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Small Claims Glossary
Case SummaryCase Summary is a useful tool for Small Claims cases. You can check the case status including hearing date and service on the defendant.
Case CalendarYou can access up to 14 days of calendar to find your court date.
Filing Court LocatorYou can find your filing location using your zip code.
Small Claims EfilingYou can create and submit the initial filing of your Small Claims case online.
Small Claims FormsYou will find links to the forms you need to file your Small Claims case.
Filing FeesFrom 2008, Fee Schedules with fee information for Civil Limited, Civil Unlimited, Family Law and Small Claims as well as Probate are available. Probate Fee Schedules posted here are for reference purposes only to help you determine additional filing fees required by the Court for Probate Petitions filed between 01/01/2003 – 12/31/2007.
Small Claims Court LocationsYou can find your Small Claims Court locations.
Small Claims GlossaryYou can find all the Glossary related to Small Claims.
Agent For Service Of Process A person or legal entity that a corporation or other business entity designates as its agent for receipt of documents constituting service of process. Service on the agent is effective as service on the entity authorizing the service.
AppealNew hearing of all of the claims by a different judge of the Superior Court.
Asset Any item of property that has monetary value.
Bank Levy Enforcement of a judgment by resort to the judgment debtor's checking or savings account at a bank, savings association, credit union, or other financial institution. For this to occur, a Writ of Execution and the judgment debtor's written instructions must be obtained from the court and delivered to a sheriff or other enforcement officer.
Cross Claim A claim of the defendant against the plaintiff. A claim of the defendant is usually heard and decided at the same hearing as the plaintiff's claim. It need not relate to the plaintiff's claim. Also called a counter claim.
ClaimantA person (including both a plaintiff and a defendant) who asserts a claim.
Court CostsOfficial fees and charges that a party pays to file a case or obtain documents needed to enforce a judgment. The judgment may require a losing party to pay costs incurred by the prevailing party, but only if they (a) are of a kind allowed by law, (b) were necessarily incurred, and (c) are reasonable in amount. Allowable costs do not include claims for travel expenses or loss of time to prepare for or attend the hearing.
DamagesMoney claimed or awarded in court, equal to the dollar value of the claimant's losses.
Declaration A written statement made "under penalty of perjury" and signed by the person making the statement.
DefaultIf a party to an action does not attend the hearing it is said that the party is in "default." If the judge determines that the non-appearing party was properly notified of the action, the judge may consider the plaintiff's evidence and decide the case in the defendant's absence. The judgment in such a case is sometimes called a "default judgment."
Default JudgmentA decision entered when one party doesn't attend the Small Claims court hearing. The other party must still prove his or her claim.
DefendantThe person or other entity that is being sued.
DefenseFacts and argument that demonstrate and explain why a person asserting a claim is not lawfully entitled to receive the money or other relief that the claimant is requesting.
DemandA claim for money or other relief or the assertion of a legal right.
Dismiss With PrejudiceTo set aside the present action, without the claimant having a right to file another lawsuit on that claim. A dismissal with prejudice ends the case.
Dismiss Without Prejudice To set aside the present action, but leave open the possibility of another lawsuit on the same claim.
EmancipatedA legal way for children to become adults before they're 18. Once a child is emancipated, his or her parents don't have custody or control of him or her anymore.
EnforceTo use legal procedures to obtain money to pay a judgment, as by a bank levy or wage garnishment.
Exempt AssetsProperty and income of a judgment debtor that is legally protected from being forcibly taken to pay a judgment debt.
Fee WaiverPermission not to pay the court's filing fees. People with very low income can ask the court clerk for a fee waiver form.
FraudTo intentionally use deceit, a trick or some dishonest means to deprive another of his/her/its money, property or a legal right.
Good CauseA sufficient reason.
Grace PeriodA time stated in a contract in which a late payment or performance may be made without penalty. Often after the grace period ends without payment or performance by the person who is supposed to pay, the contract is suspended.
Guardian Ad LitemA person appointed by the court to represent a minor (a person who is both under age 18 and not legally emancipated). The representative is usually the minor's parent. A guardian ad litem may also represent a person who is mentally incompetent.
GuarantorAn individual or company that has agreed to be responsible for the acts or omissions of another.
JudgmentThe decision of the judge. It usually states the amount the judgment debtor must pay the judgment creditor, and may include other terms such as an award of pre-judgment interest and court costs, an authorization to pay the judgment debt by installments, and provisions on calculation and payment of post-judgment interest.
