Jefferson County Small Claims Court
What about a jury trial for a small claims court case in Jefferson County?
A defendant (and only a defendant) can request a jury trial for a small claims court case. The demand must be made prior to the actual hearing date. The defendant has to fill out, under oath, a statement identifying which issues the jury will consider. The judge can either transfer the case to the regular civil part of the court (where regular evidentiary rules apply) or remain in small claims court. If the case remains in small claims court, only six jurors are used.
Small Claims Court Terms
The party is a person, business, or other entity involved in a court case (on either side of the “v.” in the case name). The plaintiff (sometimes referred to as a claimant) is the person (or entity) that begins the lawsuit (by a filing at the courthouse). The defendant is the party who is being sued. A third party is also sometimes brought into a case by a defendant if the defendant feels that the third party may be wholly or partly responsible for plaintiff’s claims. If you are interested in filing a third party claim (as a defendant), contact the local clerk for the filing fees and local procedures.
What happens if a party fails to appear on the hearing date?
If you are the plaintiff, your case is dismissed. If you are the defendant and fail to show up to court, the court will enter a ruling based only on the evidence presented by the plaintiff. This could result in a “default” judgment taken against the defendant. Note: Court rules require that the judge wait at least one hour before holding a hearing or entering a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
Small Claims Court Appeals for Jefferson County Cases
A party has 30 days from the date of the judgment to file a notice of appeal (or 35 days if you were mailed the court’s judgment). Appeals require additional fees to be filed. You must also determine if a transcript needs to be ordered. Consult with an attorney when you are deciding if you should file an appeal. An appellate court will only reverse a small claims court judgment if the ruling meets the “clearly erroneous” standard. This is why we recommend consulting an attorney to determine if an appeal is appropriate.
Should I use arbitration for my small claims court case?
Arbitration is a dispute resolution process that is binding. At an arbitration, an arbitrator (who is usually, but not always, an experienced attorney) will allow each side to present their case. He or she will then weigh the evidence and issue a final judgment. Arbitration can only be used when all parties agree (as the outcome is binding on all parties). If you do choose arbitration, your case can be heard far quicker than waiting for a judge to hear it (which is something to keep in mind if you want a quick resolution to your case). The arbitrator uses the exact same law the judge would follow. The final judgment issued by the arbitrator cannot be appealed by any party.
Are continuances allowed in small claims court?
The court may call a continuance an adjournment. These are discouraged as the purpose of small claims court is a quick, efficient way of resolving disputes. Only the court can give you a continuance (even if you have talked to the other party and agreed to a later date). A party can ask for a continuance by requesting one through the mail. You should also send a copy of the request to all the other parties in the case. 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).
Jefferson County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court cases are heard in the town or village court for Jefferson County. One can sue for $3,000.00 or less in a town or village court in Jefferson 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 you do have a claim for more than $3,000.00, you cannot file two separate actions to bring it under the limit. A claimant or plantiff can only seek monetary relief in small claims court. 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.
What is the correct name for 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 Jefferson 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).
Jefferson County Small Claims Court Locations
Each town and village has its own court to handle cases from there. Jefferson County has 32 locations to handle small claims court cases for the following villages and towns: Adams Town, Adams Village, Alexandria Bay Village, Alexandria Town, Antwerp Town, Brownville Town, Brownville Village, Cape Vincent Town, Carthage Village, Champion Town, Clayton Town, Clayton Village, Dexter Village, Ellisburg Town, Glen Park Village, Henderson Town, Hounsfield Town, Le Ray Town, Lorraine Town, Lyme Town, Orleans Town, Pamelia Town, Philadelphia Town, Philadelphia Village, Rodman Town, Rutland Town, Theresa Town, Theresa Village, Watertown Town, West Carthage Village, Wilna Town, and Worth Town.
