On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Passaic, Docket No. DC-007300-06 in A-6714-06T3, and from Docket No. DC-017040-06 in A-1084-07T3.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sabatino and Alvarez.
In these two appeals, calendared back-to-back and consolidated for the purpose of this opinion, we consider defendant Syed A. Razvi's pro se challenge to the entry of judgments against him for balances due on credit card accounts in favor of defendants Citibank South Dakota, N.A. (Citibank), and Chase Manhattan Bank (Chase). Citibank was granted judgment after trial; Chase obtained a default judgment. Defendant, who also acted pro se in the trial court, filed one notice of motion for reconsideration of the judgment awarded to Citibank, and three motions for reconsideration of the judgment awarded to Chase. The appeals are actually taken from those unsuccessful reconsideration orders. We affirm.
Citibank's judgment, which totaled $11,239.96, plus costs of suit, was entered on June 15, 2007. Chase's judgment for $3,545.28 issued on May 11, 2007.
On appeal, defendant contends that federal law required plaintiffs to produce original copies of a contract bearing his signature in order to collect unpaid balances. He is also of the belief that federal law required counsel for the plaintiffs to produce original signed agreements in order to be properly authorized to represent them. He also urges that we consider the following as to both Chase and Citibank: "[t]he [a]ppellant request[s] to re-evaluate and re-examine this alleged debt [u]nder the [l]aw [o]f FDCPA USC 15 § 1692g(a), USC 15 § 1643 (2005), USC 15 § 1692k, Federal Evidence Rule 1006, UCC 1006 § 1-205 [and] UCC Rule 1003 Admissibility Act."
At trial, Citibank produced a litigation analyst who testified that defendant opened his credit card account in 1998. Because Citibank retains those records for only seven years, it no longer has a copy of defendant's original credit card application. Citibank also introduced a copy of its current membership agreement of August 2004, however, which states that "if you use the card . . . you agree to the terms and conditions of its use."
Citibank moved into evidence eight years of statements, including charges after August 2004, as well as a number of electronic copies of defendant's cancelled checks in payment of monthly balances. These checks bore not only his name, but his address as well. Although defendant admitted living at that address since 1989, he would not agree that his "exact signature" appeared on the checks. He said he did not remember the credit card account on which he was being sued, would not directly answer questions about the facsimile of his signature on the checks, and further asserted that the proceeding was fraudulent, because Citibank had not authorized its counsel to sue him.
The trial judge found ample proofs had been presented by Citibank establishing the account, that defendant was the credit card user, and as to the amount of the unpaid balance. The judge noted that the signatures on the copies of defendant's checks were similar to his signature on the pleadings filed with the court. The judge further found that defendant's denials were "hedged a good deal," because defendant refused to admit or to deny that the credit card was his own.
Chase mailed its complaint to defendant on March 19, 2007. The attached summons stated that a written answer to the pleadings had to be filed within thirty-five days. Chase filed a motion for summary judgment on April 11, 2007. Defendant did not respond to the complaint nor did he oppose the motion, and accordingly, judgment was entered against him on May 11, 2007, nearly two months later. Defendant, during the course of his reconsideration motions, acknowledged receiving the summary judgment application from Chase on April 14, 2007, but claimed that he did not understand that he was expected to respond.
The same judge who presided over the trial in which Citibank was the plaintiff presided over the Chase matter. The judge found that defendant's prior experience with court proceedings, as well as the explicit language of the documents, added up to defendant being on notice that he needed to file a timely response. The judge said, in fact,
[t]hese [summary judgment] papers are no more complex than the other ones you received. They tell you exactly what to do.
I do not believe that you didn't understand them. I find that you chose not to answer them, because you are an intelligent - - who has responded to pleadings in this case and in ...