Last year JPMorgan Chase & Co took New York resident Shady Gergis to court over a few thousand dollars in allegedly unpaid credit card debt.

The facts of the suit were banal, but Chase's case landed in the courtroom of Noach Dear, a Brooklyn, New York civil court judge with a reputation for being tough on collections efforts. Taking no chances, Chase hired pricey white-shoe law firm Alston & Bird to face off against the self-represented Gergis.

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