Judgment CreditorThe party (may be the plaintiff or the defendant) in whose favor a judgment has been awarded.
Judgment Debtor The party (may be the plaintiff or the defendant) against whom the judgment has been entered.
KeeperA levying officer (usually a sheriff) who takes over the operation of the judgment debtor's business for a limited duration to obtain cash and credit card receipts for payment to the judgment creditor to satisfy the judgment.
Lien A official claim or charge against property for payment of a debt.
Local FormsForms created to standardize the preparation of documents in a specific court. Local forms usually can only be used in the court that created the form. They are different from Judicial Council forms that can be used in every Superior Court in California.
MediationA process in which a neutral third person - a "mediator" - helps the parties to a dispute to discuss their problem and work out their own mutually acceptable solution.
Monetary LimitThe most that a plaintiff or defendant may seek in a Small Claims court action. With important exceptions, the monetary limit is $7,500.00. Also called a jurisdictional limit.
Motion A written request to the court.
Natural Person An individual person, as distinguished from a fictitious legal entity such as a corporation or limited liability company.
Notary PublicA person whose most common function is to certify that the signature of the person signing a document is the signature of the person named in the document.
PartyA person named as a plaintiff or a defendant in a Small Claims court action (may be a natural person, or a fictitious legal entity such as a corporation or limited liability company).
Personal ServiceHanding a copy of court papers directly to the person to be served.
PlaintiffThe individual person or entity who files the lawsuit.
Pro Tem Judge An attorney who volunteers his or her time to hear and decide Small Claims court cases. Also called a temporary judge.
ProcessCourt papers that notify a person that the judgment debtor is being sued.
Process ServerA person who serves court papers on a party to a lawsuit. This may be an adult relative or friend, a professional process server, or a county sheriff (where available).
Service Of ProcessUsually involves delivering to a party who is sued a copy of Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court (SC-100).
Set Aside To annul or vacate a court order or judgment by another court order.
SettlementAn agreement reached by the parties to a dispute - often involving a compromise of one or more claims - that resolves the dispute. It typically states the terms (including total amount and payment dates) to which the parties have agreed.
SheriffA county law enforcement officer whose duties include enforcing court judgments - for instance, by seizing and selling a judgment debtor's assets (pursuant to a Writ of Execution (Form EJ-130) and the judgment creditor's written instructions) and transmitting the proceeds of sale to the judgment creditor. In some counties, marshals and constables enforce court judgments.
Small Claims Advisor Someone who is employed by the county or who volunteers his or her services to advise and assist parties and prospective parties to Small Claims court actions, other than by representing them in court. Unless exempt, each county must provide individual personal advisory services to Small Claims disputants at no charge.
Small Claims ClerkA court employee whose duties include a wide array of clerical, administrative and record keeping services to the Small Claims Court and the public.
Statute Of Limitations The period of time following a transaction or occurrence within which a lawsuit must be filed in order to avoid loss of the claim.
StipulateTo agree to something; to give one's consent.
SubmissionA judge is said to take the case under submission when he or she does not immediately announce a decision.
SubpoenaA court order that requires a named person to come to court to testify as a witness. A party to a Small Claims court action may request the Small Claims clerk to issue a subpoena.
Substituted ServiceService of process by delivering the court papers to someone other than the party, mailing copies to the party at that address, and complying with other statutory requirements.
SuretyA guarantor of payment or performance if another fails to pay or perform.
Temporary Judge An attorney who volunteers his or her time to hear and decide Small Claims court cases. Also called a pro tem judge.
TestifyTo tell something to the judge in court. A person who testifies is a witness. What the person says in court is called testimony.
Till TapA sheriff removes money from the cash register of a business to pay a judgment.
True CopyAn exact copy of a document with no alterations or changes.
VacateA judge issues an order to set aside a judgment which he/she finds was improper.
Venue A county in which an action may be filed. In large counties, the county is divided into areas of court location. In that event, the action must be filed in a court located within the proper area of court location within that county. To determine what court or courts may be proper, consult a Small Claims adviser.
Wage GarnishmentA judgment enforcement procedure that requires the employer of a judgment debtor to withhold a portion of the judgment debtor's wages to satisfy the judgment.
WaiveTo abandon or give up a claim or a right or to forgive some other requirements.
Witness A person who comes to court to tell the judge something that relates to the case - that is, to testify.
Interpreter RequestYou can request an interpreter for your Small Claims case.
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