GOING TO COURT

If the matter is settled prior to your scheduled hearing date, you must file a dismissal form with the court. If the defendant has filed an answer, both you and the defendant must sign the stipulated dismissal form.

The Basics

Your case will be set for hearing within sixty (60) days after the defendant files an answer. About a month before the hearing date, you will receive a notice to appear for hearing in the mail.

Appear for your hearing on time. Cases are set every 30 thirty minutes so your case will begin without you if you are late. You are advised to bring all witnesses and evidence necessary to establish and prove your claim. You will not be able to provide additional information to the court after the hearing.

The hearing officer may render a decision about the case at the hearing or may take the case under advisement. If taken under advisement the judgment will be mailed to each party within ten (10) business days following the hearing. Remember, the decision of the hearing officer is final and cannot be appealed.

Be Prepared

Make a timeline of the facts that support your case.

Know the law that supports your position and how the facts fulfill the requirements of the law.

Have three sets of the documents you wish to introduce to support your case. You will need copies for yourself, the judge and the opposing party. Make sure your documents are in the order you wish to present them. Evidence can be anything you think might support your case. This could include bills, receipts, letters, police reports, contracts, canceled checks, damage estimates or deeds.

If you have any witnesses, make sure in advance that they will be available to appear at the scheduled time. If you have witnesses that will not agree to voluntarily attend, it is possible to have the clerk issue a subpoena ordering them to appear. Subpoenas should be issued two to three weeks in advance of the court date.

Wait Your Turn

The plaintiff will present his or her case first. As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof - meaning you will have to prove that the facts are in your favor.

The defendant will go next and may present evidence and call witnesses.

Be Clear

Before you launch into your story, briefly introduce yourself to the judge and in one or two sentences summarize your case.

Practice what you plan on saying before you appear in court. Make sure you are expressing yourself in a clear and logical manner.

Just state the facts of the case. Present your evidence to the judge. If there are any aggravating factors, describe them.

You do not need to repeat or restate your arguments, try to keep your emotions out of your presentation and stick to the facts of the case. Small Claims Court was designed to eliminate the need for lawyers in small cases. Rather than trying to recite the law, just give the facts of your case, highlighting those that fulfill the requirements of the law.

Be Respectful of the Court

Dress appropriately. You don't need to wear a suit, but dress conservatively and not in distracting clothing. Your attire should reflect respect for the court.

Address the hearing officer as "your honor" and your opponent and witnesses by their last names (i.e. "Mr. Johnson" and "Ms. Flores").