Small Claims

small claims

Sacramento County Small Claims Court Information

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Sacramento County Small Claims Court Information

These web page is designed to make your journey through the Small Claims process a little less intimidating. You will find helpful information here as well as links to other helpful websites.

In Small Claims court, disputes are settled in a fair, quick, and inexpensive manner. You may ask a lawyer for advice before you go to court; however, you may not have a lawyer represent you in court. The rules are fairly simple and the hearing is informal. You may even ask for mediation the day of your trial.

Consider Mediation

An alternative to formal litigation in the court is the use of a mediator to resolve Small Claims disputes. All parties must mutually agree to mediation, and the formal rules of court do not apply to the mediation process. Parties may contact the Small Claim's mediation and advisory services to make arrangements for mediation before the court hears their case. Alternatively, the court will give parties an opportunity to meet with a mediator at the time of trial.

  • Instead of a judge, you decide the outcome of your case
  • You can discuss many issues that may not be admitted in court

The party filing the claim is the plaintiff
The person being sued is the defendant.

If you are the defendant and are filing a Claim of Defendant, you will remain the defendant and the plaintiff will remain the plaintiff.

The Small Claims court clerks can answer many kinds of questions and provide the forms you need; however, they are prohibited by law from giving legal advice. The Small Claims Mediation and Advisory Services provides legal advice free of charge to both the plaintiff and the defendant.

If you choose Small Claims court to resolve a dispute and you are the plaintiff, you give up the right to have another court review the Small Claims judge's decision. In other words, the plaintiff has no right of appeal. So if you should lose, that is probably the end of the case. However, the person or entity you sue (defendant) may appeal the judge's ruling. When such an appeal is filed, the entire case will be heard again.

Location and Telephone Number

The Carol Miller Justice Center is located at 301 Bicentennial Circle. Small Claims offices are located on the 2nd floor. The courtrooms are located on the 3rd floor. The telephone number is 916-875-7746. There is a $2.00 parking fee for 2 hours and $8.00 maximum charge per day.

Filing Your Claim and the Open Court System

Small Claims court uses a computerized system called the Open Court System. This means no paper files. Everything you file regarding your case from beginning to end will be scanned into a computer. To file, you may come to our site and file your claim in person. You will be filing the claim on the Open Court System. The computer will ask you a series of questions which will allow it to fill out the form for you. It is that simple. You will receive your documents within minutes.

Information Needed to File a Small Claim

  • Are you the plaintiff or defendant?
  • Do you know where you must file your claim? See Choosing the Correct Court.
  • Have you had an arbitration of an attorney-client fee dispute?
  • Know the dollar amount of your claim.
  • You must first ask the defendant(s) for the money or property to satisfy your claim.
  • Know the reason why you are suing the other party.
  • If you are a minor, you will need a guardian and they need to fill out and file the Guardian Ad Litem form.
  • If you are a business, a corporation, association, a partnership, or sole proprietorship, what is your fictitious business number and its expiration date?
  • Know whether the defendant is an individual, an individual doing business as, a corporation, a partnership or a government agency.
  • If the defendant is a minor, you must find out the name of the defendant's guardian.
  • If the defendant is a business or government agency, you should know who the agent for service of process is (the legal representative of the organization to be notified of the suit.)
  • Are any of the defendants in the military service as defined in Section 101 of the Soldiers and Sailors' Relief Act of 1940?

If you would rather file from home and you have a computer and an e-mail address, you can file through Electronic filing. There is no waiting in line.

If the only way you can file is through the mail, you may access the Judicial Council's Website- external link for forms.

If you live in Sacramento County and would like to obtain forms through the mail, you must submit a request for forms, along with a large self-addressed, stamped manila envelope. Please send your request to the following address:

Sacramento County Small Claims Court
301 Bicentennial Circle
Sacramento, CA 95826-2701

If you live out of Sacramento County, you may obtain forms by mail.

Monetary Limits

The Small Claims court has a monetary limit, called a jurisdictional limit, on the amount of money damages that can be claimed. Usually, the most "a natural person" can ask for is $10,000; however, you are limited to filing no more than two claims anywhere in the State of California for over $2,500 in one calendar year. You may file an unlimited amount of claims for $2,500 or less.

Service

The party who has filed the case must cause the legal documents to be served upon the other party. If this service is not done correctly, the court will require the plaintiff to re-serve the papers correctly before the case can be heard in front of a judge.

There are specific rules to serving out of state defendants. It is suggested that you obtain legal advice prior to filing.

The following instructions will assist you in proceeding with your claim. Failure to comply with these instructions may result in a delay or in your claim being dismissed.

Personal Service

This must be completed at least 15 days prior to the court date if the defendant is in Sacramento County or at least 20 days prior if the defendant is outside of Sacramento County.

Substituted Service

Sometimes it is not possible to locate the actual party named on the legal document. In this case, it is legal and proper to leave the claim with another adult at the defendant's home, or with someone who is in charge at the defendant's usual place of business. These documents must be in an envelope bearing the name of the defendant, and the server must state that the papers are for a legal case. In this situation, the documents must be served at least 25 days prior to the court date if the defendant is in Sacramento County or at least 30 days prior to the court date if the defendant is outside Sacramento County. At this point, the person who served the documents must also mail the second copy of the claim to the defendant at the exact same address where the first copy was left. This is to be done with the first class mail, postage pre-paid. No other form of mail is permitted.

  • Marshall, Sheriff, or Constable in the county where the defendant lives or does business. If you choose this method, you must then contact the Sheriff's Department for further instructions. It is your responsibility to insure that the completed proof of service be returned to the Small Claims court prior to the scheduled court date.
  • Private process server (a listing of process servers may be found in the yellow pages under process serving. If you choose this method, you must make arrangements with the process server of your choice. It is your responsibility to insure that the completed proof of service be returned to the Small Claims court prior to the scheduled court date.
  • By anyone at least 18 years of age who is not a party to the action. They must fill out a proof of service form and it is your responsibility to insure that the completed proof of service be returned to the Small Claims court prior to the scheduled court date.
  • You must pay the court to do service by certified mail. You may not send the certified mail yourself.