I never thought I would find myself as a plaintiff on Judge Judy. I used to watch the reality court shows occasionally, but I wasn’t a big fan of them. Then, in 2007, I found myself seeking legal remedies and no one was there to help me. That is until I actually got a reply from the producers.
Are You Being Evicted?
It all started when I found myself being evicted from my apartment with a young child. I had just been laid off and her father wasn’t working, either. I was focusing on earning my real estate sales license and starting a new career in addition to adjusting to being a new mom and wife.
As I was driving one day, I saw a sign offering help with an eviction. I had no idea how they would help but decided I would give it a try. After all, we had no place to go and I was so close to getting a new job.
The man on the phone said he would come by the apartment and explain his services. The next day, a man dressed in a suit that was about two sizes too big rang the bell and I let him in. He handed me a business card that read “Charles Taylor, Attorney at Law” with the business name and contact information.
We sat down and he explained how he could help to stall the eviction by filing paperwork with the court, essentially demanding the managers of the complex provide proof that we were, in fact, behind on rent. “This tactic won’t prevent you from being evicted. But, it can stall it until you find a new place,” he said.
Though I felt a little bad for doing it, I agreed to his services. I liked the managers of the complex. They were a nice couple. But, I needed time. And, a modest sum could buy me that time. So, I agreed.
The process went just as planned. We moved to a new city where I started a job at a mortgage company. Within just a few weeks, though, my marriage fell apart. My soon-to-be-ex-husband left to live with another woman and found himself in a downward spiral with meth. There I was. New job in a new industry, a new city, and my daughter was only eight months old.
And, when I say he left, I mean he left completely. There was almost no contact after that, even to see his daughter. He did call once to see if I needed him to watch our daughter, but there was no way in hell I was going to let him be around her while he was doing meth. Crazy SOB.
So, I found the card for Mr. Taylor and noticed he also practiced family law. I called him and reminded him that he had handled our eviction and how pleased I was with his professionalism. I told him a little about the situation with my husband and asked if he could handle my divorce. After all, taking time off my new job to handle this stupid drama was not going to look good to my new employer.
He agreed to take on the case and it would only be a fee of $425 to file all of the paperwork on my behalf. I would still need to attend the court dates, but it would be a huge weight off my shoulders to not teach myself how to do all the paperwork.
The Drama Begins
Soon after, I was able to move into a nice house in the suburbs and get my life back on track. Sales were booming (remember the real estate market before 2008? Yeah.) and life was good for my daughter and me. For the first few months, I couldn’t find her father to have Mr. Taylor serve the papers. Then, I got word he was in Chino prison, which happened to be literally visible from the corner of my street.
I informed Mr. Taylor where he was and instructed him on how to address the paperwork. After weeks went by, I had not received any paperwork and he stopped answering my calls. I was almost going to just give up, but it sat in the back of my mind, irritating me.
I began researching Mr. Taylor to see if there was a boss or someone in charge of the business so I could demand my money back. The deeper I dug into his story (which wasn’t easy with such a common name), the more I found evidence that it was all a sham. He wasn’t an attorney. In California, falsely presenting oneself as an attorney is a criminal offense.
No One Would Help Shut Him Down
I contacted the police. No help. I contacted real attorneys. No help unless I wanted to pay a whole lot of money to track him down and file a lawsuit. I contacted the State Bar. No help. I had thrown away the key piece of evidence: the business card. I was able to track down a person who had one, but they refused to let me have the original and the copy they made me wasn’t good enough.
I found online court records that showed he had been sued many times before, both personally and under the business name. I tracked down one of his victims and asked what had happened. She explained she sued him, but he never showed up, and she never got her money back plus she was out the money for the lawsuit. It really bothered me that I had been scammed and he was out there doing this to lots of other people. I wanted to stop him.
The worst part of all of this is I was fuming that I was still married. No paperwork had ever been served or even filed. Plus, I was having a bit of fun playing detective. This fueled me even more.
One day, I was at the park near my home with my daughter and a local newspaper reporter came up to ask me how I felt about the recent riot at the prison. She wanted to know if I was worried about the violence and if I felt safe. I gave her comment for that story, then asked if she would report on my story of Mr. Taylor. She gave me her card and said if I could get a judgment, she could report. Otherwise, the paper could be liable for damages if it turned out my suspicions were false.
