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Below are step-by-step, easy to follow instructions on the procedures, from the initial filing of a small claim through the appeal process if a party is dissatisfied with the judicial officer's ruling in the case. Due to the length of time it takes to initiate a new lawsuit, documents received in the clerk’s office after 3:30 p.m. will be time stamped with the current date and processed the following court business day. The date of filing will be the time stamped date.

Be sure to name the defendant correctly, as you will only be able to collect from the party whose name is exactly the same as the name that appears on your claim.

  • If you are suing an individual, enter the first name, middle initial and last name on your claim.
  • If you are suing a husband and wife, enter the husband's full name and the wife's full name. For example, enter James A. Jones and Sally R. Jones on your claim. Do not list parties as Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Each individual must be listed on a separate Defendant line.
  • If you are suing as a result of a vehicle accident, name both the registered owner and the driver. If the owner and driver are the same person enter, Sam Jones, owner and driver on your claim. If the owner and driver are not the same enter, Lucy Smith, owner and Betty Smith, driver on your claim. Each individual must be listed on a separate Defendant line.
  • If you are suing a company owned by one person, enter both the owner's and the company's name. You should also name the owner as an individual to increase your chances of collecting the judgment. Enter the letters "dba" which stands for "doing business as" between the name of the owner and the company name if the owner is doing business under a fictitious business name. For example, enter Sue Smith, individually & dba Continental Candies on your claim.
  • If you are suing a partnership, name both the partnership and the partners as individuals. For example, enter Jim Smith, individually and John Jones individually, and dba Smith & Jones on your claim. If you win your case, you will then be able to collect from either the partnership or the individual partners or both. Each individual must be listed on a separate Defendant line.
  • If you are suing a corporation, enter the exact name of the corporation. For example, Sally's Dresses, a corporation or Sally's Dresses, Inc. If a corporation owns a division or subsidiary you should designate the corporation as 'doing business as' the subsidiary. For example, Lotus Corporation, dba The Flower Company. When suing a corporation, you must list a corporate officer or agent for service underneath the corporation in parenthesis.

If you do not know the exact legal name of a business or corporation, check with the Marin County Clerk's Office, a state or local licensing agency, or the Office of the Secretary of State, California Business Portal.

Parties may amend or dismiss a claim that has already been filed in Small Claims Court

Amending a Claim

To amend a claim prior to serving it on the defendant(s), go to the Small Claims Clerk and file an amended claim. Be sure to bring your original claim forms with you. If any of the defendants have been served on the original claim, you will need to ask the Court for permission to amend your claim at the time of the hearing.

Dismissing a Claim

To dismiss the claim against one or more defendants or all of the defendants, use the dismissal form in the small claims packet or click here to get a copy of the form.

Follow the instructions on the form. Check the appropriate box to dismiss all the defendants or particular defendants which should then be listed in the space provided on the form.

When dismissing the entire action, plaintiffs must notify each defendant of the dismissal.

When dismissing one or more defendants, notify each defendant that is being dismissed. There is no requirement to notify any remaining active defendants of the dismissal.

A continuance is a request to change or postpone a court date

Continuances of court dates must be requested in writing at least ten (10) calendar days prior to the court date. The continuance may be requested by either party. The Court must receive the written request either in person or by mail, along with a continuance fee. Please see the Court's Filing Fee Schedule for the cost of the continuance request by clicking here. Make checks payable to Marin County Superior Court. A copy of the continuance request must be sent to all other parties in the case before being filed with the Court.

Only one continuance will be allowed for failure to file a Proof of Service. To obtain further continuances to serve the defendant(s), plaintiffs must appear in person on the hearing date to make the request before the judicial officer. If plaintiffs fail to appear for the hearing, the case will be dismissed.

It is helpful to bring a witness to the court hearing who knows, first-hand, the facts of the case and can support your point of view. Without a witness, parties will need documents, photos or other records to prove their case.

If a witness will not come to court voluntarily, or will not voluntarily provide the documents or records you need, you may subpoena the witness. A subpoena is a court order which compels a person to come to court. A subpoena duces tecum is a court order which compels a person to bring certain papers or records to court. These documents must be delivered to the Court on or before the date of the trial.

You may obtain a subpoena or a subpoena duces tecum from the Court. There is no fee for the issuance of a subpoena or a subpoena duces tecum. A copy of the subpoena must be delivered to the witness personally. Anyone, including you, may deliver the subpoena. You must return the original subpoena (the one with the seal on it) to the Court at the time of hearing. You must serve the copy of the subpoena on the witness.

