Essex County Small Claims Court
Can I hire an attorney to represent me in small claims court?
You are not required to hire an attorney for a small claims court case. The procedures and rules for small claims court are actually designed to be simple and informal so that a party does not have to hire an attorney and should be able to represent themselves. A party does have a right to retain an attorney if he, she, or it wishes. 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.
Appeals for Small Claims Court Cases
The deadline for appealing a small claims court judgment is 30 days (if you receive the judgment in court or have been personally delivered the judgment) or 35 days after the court or other party mails you the judgment. Appeals require additional fees to be filed. You must also determine if a transcript needs to be ordered. If you are interested in filing an appeal, check with the clerk of your specific court for the procedures and filing fees. A court will only overturn a judgment if it is “clearly erroneous.” This is why we recommend consulting an attorney to determine if an appeal is appropriate.
How do I begin a Small Claims Court case?
You must go to the Small Claims Court to file your case. Visit the court for that town or village, and the court will provide you with the paperwork to begin the action. One section of the form will ask for a statement of the case. This is the term the court uses to ask what your case is about. Your statement of the case should be concise but still include all the important facts. You may be entitled to interest if the basis for your case is property damage or based on a contract. A court will generally have a clerk who is available to assist with questions regarding the forms (and answer other questions). If a court does not have a clerk, generally the judge is available to help you with these questions.
The logistics (date and time) of the hearing will be provided to you by the court (the small claims court may not hear cases every day). The clerk provides the defendant with the statement of the claim and the date and time of the hearing (this is called “service”). The clerk sends the notice via certified and first-class mail. Once 21 days have passed, the defendant is deemed “served” unless the first-class item was returned undeliverable. If the post office cannot deliver notice of the claim and you believe the person still resides in that village or town, the court (clerk) will give you a new hearing date and will instruct you on how to personally serve the defendant. Pursuant to due process, a hearing cannot occur until the defendant has been served. The claim will be dismissed after four months if the defendant has not been served. 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).
What happens if I don’t show up for the hearing date for my small claims court case in Essex 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 you are the defendant, the court may grant a default judgment in your absence. The Court will wait approximately one hour (in case you are simply running late) before granting a default judgment.
Mediation of Small Claims Court Cases in Essex 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 Essex County, mediation services are provided by:
North Country Conflict Resolution Services
Rural Law Center of New York, Inc.