||What Do I Do When I Get to Court?|
It is very important that you be on time for your court hearing. When the Clerk calls your case, both
you and the Defendant should go up front to the Judge's bench. Small Claims Court is usually an informal
proceeding, but remember to treat the Judge at all times with respect. He or she should be addressed as
Both parties and their witnesses will be placed under oath. You, as Plaintiff, will be able to present
your case first. You should clearly state to the Judge exactly what happened and why the Defendant owes
you money. Your witnesses should then each be questioned, and all of the physical evidence (such as
receipts and photographs) should be given to the Judge. After you have finished questioning each witness,
the Defendant has the opportunity to also ask questions of them.
When you have finished presenting all of your proof to the Judge, it is the Defendant's turn. He/she may
also testify, ask questions of witnesses, and present physical evidence to the Judge. You then also have
the right to question each of the Defendant's witnesses. You and the Defendant can also question each
other. The Judge may also ask questions.
When the other party is telling his side of the story, it is extremely important that you do not interrupt
or argue with him/her. Listen carefully to what they are saying so that you can later tell the Judge why
you disagree. The purpose of the trial is for you, the Judge, and the other party to resolve your
dispute in a fair way, and if you reasonably and calmly present your evidence, the Judge will be able to
come to a fair decision. Although you should be assertive in stating your case,
NEVER get into an
argument with the Judge if he or she disagrees with your position.
The Judge may make a decision immediately or may do so at a later time. The written document that states
his decisions is called a Judgment. If he decides in your favor, the Judgment may be for the full
amount asked for or may be for some lesser amount if the Judge thinks you asked is too much. The
judgment will usually state the terms on which the Defendant is to pay. If you also asked for court
costs, the Judgment may state that the Defendant is also to pay these.
If the Judge decides in favor of the Defendant, your case will be dismissed. If this happens, you may
have to pay the court costs of the Defendant.