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Small Claims

What to Expect in Court

  • Come to court organized and prepared.
  • Arrive promptly at your assigned court time; if you arrive late, your case may be heard without you.
  • Bring enough photocopies of all your evidence for each party and the judge.
  • Any copies submitted to the judge the day of trial may not be returned to you.
  • Bring all your witnesses.
  • If both parties are present, meaning both the plaintiff and the defendant, you may be asked to go into the hallway to exchange and review any documents that will be submitted to the judge as evidence. This must be done prior to the case being heard.
  • Have all your documents ready and in chronological order when your case is called.
  • There will be several other cases assigned to the same time as yours so you may have to wait to have your case heard.
  • You may be asked to sign a stipulation allowing a pro-tem judge (temporary judge) to hear your case. If you do not wish to have a temporary judge hear your case, your case may be continued to a date when there is a commissioner or judge of the Superior Court to hear your case.
  • You may decline a temporary judge when you file your claim and avoid a continuance to another date.
  • When your case is called, you will be asked to present your evidence and give your testimony. Always address the judge and not the other party.
  • Usually, the plaintiff will give his/her testimony first and then the defendant.
  • The judge will probably ask questions to further his/her understanding of the case.
  • If you are the only party to appear at the trial and you are the plaintiff, you still must prove your case. Do not expect to "automatically" win your case if the other party does not appear.
  • The proceedings will not be recorded by a court reporter or by any other type of recording.
  • If you are not fluent in the English language, you must bring an interpreter with you. Small Claims courts do not provide interpreters.
  • The judge will usually not tell you the decision in court. The decision (judgment) will be mailed to you.

If you choose Small Claims court to resolve a dispute and you are the plaintiff, you give up the right to have another court review the Small Claims judge’s decision. In other words, the plaintiff has no right of appeal. So if you should lose, that’s probably the end of the case.

However, the person or entity you sue (defendant) may appeal the judge’s ruling. When such an appeal is filed, the entire case will be heard again.

If you are the plaintiff and a Claim of Defendant is filed (the defendant sues you on the same case) and you have a judgment against you, you may file an appeal on that decision.

 

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