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Who May Appear in Small Claims Court ?

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“Parties” in a lawsuit are the people or organizations (such as businesses, nonprofit groups or government agencies) who are named in the case – either as a plaintiff or as a defendant.

If the court decides that someone cannot properly present his or her claim or defense and needs help, the court may allow someone else to assist him or her.

(See the California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 116.540(l)) Opens new window

The court has to be asked for its permission to allow someone to appear for another party in small claims court. To ask for permission, the person who will appear needs to get and fill in the Authorization to Appear on Behalf of Party (Small Claims) (Form SC-109). Opens new window  (This is not done by the party who is not going to appear in court.)

The person who will appear should take the original Form SC-109 and 2 copies to the hearing. On that day, a copy of the request should be given to the other side and the original request should be given to judge at the beginning of the hearing.
(See California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 116.540(j)) Opens new window


According to California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP), Section 116.540Opens new window only the parties below may appear in Small Claims court cases.


1. For Individuals (CCP, Section 116.540(a)) Opens new window

    1. Only the people named in the case (the plaintiff and defendant).

2. For Husband and Wife (CCP, Section 116.540(k)) Opens new window
A husband or wife who sues or who is sued with his or her spouse may appear and participate on behalf of his or her spouse if:

(1) the claim is a joint claim,
(2) the represented spouse has given his or her consent, and
(3) the court determines that the interests of justice would be served.

3. For Corporations (CCP, Section 116.540(b)) Opens new window

    1. A regular employee, or
    2. A duly appointed or elected officer or director, who is employed, appointed, or elected for purposes other than solely representing the corporation in small claims court.

4. For Parties Who Are Not Individuals Or Corporations (such as Partnerships) (CCP, Section 116.540(c)) Opens new window

    1. A regular employee, or
    2. A duly appointed or elected officer or director, or in the case of a partnership, a partner, engaged for purposes other than solely representing the party in small claims court.

5. For an Individual “Doing Business As” a Sole Proprietorship (DBA)
(CCP, Section 116.540(d)) Opens new window
The party may appear and participate in a small claims case by a representative and without personally appearing if both of the following conditions are met:

    1. The claim can be proved or disputed by evidence of an account that constitutes a business record as defined in the (California Evidence Code, Section 1271), Opens new window and there is no other issue of fact in the case. And,
    2. The representative is a regular employee of the party for purposes other than solely representing the party in small claims cases and is qualified to testify to the identity and mode of preparation of the business record.

6. For a Landlord (CCP, Section 116.540(h)) Opens new window
A party who is an owner of rental real property may appear and participate in a small claims case through a property agent under contract with the owner to manage the rental of that property, if

    1. The owner has retained the property agent principally to manage the rental of that property and not principally to represent the owner in small claims court, and
    2. The claim relates to the rental property.

7. For an Association (CCP, Section 116.540(i)) Opens new window
A party that is an association created to manage a common interest development, as defined in California’s Civil Code, Section 1271, may appear and participate in a small claims case through an agent, a management company representative, or bookkeeper who appears on behalf of that association.


NOTE 1:  Generally, Attorneys Are Not Allowed in Small Claims Court
(CCP, Section 116.540(m)). Opens new window

An attorney can always represent:

    1. Themselves (CCP, Section 116.540(b)(1), (2) and (3)). Opens new window
    2. A party to enforce a judgment in Small Claims court
      (CCP, Section, 116.540(b)(1)), Opens new window or,
    3. A party in an appeal from Small Claims court. (If the defendant in the case loses, he or she may appeal the decision by asking for a new trial. At the new trial either the plaintiff or the defendant may have an attorney represent them.) (CCP, Section 116.530(3)). Opens new window


NOTE 2:
  Translators/interpreters (California Evidence Code, Section 752) Opens new window
Parties may use interpreters in small claims court. However, translators and interpreters do not represent the party.


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