Debt collectors flex muscle in people’s court, system not much help to people who owe

On Wednesday mornings at the Lee County Courthouse, a judge presides over a weekly cattle call of about 100 people, defendants in lawsuits worth $5,000 or less.

It is small claims court, known to most as the place to settle petty grievances of neighbor versus neighbor, roommate versus roommate, merchant versus buyer. For years, many such disputes have been culled from court dockets to provide material for Judge Wapner, Judge Joe, Judge Wapner, Judge Judy and an assortment of other daytime courtroom television shows.