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Small Claims

Small Claims Court

Small claims is a court within the Superior Court where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively. Attorneys are not permitted to represent either party in the dispute (except on appeal). Small claims cases are for damages of $10,000 or less. Small claims is affordable and fast, with simple and informal rules.

For more information about small claims, visit these websites:

Small Claims Self Help Information
Small Claims Legal Advisor
For hours and location:Civil Self Help Center

Pursuant to Sections 116.260 & 116.940 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, Sonoma County provides a free legal advisor service to help you understand the process and procedures of the Small Claims Court and to give you some direction in the preparation and presentation of your case.

The following may help you better understand the functions and limitations of the Advisor Service:

  1. The Advisor can only assist you in matters which could involve Small Claims Court and related areas.
  2. The Advisor will offer you information, opinions and advice based upon education, experience, & the facts presented.
  3. The Advisor may provide information regarding referrals to other agencies.
  4. The Advisor may suggest a lawyer referral service when issues are complex or more detailed attention is desired.
  5. The Advisor may refer you to the Law Library or other source to research your own inquiries further.
  6. The Advisor cannot represent anyone and is not an advocate.
  7. The Advisor does not prepare documents.
  8. Communications with the Advisor are confidential.
  9. Advisors have the immunity conferred by Section 818.9 of the Government Code with respect to the advice given.
  10. Please remember, often there is no clear-cut, exact answer

Some things to consider before filing or defending a suit:

  1. Have I tried to negotiate and possibly settle the dispute?
  2. Have I made a demand for payment or performance?
  3. Is the suit brought within the proper time limits?
  4. Do I have a case, do I have a defense?
  5. Who do I sue, where do I sue?
  6. Can I get the defendant(s) served properly before trial?
  7. Can I collect if I win?
  8. Is the legal theory on which my case or defense is based sound?
  9. Certain rights are waived in Small Claims Court such as plaintiffs right to appeal, pre-trial discovery, etc. Also, other procedural & evidentiary rules do not apply or are applied differently in Small Claims Court.
  10. Small Claims Judges, although they may, are under no obligation to explain their decisions.

Some tips for Court:

  1. Be prepared.
  2. Learn a little law.
  3. Get your story straight.
  4. Present proof, not just a good story.
  5. Don't make the Judge guess.
  6. Be brief, stick to the point, only offer relevant testimony and evidence.
  7. Don't argue with the other party, direct your comments to the Judge.

Voluntary E-Service

The Sonoma County Superior Court, working in conjunction with the Bench Bar Section of the Sonoma County Bar Association, now offers voluntary e-service.

Implementing e-service in your Sonoma County cases is simple.
The Court has pre-approved the Stipulation and Order (CV-42 - in Word format, download the form before you open it) to submit for case(s) in which you want to use e-service.

E-service cuts the time and expenses associated with pleadings and discovery, including postage, courier fees, printing costs, and stuffing envelopes by using a secure, password-protected Web site to disseminate documents.

All it requires is a computer and an internet connection. There's no special software. No fees for training or support. You pay a single transaction fee to serve all of the parties in your case. And you can automatically receive an email notification when you receive new incoming service of documents filed by other counsel in your case.

The advantages to e-service are:

  • Increased Efficiency: Send multiple documents to multiple parties.
  • Speed of Delivery: Eliminate postal delays.
  • Verifiable Proof of Delivery: Never worry that things got lost in the mail or were blocked by firewalls or spam filters.
  • Reduced Costs: On photocopying, messengers and postage charges.
  • Searchable On line Repository: Instant, 24/7 access to all e-served case documents.
  • Save Storage Space and Trees: Reduce the amount of paper kept on file.

Courtesy copy provided immediately to the court: Each of the Civil Court Judges will have access to pleadings over the internet. No more worries about them not receiving the Reply Brief sufficiently in advance of the hearing.

You receive instant confirmation that your documents have been delivered so you have a record of the parties served and the date and the time delivered. Never again worry about important documents being lost, altered or corrupted. With e-service you gain speed, efficiency and an immediate cost-savings over old-fashioned paper-based systems.

Additional information about Voluntary e-Service and the service providers currently available in Sonoma County is available on the Website of the Sonoma County Bar Association:

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