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What If I Can’t Be In Court?

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Normally, the people involved in a small claims case are expected to show up in court on the date of their hearing.  However, sometimes this is not practical.  For example:

1. For Military Personnel (California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 116.540 (e)). Opens new window
A plaintiff is not required to personally appear, and may submit declarations to serve as evidence supporting his or her claim or allow another individual to appear and participate on his or her behalf, if

a. The plaintiff is serving on active duty in the United States Armed Forces outside of the State of California,
b. The plaintiff was assigned to his or her duty station after his or her claim arose,
c. The assignment is for more than six months,
d. The representative is serving without payment, and
e. The representative has appeared in small claims cases on behalf of others no more than four times during the calendar year.
For example, your parent or spouse may appear in court for you.


2. For People in Jail (California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 116.540 (f)). Opens new window
A person incarcerated in a county jail, a Department of Corrections facility, or a Youth Authority facility is not required to personally appear, and may submit declarations to serve as evidence supporting his or her claim. Or, the person may authorize another individual to appear and participate on his or her behalf if that individual is serving without payment and has appeared in small claims cases on behalf of others no more than four times during the calendar year.


3. For Non-resident Owner of Real Estate (defendant only) (California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 116.540 (g)). Opens new window
A defendant who is a nonresident owner of real property may defend against a claim relating to that property without personally appearing by:

a. Submitting written declarations to serve as evidence supporting his or her defense,
b. Allowing another individual to appear and participate on his or her behalf if that individual is serving without payment and has appeared in small claims cases on behalf of others no more than four times during the calendar year.


If you could attend a court hearing but the date scheduled is one that you can’t make, you may ask for the court to change the date. This is called asking for a “continuance.” Opens new window  To learn how to do this, click here.



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