A witness may ask for fees of $35 per day and $0.20 per mile each way for coming to court. Witness fees for peace officers are greater. If a witness asks for fees, the witness does not have to appear at the court hearing if the fees are not paid. The person who serves the subpoena should be prepared to pay the fees at the time of service if they are requested. If the witness does not ask for fees, you do not have to offer them.

To subpoena documents or other papers, you will need to know exactly which documents or papers you are seeking. A subpoena duces tecum must be served with a copy of a declaration, completed by you, describing the documents you need. The declaration is part of the subpoena that the clerk will give you.

After the subpoena is served, a completed proof of service form, along with the original subpoena, must be presented to the judicial officer at the time of the hearing. Do not deliver these documents to the Clerk's Office.

An appeal of a small claim judgment is a request to the Court to reverse the decision made in the Small Claims Court by having the case heard again, by a different judicial officer. If the party requesting the appeal is entitled to a new hearing, the case will be transferred to the Small Claims Appeal Clerk to set a hearing date. Please note you may not appeal the judgment on your own claim. In certain circumstances, plaintiffs may request that the Court cancel, correct or vacate a judgment if there is a clerical error or if the case was decided on an erroneous legal basis, but these situations are rare.

An appeal of a small claim judgment must be filed within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of the judicial decision or, if the decision is mailed, within thirty (30) calendar days of the date the clerk mailed the Notice of Entry of Judgment. The date will appear on the notice. The filing fee must be paid to the Court when filing the Notice of Appeal. For the amount of the filing fee, please click here.

The appeal is heard in the Court and is treated as a new case. Parties must present all of the evidence and witnesses again.

Small Claims Appeal General Information.

An insurer of the defendant may appeal a judgment if the judgment exceeds $2,500 and the defendant's policy with the insurer covers the matter to which the judgment applies.

On appeal, the claim is heard for the original amount. For example, if the defendant was sued for $1,000 and the judgment against the defendant was for $500, on an appeal the judge has the right to award the full $1,000 to the plaintiff if the defendant loses.

While the case is being appealed, the defendant does not have to pay the small claim judgment.

If the defendant loses the appeal, the defendant must pay the plaintiff the amount of the judgment plus interest and costs. Examples of costs are any earnings the plaintiff can prove were lost or any money the plaintiff actually paid for transportation and lodging in connection with the appeal. The defendant may also have to pay the plaintiff's attorney's fees up to $150.

If the Court finds that the appeal was intended to harass or delay the plaintiff, or to encourage the plaintiff to abandon the claim, the Court may award the plaintiff attorney's fees of up to $1,000 and any actual lost earnings. The Court may, if it wishes, award the cost of lodging and transportation incurred in connection with the appeal up to $1,000, following a hearing on the matter.

For more information, see the California Small Claims Courts Information Center by clicking here.

How do I get a continuance date for my small claim appeal?

Requests for continuances must be made at least ten (10) calendar days prior to the hearing date. The Court requires both sides to agree to a continuance. This means the party requesting the continuance must call or write the other party and request permission to continue the hearing date. You should first call the Small Claims Appeal Desk (415) 444-7130 to obtain the next available dates so you may discuss them with the other party.

Is there a charge to continue the small claim appeal hearing?

Yes. The requesting party must send the Court a $20.00 processing fee and confirmation letter stating the agreed upon date. A copy of this letter must be mailed to the other party.

What if the other party will not agree to the continuance?

Write a letter to the Small Claims Appeal Desk. In that letter, state the reason for the continuance and that you were unable to get an agreement from the other side. The letter will be routed to the Supervising Civil Judge to determine whether the continuance should be granted. A copy of this letter must be mailed to the other party.

Am I allowed the have an attorney represent me?

Yes, you may retain an attorney. The Court must be informed of the name, address, and phone number of your attorney, should you retain one.

What if the case settles or the appellant wishes to withdraw the appeal prior to the hearing?

Please call the Small Claims Appeals Desk (415) 444-7130 and inform the clerk of the settlement or withdrawal of the appeal. It is the appellant's obligation to file a "Request For Dismissal" form with the Court if the case settles or is withdrawn before trial.

The exhibits in my small claim case were not returned to me and I need them for the small claim appeal. How do I get those back for the hearing?

Exhibits retained by the Court will be made available for the hearing.

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