hands of a sheriff or his deputy, is served upon the debtor as before, and the case is tried usually before a jury of twelve persons at the next term of that court.
The proceedings in this court are usually so intricate as to make it advisable for the person unaccustomed to legal technicalities to employ an attorney to conduct the case, as is also generally most convenient even in the lower courts.
We have given thus, in outline, the principal methods resorted to in the different States for the collection of debt The forms here shown, while not conforming fully to the exact methods pursued in different States, are yet sufficiently accurate to enable the reader to possess a general understanding of the methods of procedure.
The special law of the State where the creditor may reside, as it relates to the collection of debt, can be learned by application to the justice of the peace in that State, who, upon the plaintiff stating the circumstances, will usually give the necessary information with which legal proceedings may be commenced.