Who Hears My Case in Clinton County Small Claims Court
Juries are not available for a small claims court case. Cases in small claims court are heard by either a district judge or an attorney magistrate. An attorney magistrate is an attorney who has been appointed by the court to assist with certain types of cases and legal actions. Generally, attorney magistrates are used to hear small claims court cases.
Resolving a Case without a Hearing
Frequently, a court may attempt to resolve a case without an actual hearing. Mediation is the method by which a court tries to settle a case without a hearing or trial. During mediation, a mediator (which is an unbiased third party oftentimes with specific training on dispute resolution) will meet with both parties (separately or together) in the hopes of settling a case.
Is there a Monetary Limit for Small Claims Court Cases in Clinton County?
Small Claims courts cannot award more than $6,000 to a party. If a plaintiff filed a case in small claims court that the plaintiff believes is worth more, the case can still be filed in small claims court. If they do, the party waives their right to recover any amount above six thousand. The plaintiff is also precluded from suing again based on the same case after the case has been decided.
Court Locations for Small Claims Court Cases in Clinton County
65A District Court handles small claims court cases in Clinton County. 65A District Court100 E. State Street St. Johns, MI 48879
The phone number for Clinton County District Court is: (989) 224-5150. The District Court can be found online here.
Types of Cases in Small Claims Court
Civil cases where a party is seeking $6,000 or less can be filed in small claims court. Money is the only remedy a party can ask for in small claims court. If a party is seeking property or specific performance, the case should not be filed in small claims court. Common types of cases handled in small claims court include the following:
- landlord and tenant dispute about the return of a security deposit
- Contractual dispute including performance or payment
- automobile accident where insurance isn’t available or does not cover the damages
The following cases cannot be filed in small claims court:
- Assault and Battery
- Any Intentional Harm or Damage
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Hearing
The plaintiff presents his or her evidence first. The defendant will then have the chance to present their side. If the plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the court can dismiss the case. If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court can issue what is called a default judgment based on the case the plaintiff present.
Service of a Defendant in Small Claims Court
The court will provide a copy of the Affidavit and Claim that you filed to the Defendant. The plaintiff must pay for this cost of service. Service is a way for the court to provide notice to the Defendant of your action so the Defendant can have proper time to respond and appear and provide a defense. Service can be made by either certified mail or in person.
Small Claims Court Case Removal to District Court
Removing the case to regular district court allows both parties to be represented by attorneys but also removes the $6,000 limit. Removal to district court means the normal rules and procedures apply including specifically procedures related to the presentation of evidence and discovery process. Either party can request to move the case out of small claims court. To do so, a party needs to complete and file a Demand and Order for Removal, Small Claims, in the court where the case is set to be heard. This must be filed before the hearing starts, but can actually be filed the day of the hearing or anytime before the hearing. The form can be found here.
Clinton County Small Claims Court Jurisdiction
A case should be filed in the district court where the defendant resides, where the defendant’s business is located, or where the transaction involved in the case occurred. This is commonly called venue. Filing in the wrong district court can postpone your case being heard, force you to pay additional filing and service fees, and/or have your case be dismissed. The court staff of the 65A District Court cannot provide advice, but it can tell you the geographic location the court serves. It is recommended you contact the court clerk of the District Court to confirm you have the proper venue.
Preparing for a Hearing in Small Claims Court
Both parties should gather all evidence well before the hearing. This includes any contracts, written agreements, receipts, photographs, or videos that involve the subject matter of your case. Both the plaintiff and the defendant will have a chance to present their side of the case to the court. You should write out or prepare what you plan on saying ahead of time. Also, if there are any witnesses besides yourself who have information that would support your position, you should arrange to have them present at the hearing so they can present testimony to the court.
Clinton County Small Claims Court Cases
65A District Court handles Small Claims court cases in Clinton County. Small claims court is a special court in Michigan designed for people to settle monetary disputes without the aid of attorneys. Small claims court is designed so that a normal person (non-lawyer) can successfully use the court to hear their case. Attorneys cannot represent parties in small claims court. Neither party needs to hire an attorney for small claims court cases (but can consult with one for questions about their case). At the hearing, a party is only expected to present their case in their own words. Small claims court is a division of 65A District Court. The district court also hears some criminal, civil, and other legal actions.
Defendant’s Options in Small Claims Court Cases
After being served with an Affidavit and Claim of a small claims court case, the defendant has the following options:
- Ignoring the Case (which could end up with the court issuing a default judgment against you)
- Settling the Case Outside of Court
- Transferring the Case out of Small Claims Court
- Appearing at the Court Hearing
How do I file a Small Claims court case in Clinton County?
The forms for a plaintiff to fill out to begin a small claims court case can be found here. Once filled out, the plaintiff needs to file the form with the 65A District Court clerk. When submitting the filing, the plaintiff will need to pay a filing fee. The filing fees are:
- $30 – for claims up to $600
- $50 – for claims between $600 and $1,750
- $70 – for claims between $1,750 and up to $6,000
If the plaintiff prevails in the case, the court may award the filing fee to the plaintiff as part of the costs of the action. Once the case is filed, the court clerk should provide you with a court case number. You should keep this court case number handy as it will help you identify your case when you speak with court staff or complete paperwork associated with your case. The clerk should also provide you with the date, time, and location of the hearing.
Will a Decision be made at the Hearing?
The court can make a decision at the time of the hearing (after both sides have presented their case). Or, the judge or magistrate might take the matter under submission. If a matter is taken under submission, the court will notify both parties of the ruling (likely through mail).
Can I have an attorney Represent me in Small Claims Court?
Attorneys or lawyers are not allowed in small claims court. Neither the plaintiff nor defendant can be represented by an attorney in small claims court. Each side is required to represent himself or herself in front of the court. Either side can request that the case be removed to regular district court (which means either side could then be represented by an attorney). However, regular district court follows the normal rules of evidence and procedures which mean the dispute will likely take significantly longer to resolve.