Clinton County Small Claims Court
Should I use arbitration for my small claims court case?
Abitration is a type of dispute resolution that is less-formal than a trial, but more formal than mediation. In arbitration, an arbitrator, who is often an experienced attorney, hears arguments, weighs evidence, and issues a final judgment on the merits of a claim. Arbitration will only be used if both parties agree (because it is binding). Additionally, you will likely be able to have your case decided faster than if you wait to have a judge hear it. Arbitrators use the same law as the small claims court judge. The final judgment issued by the arbitrator cannot be appealed by any party.
Is Clinton County the right place to file my action?
A plaintiff has to bring the action in the village or town in which the defendant resides or a business has an open office.
Can I file a counterclaim against the Plaintiff?
As a defendant, you can file a counterclaim against the plaintiff (in which you assert that plaintiff owes you money). The counterclaim needs to be filed within five days of your notice of the case, or the court may continue the hearing to a later date. The filing fee for a counterclaim is $3.00. Note: you can still file your claim after the five day window, but the judge then has the option of pushing back the hearing date (but no longer than twenty days). As the plaintiff, you have a right to ask for a continuance in this case.
What happens if I don’t show up for the hearing date for my small claims court case in Clinton County?
If you are the plaintiff and fail to show up to court on the date of your case, the court will dismiss the case. If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment based on the evidence that the plaintiff presented. Court rules require that the judge not enter a default judgment until one hour after the time set for the hearing.
Small Claims Court Locations in Clinton County
Every town and village of Clinton County has its own small claims court to handle cases arising in that location. Clinton County Small Claims Cases are handled in 17 locations for the following towns and villages: Altona Town, Ausable Town, Beekmantown Town, Black Brook Town, Champlain Town, Chazy Town, Clinton Town, Dannemora Town, Dannemora Village, Ellenburg Town, Keeseville Village, Mooers Town, Peru Town, Plattsburgh Town, Rouses Point Village, Saranac Town, and Schuyler Falls Town.
Here are the court locations:
Altona Town CourtPO Box 79 Altona, NY 12910
Ausable Town Court111 Ausable Street Keeseville, NY 12944
Beekmantown Town Court571 Spellman Road West Chazy, NY 12992
Black Brook Town CourtNorth Main Street PO Box 715 Au Sable Forks, NY 12912
Champlain Town Court729 Route 9 PO Box 3144 Champlain, NY 12919
Chazy Town CourtP.O. Box 219 Chazy, NY 12921
Clinton Town Court23 Smith Street P.O. Box 165 Churubusco, NY 12923
Dannemora Town CourtCook Street Dannemora, NY 12929
Dannemora Village CourtPO Box 566 Dannemora, NY 12929
Ellenburg Town CourtPO Box 142 Ellenburg, NY 12933
Keeseville Village Court1790 Main Street Keeseville, NY 12944
Mooers Town CourtPO Box 403 Mooers, NY 12958
Peru Town Court3036 Main Street Peru, NY 12972
Plattsburgh Town Court151 Banker Road Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Rouses Point Village CourtPO Box 185 139 Lake Street Rouses Point, NY 12979
Saranac Town CourtPO Box 147 Town Hall Saranac, NY 12981
Schuyler Falls Town CourtPO Box 99 Morrisonville, NY 12962
How much does it cost to file a case?
In Clinton County, the fee to file a Small Claims Court case is $10 (if your claim amount is $1,000 or less) or $15 (if the claim is for more than $1000.00).
Mediation of Small Claims Court Cases in Clinton County
Mediation is an attempt to settle your case without a trial. It is a consifential way to resolve the case. Mediation involved a person acting as a mediator who will try and bring opposing parties to an agreement that all the parties can agree to. In Clinton County, mediation services are provided by:
North Country Conflict Resolution Services
Rural Law Center of New York, Inc.
22 U.S. Oval, Suite 203
Plattsburgh, NY 12903
If a case cannot be settled at mediation, the case remains with the small claims court (and proceeds to trial). There may be a small filing fee for mediations.
Am I eligible to sue in small claims court?
Small clams court is open to any party who is a person 18 years of age or older. If you are younger than 18, your parent or legal guardian is able to sue on your behalf. Usually, corporations, partnerships, or other assignees are unable to sue in Small Claims Court (but they can bring an action in Commercial Claims Court which is located at the same court where your small claims court case would normally be filed). These entities can be sued in this court. When a business, corporation, or other entity is sued, the entity is able to authorize a person (usually an employee, director, or attorney) to appear on its behalf.
Hearing Day Procedures
You should arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the time designated for your hearing. When you arrive, you should look for the small claims court calendar or for a clerk to assist you. Cases are listed on the calendar by the last name of the plaintiff and the last name of the defendant (or full name of the business or other entity). If your case is not listed on the calendar, speak with the court clerk (or judge if there is no clerk present). Some courtrooms have the parties check in as they arrive. In others, the parties only check in when their case is called.
