Does a Judge or Jury hear my case in Boone County Small Claims Court?
In Illinois, a small claims court case can be heard in front of a judge or a jury. You are encouraged to consult with an attorney prior to requesting a jury trial. A jury trial (which can be in front of six or twelve jurors) is highly complex and requires significantly more preparation than a trial in front of a judge. Also, if you are the party making the request for a jury trial, you will incur additional costs associated with the jury trial.
Locations for Small Claims Court in Boone County
In Boone County, Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Boone County Courthouse 601 North Main Street Belvidere, IL 61008
The court’s website is here. The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:601 North Main, #303 Belvidere, Illinois 61008-2644
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 815-544-0371
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 815-547-9213
How do I file a case in small claims court?
The plaintiff needs to file a document called a complaint with the court clerk. A small claims complaint can be obtained at the court clerk’s office. The party filing the complaint to begin the court case is called the plaintiff. The party that the plaintiff is trying to recover money from is called the defendant.
Who can Bring a Case in Boone County Small Claims Court?
Small claims court can be used by any resident of Illinois or Illinois corporation (both as a plaintiff or a defendant). If an individual is under the age of majority (18), the court may appoint a guardian. The court does require that any corporation acting as a plaintiff in small claims court be represented by an attorney. However, if a corporation is acting as a defendant, it is allowed to be represented by certain members of the corporation.
Beginning a Boone County Small Claims Court Case
Before a party files a case in small claims court, it is recommended to contact the party directly by sending a demand letter. A demand letter is a written summary describing the circumstances of the plaintiff’s claim and explains why the plaintiff should be awarded the money. The demand letter is recommended because resolving a case through small claims court (even though quicker and simpler than a regular civil case) still takes time. Additionally, collection of funds after winning a judgment is not a guarantee. Drafting and sending a demand letter allows for both parties to explore the possibility of a settlement even before a case is filed. Drafting a demand letter also allows the plaintiff to explain the case in a brief manner (which has to be done when the complaint is filed in the court).
Types of Small Claims Court Cases
In Illinois, only certain types of cases are handled in small claims court:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury cases
- repossessions of personal property that was leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment case against a debtor
The most amount of money that a court can award in small claims court is $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
Small Claims Court in Boone County
Small claims court in Boone County is a unique type of court where a plaintiff can file a case in an amount of $10,000 or less. Small claims court in Boone County uses simpler rules and procedures than regular civil court which allows cases to be tried or resolved quicker and by people who are not attorneys.
Can I file a case in Boone County?
The law in Illinois mandates that a case be filed in the county where (1.) one of the defendants live or (2.) the county where the incident or transaction involved in the case occurred. For example, if your case involves a car accident and the car accident occurs in Boone County, you can file the case here.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
A party preparing for a small claims court trial should prepare the case to make a clear, understandable presentation to a judge. You should gather and bring anything that can support your side of the case including photographs, contracts, receipts, invoices, or other documents. It is recommended to prepare a short chronology of events or description of all of the facts surrounding your case. Details including dates, times, and values of damages or items purchased will be important for the court to take note of (and should have been included in your initial complaint if you are the plaintiff). If there are any people who observed anything in your case, it is important to invite them to court to provide testimony at the trial. It is important the witness is aware of the location of the court and the date and time of the trial in order to be able to appear in person. If the person refuses to come to court, you may need to take steps to issue a subpoena for them to attend.
Is an Attorney Able to Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
Plaintiffs and Defendants can either represent themselves or use an attorney. However, corporations acting as plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Trial
At a bench trial (or trial in front of a judge), the judge will listen to both the plaintiff and the defendant. The judge will also listen to any testimony from any witnesses and examine any exhibits (documents and photographs) provided by the parties. Plaintiffs present their side of the case first. The defendant puts on its side of the case once the plaintiff has finished. As the judge is deciding the facts of your case, it is required that you speak slowly and clearly so the judge can follow what you are saying. Normally, people will naturally be inclined to be nervous when speaking in public (and in front of a court), so it is recommended you practice discussing your side of the case in front of another person (spouse, relative, neighbor, friend) so you get more comfortable speaking about it.
After your Small Claims Court Case
If the court finds for the plaintiff, the court is able to issue a judgment which awards monetary damages to the plaintiff. The law in Illinois requires that an appeal from the judgment be filed within thirty days of the date the judgment is entered by the court.
How do I serve a party?
After a complaint is filed, the next step is for the plaintiff to affect service of the complaint on the defendant(s). An individual can be served at their address. Service of a corporate entity can be slightly more complex. Illinois allows for service of a corporate entity on the corporation’s office or registered agent. A plaintiff should visit the Illinois Secretary of State website to obtain the addresses for the corporate entity (and registered agents).