What to Expect in Court

en español>

Show Me | Tell Me Opens new window

In California, small claims hearings take place in a courtroom in front of a judgeOpens new window commissioner, Opens new window or temporary judge.Opens new window  There will also be a courtroom clerk and a bailiff. Usually other people waiting for their case to be heard will be present.

Special Note:  The following are general guidelines.  The actual rules may be different in each court, so learn your county's local rules of court on trial procedures.

  • To find your county's court website, click here. Opens new window

When the case is called, the judge will listen to both sides of the story.
Each person may bring evidence to the hearing such as: 

  • Witnesses 
  • Photographs 
  • Invoices 
  • Receipts 
  • Contracts 
  • Objects

Normally in small claims court, the person making the claim – the plaintiff -- will ask the judge to order the other party to pay them a specific amount of money.

The plaintiff may also ask the judge to order: 

  • the other side to do something by a certain date, and if they don’t to pay a specific amount of money; 
  • the other side to stop doing something by a certain date, and if they don’t to pay a specific amount of money; 
  • the other side to complete the contract; 
  • to have the contract undone.

Also, at the end of a hearing, the person who thinks he or she may have to pay the other side may ask the judge to allow them to pay in installments.

There may be more than one court hearing before the case is over.

For example, if an important witness did not show up either side may ask the judge to reschedule the case on another day.

When all of the issues have been decided and the paperwork is completed, the trial is over.

The judge will make a decision and sign it. This is called “the judgment.” The judge may announce the decision at the hearing. However, you may have to wait until the Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form SC-130) is mailed to you to find out what the decision is. The court has up to 90 days to mail this to you (and the other side.)

After the trial hearing is over, it is not the end of the case. See After the Trial Hearing.



Did this information help you?  Tell us what you think.