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§1.01 Small Claims Court


Small claims court is intended to provide an accessible forum to resolve minor civil disputes expeditiously, inexpensively, and fairly. [CCP §116.120(b).] There are no juries; ordinarily no attorneys at trial; and no formal pleadings, rules of evidence, or findings in small claims actions. You may limit the presentation of evidence and complete the proceedings in a short time, bearing in mind that the parties have a right to their day in court. Your awards, although made in accordance with substantive law, should be based on the application of common sense. [Sanderson v Niemann (1941) 17 C2d 563, 573.]

Your role as judge in a small claims court is unique. Except in de novo appeals, ordinarily there are no attorneys. You must deal directly with the parties and take an active role in determining the facts that are in dispute by questioning the witnesses. You may consult witnesses informally and otherwise investigate the controversy. [CCP §116.520(c).] You must protect the rights of the parties by raising technical issues such as the statute of limitation or special consumer defenses when they may apply but are not apparent to the parties.

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Reference REFERENCE >> For more discussion about small claims court generally, see California Judges Benchbook: Small Claims Court and Consumer Law (CJER 2012 ed). For an online course on small claims procedures, including your role as small claims judge, see the course Small Claims Court: Procedures and Practices.

Lesson 1:
Small Claims
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