Here are the court locations:
Adams Town Court3 S. Main Street P.O. Box 176 Adams, NY 13605
Adams Village Court3 South Main Street Adams, NY 13605
Alexandria Bay Village Court110 Walton Street PO Box 809 Alexandria Bay, NY 13607
Alexandria Town Court46372 Old Goose Bay Road PO Box 130 Alexandria Bay, NY 13607
Antwerp Town CourtMain Street Town Hall Antwerp, NY 13608
Brownville Town Court16431 Star School House Road Dexter, NY 13634
Brownville Village CourtPO Box 88 Brownville, NY 13615
Cape Vincent Town Court1964 State Route 12E Cape Vincent, NY 13618
Carthage Village Court120 South Mechanic Street Carthage, NY 13619
Champion Town Court10 North Broad Street Carthage, NY 13619
Clayton Town Court401 Mary Street Clayton, NY 13624
Clayton Village Court401 Mary Street Clayton, NY 13624
Dexter Village Court16431 Star School House Road P.O. Box 92 Dexter, NY 13634
Ellisburg Town CourtMain Street PO Box 112 Town Hall Ellisburg, NY 13636
Glen Park Village Court16431 Star School House Road Town Office Dexter, NY 13634
Henderson Town CourtPO Box 259 Henderson, NY 13650
Hounsfield Town Court411 W. Washington Street P.O. Box 306 Sackets Harbor, NY 13685
Le Ray Town Court8650 Leray Street Evans Mills, NY 13637
Lorraine Town CourtCounty Route 189 PO Box 52 Lorraine, NY 13659
Lyme Town CourtPO Box 66 Chaumont, NY 13622
Orleans Town CourtSunrise Avenue PO Box 206 Lafargeville, NY 13656
Pamelia Town Court25859 NYS Route 37 Watertown, NY 13601
Philadelphia Town Court33019 Us Route 11 Philadelphia, NY 13673
Philadelphia Village Court56 Main Street PO Box 70 Philadelphia, NY 13673
Rodman Town Court12534 School Street PO Box 431 Rodman, NY 13682
Rutland Town Court28411 State Route 126 Black River, NY 13612
Theresa Town Court215 Riverside Avenue P.O. Box 675 Theresa, NY 13691
Theresa Village Court124 Commercial Street PO Box 299 Theresa, NY 13691
Watertown Town Court22869 County Route 67 Watertown, NY 13601
West Carthage Village Court23 Franklin Street West Carthage, NY 13619
Wilna Town Court120 South Mechanic Street Carthage, NY 13619
Worth Town Court24252 County Route 189 Lorraine, NY 13659
Hearing Day Procedures
We recommend arriving to court at least fifteen minutes before your hearing. Upon arriving, you should look for the small claims court calendar (or a clerk if there is no calendar). The calendar will list the cases that will be heard that day. They will be listed by the last name of the plaintiff and the last name of the defendant (or business name). If you are unable to find your case on the calendar, you should contact the court clerk (or judge if there is no court clerk). Courtrooms have different procedures. In some courtrooms, the clerk checks in parties as they arrive. Some courts simply have you wait until your case is called.
When your case is called, you may ask the court for a continuance or adjournment or any other request. If both parties are ready to proceed, the case will go forward.
Can I file my small claims case in Jefferson?
A plaintiff has to bring the action in the village or town in which the defendant resides or a business has an open office.
How do I file a counterclaim against the plaintiff?
A defendant may file a counterclaim against a plaintiff. If the counterclaim is filed within five days of being served with the initial claim, the hearing date remains the same. There is a $3 filing fee. If the counterclaim is filed after the five days, the plaintiff can ask for a later hearing date (and sometimes the court may continue the hearing out even without the plaintiff asking).
Am I able to sue in small claims court?
The small claims court is available to any person who has reached the age of majority (18 years or older). If someone is younger than 18, a parent or legal guardian is able to bring an action on behalf of the minor. Corporations, partnerships, and other corporate entities must bring their action in Commercial Claims Court and are not able to act as plaintiffs in small claims court. These entities can be sued in this court. When a corporate entity is sued, it can authorize an employee, director, or attorney to appear and defend it in court.
How a Small Claims Court Case Begins
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). The court will provide the necessary forms. One section of the form 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 should note in the statement of the case if you are requesting interest (which happens if your case concerns property damage or a contract specifies an interest amount). 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 date and time of the hearing will be provided to you by the clerk. 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. After twenty-one days, the defendant is served unless the first-class mail was returned as 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. For purposes of due process (which is a fancy way of saying fairness), the hearing cannot occur until after the defendant has been properly served with notice of the plaintiff’s claim. The claim will be dismissed after four months if the defendant has not been served. Dismissal is without prejudice meaning you can refile if you learn new information that the defendant is still residing in that village or town.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a confidential, non-binding dispute resolution program in which an impartial mediator attempts to bring both parties together to a mutually acceptable outcome. A judge may refer a case to mediation if both parties agree. In Jefferson County, the program used for mediation is:
Resolution Center of Jefferson and Lewis Counties
200 Washington Street, Suite 207