Since no one would help, I decided to try court TV shows. I applied to several with no immediate responses. I was close to just giving it up when I received a reply from a producer at Judge Judy. She was intrigued by my story but was concerned that because he also committed a crime, she wasn’t sure if the show could hear the case. She said she would consult with the lawyers to determine exactly how to approach it.
Lights, Camera, Action
The producer called me and told me that they would only be able to help with the civil part of the case, they had found Mr. Taylor and he agreed to be on the show. Of course, he was going to be paid (probably more than I was) for appearing, so I am sure that fueled his agreement to appear. I contacted the lady I had spoken with previously who had sued him and asked her to appear with me.
It was a hot day in SoCal (when is it not, right?) and we headed out to the salon the producer had made an appointment with to get my hair done. After that, we headed over to the studio. I was a nervous wreck. I hated cameras. Especially those I knew would be broadcasting my performance to millions of people. After my makeup was finished, we were lead to a room to wait.
The producer came in and went over all the legal mumbo-jumbo. She gave me tips on how to not be nervous, how to properly enter the courtroom stage, spice up my testimony with a little arguing but to be respectful, and to not be concerned if Judy was cranky and rushed because I was scheduled to go on just before lunch.
When the time came, we were lead into the courtroom. I tried to remember what she told me, but as soon as the doors opened and the people who sit in the background turned around to look at me, I forgot everything she had said. I felt like a nervous, clumsy fool.
I stood behind the plaintiff podium and stared at the lights and cameras. My heart was racing. From there, it was kind of a surreal blur, to be honest. It felt like it went so fast but so slow at the same time.
Judy came in and sat down. I started to explain my story. I handed the bailiff the sign I had removed from the telephone pole to show how I met Mr. Taylor. I handed her all of the paperwork I had accumulated that included the contract and the copy of the business card.
She was very short with me, then turned her attention to Mr. Taylor in his two-sizes-too-big suit. He tried to play it cool, denying that he ever represented himself as an attorney or that the contract ever stated I was entitled to attorney services or even a refund.
I do remember Judy telling him “Right, I mean if she can’t read, that’s her problem,” or something like that. At that moment, I thought I was going to lose and be made a fool of on national TV. She asked him to tell his version of events as to why services were never rendered. He lied. And, it was his lie that sealed his fate.
“I informed Mrs. Forsythe that because her husband was in prison, I would not be able to serve him with the paperwork, and she would have to do it herself,” he said. As soon as those words came out of his mouth, Judy perked up and yelled “That is giving legal advice without a license! Judgment for the plaintiff!” She banged the gavel and got up to leave.
I was in shock. All of this took place in a matter of like 5 minutes, but I was stunned and unsure of what to do next. I heard some instructions to walk back out, so I walked back toward the courtroom doors and right into a camera in my face. I was smiling like a fool, and honestly can’t even remember what I said in the post-judgment interview.
Once I returned home, I contacted the reporter from the newspaper. I had the judgment and I wanted to warn people about Mr. Taylor and his deceptive practices. She agreed to publish the story.
A few weeks later, she contacted me to let me know that a few people had contacted her to tell her they were victims as well and wanted to get in contact with me. I spoke with a few of them and they wanted to know if I was going to pursue him for the criminal charges. I told them that I had done enough to get him noticed and that if they wanted to pursue him further, I would help, but I was throwing in the towel on being the leader.
I never found out what happened with him on the criminal charges. But, I do know the business was shut down right after that. From that point, I focused on moving on, feeling proud that I may have saved someone from a scammer. And, happy I had discovered a new talent: Private Investigator.
The Moral of the Story
Even when it feels like all is lost and no one will be there to help you, look at the end result. Even if I had not faced my fear of cameras, I was able to discover something about myself. Mostly, I can be quite tenacious in seeking justice when I feel I have been wronged. Especially if I know that the one who did me wrong is still doing the same thing to others.
Some would ask why I didn’t just let it go and find a real attorney. The answer to that is I knew he was out there scamming other people out of money, people who were likely low on money, to begin with. He was a predator. And, though people tried to capture the predator before, they had limited means to do so. He needed to be exposed for the fraud he was.
Additionally, the skills I discovered led me to explore new career paths in the coming years. Had I not pursued this case, I may have never known what I am capable of. So, if something ignites a passion inside of you, follow it!