When your case is called, be ready to tell the judge if you are ready for the case to go forward (and the judge to hear your evidence) or if you need to make a request (like a request for a continuance). If both sides are ready, the court will proceed to hear the case.
Are there appeals in small claims court cases?
The window for filing an appeal is thirty days from the judgment (or thirty-five if you received the judgment in the mail). There are fees for filing a notice of appeal as well as additional costs for purchasing a transcript (if a court reporter was present). Consult with an attorney when you are deciding if you should file an appeal. A court will only overturn a judgment if it is “clearly erroneous.” Some parties benefit from consulting with an attorney prior to filing an appeal (to determine if it is even worthwhile).
Small Claims Court Cases in Clinton County
The local town or village court hears small claims court cases in Clinton County. One can sue for $3,000.00 or less in a town or village court in Clinton County. The purpose of small claims court and the motivation behind the relaxed evidentiary rules and procedures is to allow these cases to be resolved informally and without making a party hire an attorney. If your claim exceeds $3,000, you may not split them into two separate claims to bring it under the limit. The only relief available in small claims court cases is monetary. A party cannot sue to ask the court to order a defendant to take action (ie. fulfill the terms of an advertisement). A party can only sue for monetary relief. A plaintiff or claimant can also sue a public entity like a city or other agency. However, you have to file a claim with that agency before filing your small claims court action. The claim must be filed within ninety days of the incident. If you fail to follow this rule, your case will be dismissed.
Jury Trials in Small Claims Court
Only a defendant can make the request for a jury trial. The demand must be made prior to the hearing. (The reason a plaintiff cannot demand a jury trial is because if the plaintiff files the case in small claims court the court deems the plaintiff consenting to have factual issues determined by the judge and not a jury, otherwise the case would be filed in the regular civil part). The defendant must file an affidavit stating the issues of fact the jury is to decide. The judge will then determine if the case should remain in small claims court or be transferred to the regular civil part. If it remains in small claims court, a jury will be used, but it will consist of only six members.
Are continuances allowed in small claims court?
In small claims court cases, a continuance can also be called an adjournment. These are discouraged as the purpose of small claims court is a quick, efficient way of resolving disputes. The only person with the power to move the hearing date is the court (even if both parties agree). You can ask for an adjournment by sending a letter to the court before your hearing date. You should also send a copy of the letter to the other party. A party may also request a continuance on the actual hearing date, but a judge may be inclined to deny this request (and you should be prepared to go forward if the judge does not grant one).
How do I begin a Small Claims Court case?
You must file your case in the correct location (where the defendant lives or if the defendant is a business than where the business has an open office). Visit the court for that town or village, and the court will provide you with the paperwork to begin the action. These forms will ask for a statement of the case. The statement should be brief and include a description of the incident that is the basis of your claim. You should include all important names and dates. You may be entitled to interest if the basis for your case is property damage or based on a contract. Most courts have a clerk who can assist you to ensure you follow the procedures (and answer questions). In the few courts that do not have clerks, the judge can assist you.
The clerk will provide the time and date for the small claims court hearing. The clerk will “serve” the notice of claim by mailing it to the defendant (this is what part of your filing fee funds). This notice informs a defendant the time and location of the hearing and states the reason for the claim being made by plaintiff. The clerk sends the notice via certified and first-class mail. After twenty-one days, the defendant is served unless the first-class mail was returned as undeliverable. If the defendant cannot be served by mail, the clerk can provide you with instructions on how to serve the defendant personally (the clerk will give you a new hearing date and time). Due Process (a fancy way of saying fairness) requires that the defendant be served prior to a hearing on your case. The court will dismiss the case if the defendant cannot be served within four months. However, if you learn new information of the defendant’s location, you can refile in that court (or the new court where the defendant is now located).
How do I find the correct name of the defendant?
If the defendant is a person, your job is pretty easy. Use the first and last name of the defendant (do not use their nickname). The court will also ask for the address of the defendant (to send the notice of the small claims court case and hearing). For businesses, it can be a little more tricky. The staff at the Clinton County Clerk’s Office can help provide you with the proper business name (we recommend contacting them before you go to court so you do not worry about it once you are there).
Small Claims Court Lingo
A party is one a person, business entity, or public entity that is named as a plaintiff or defendant in a case. A plaintiff (sometimes called claimant) is the person who initiates or begins the lawsuit. The defendant is the party who is being sued. In certain cases, a third party (ie. not the plaintiff or defendant) is brought into a case (usually by a defendant who feels the third party is partly responsible for the damage to plaintiff). A defendant who is interested in filing a third party action should contact the clerk of the local court for the property procedures and filing fees.
Can I hire an attorney?
You do not have to hire an attorney to represent you in small claims court (even if you are a business). In fact, the rules and procedures are designed to be informal so that you should not have to retain an attorney. That said, you may choose to hire an attorney to represent you. Sometimes, when a plaintiff and a defendant have both retained attorneys, the court can transfer the case from small claims to the regular civil part.