After You File


The plaintiff is required to serve a copy of the Summons and Complaint to the defendant at least 20 days before the pretrial hearing. 

Please file any proof of service prior to your pretrial hearing date. For detailed information regarding service refer to the Service Information page. 

If proof of proper service has not been filed with the court by your hearing date, your case may be subject to a continuance, and you may be required to contact the court again to request for a new hearing date. Any new hearing dates scheduled in the case will need to be re-served to the other party, which can incur further service costs.

Note: The defendant may file a counterclaim by paying a $50 fee, filing the claim with the court, and serving the plaintiff with notice of the counterclaim.


The first hearing in your Small Claims case is a pre-trial hearing. This is NOT a trial.

Attendance at the pretrial hearing is mandatory. The judge will give opening remarks about the mediation process and why it is beneficial to participate. The judge will call through the calendar and in cases where both parties are present, the case will be set for mediation. Do not bring witnesses or your evidence to the pretrial hearing. A trial date will be scheduled if both sides attend the pretrial hearing and mediation but are unsuccessful in reaching a resolution. 

If you feel you are unable to make it to your pre-trial hearing, you may request for a continuance. All requests for continuance of this hearing must be done in writing on a form provided by the court and submitted for judicial review. Submit your request for continuance as soon as possible, as it may take as long as 2 weeks for the judge to review your motion.

If plaintiff fails to appear for the pretrial hearing, defendant may request that the Small Claim be dismissed and that a default judgment be entered on any counterclaims If defendant fails to appear for the pretrial hearing, plaintiff may request that a default judgment be entered against the defendant. Prior to a default judgment being entered, you must provide proof of proper service of the claim or counterclaim and proof of compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.


Attendance at mediation is mandatory before a trial is allowed in Small Claims Court. Trained mediators from Community Mediation Services will meet with the parties to facilitate a settlement. Most small claims are resolved through a mutually agreed upon resolution of the dispute.

See the Mediation FAQs page for more information regarding the mediation process.


Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, you can help yourself by being well prepared. To prepare for the trial, collect all papers, photographs, receipts, estimates, canceled checks or other documents that concern the case. It may be helpful to write down ahead of time the facts of the case in the order that they occurred. This will help you to organize your thoughts and make a clear presentation of your story to the judge.

More information regarding Filing of Exhibits/Evidence can be found at this link.

It is also a good idea to sit through a small claims court session before the date of your hearing. This will give you first-hand information about the way small claim cases are heard.

All Small Claims trials are currently being held in-person. If you are unable to attend your hearing in-person, you may file a motion with the court to request for a virtual appearance via Zoom. These motions are granted on a case-by-case basis. If your motion is denied, you will be required to appear for your hearing in-person as scheduled.


When you arrive at the court, report to the courtroom in which your case has been assigned. Do not be late. When your case is called, come forward to the counsel table and the judge will swear in all the parties and witnesses.

Don’t be nervous—remember that a trial in small claims court is informal. The judge will ask the plaintiff to give their side first, and then will ask the defendant for their explanation. Be brief and stick to the facts. The judge may interrupt you with questions, which you should answer honestly and to the best of your knowledge.

Be polite, not just to the judge, but also to your opponent. Do not interrupt. Whatever happens, keep your temper. Good manners and even tempers help the fair, efficient conduct of the trial and make a good impression.

After both sides have been heard by the judge, he or she will normally announce the decision right then and will enter a judgment with his or her decision.


If the defendant fails to appear for trial, the plaintiff will be granted judgment for the amount of the claim proven in court, plus costs, provided the plaintiff can show proof of service.

If the plaintiff fails to appear, the claim is dismissed; however, generally the court will permit the plaintiff to start over, if good cause for the non-appearance is shown.