Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in the District Court - Preparing for the Hearing

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To prepare for the hearing, collect all papers, photographs, receipts, estimates, cancelled checks, advertisements, or other documents that concern the case. Include receipts for costs related to filing your case (mailing, sheriff's service fees).

Write down ahead of time the facts of the case in the order that they occurred. This will help organize the facts to make a clear presentation to the judge.

Witnesses should be asked to attend the hearing. If the witness can't come to the hearing, the testimony of the witness can be presented in writing. It should be in the form of a sworn statement known as an affidavit. However, written testimony is usually not as persuasive as testimony in person, and the judge may exclude the written testimony.

A witness who is not willing to give testimony voluntarily can be "subpoenaed", that is, be required to come to court. The clerk's office has subpoena forms. The party who subpoenas the witness must pay the witness fee, which is determined by statute. ( As of this printing, the witness fee is $10 plus 22 cents per mile for the witness to travel to and from court.)

All small claims sessions are open to the public, so you may want to attend a session before your own hearing date. This will familiarize you with the courtroom and the procedure. The clerk of court can tell you when small claims cases are scheduled.

Recording the Hearing - Plan Ahead

Both you and the defendant have a right to have the hearing electronically recorded. If you think you may want to appeal the judge's decision in the event that it is not in your favor, you will need a record of the hearing. Notify the clerk of court in advance of the hearing date if you want the hearing recorded. Requests to record the proceeding can be made at any time up to the start of the hearing, but it is best to notify the clerk in advance (preferably at least 24 hours in advance) to provide time to make arrangements.

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