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Judgment - Judicial Decision

This page tells you about:

  1. The judge's decision
  2. How to challenge the judge’s decision if you did not go to court
  3. How to challenge the judge's decision if you went to court
  4. How to appeal the judge's decision
  1. The judge's decision

    Notice of Entry of Judgment:

    The “Notice of Entry of Judgment” (SC - 130)  is a court form that says what the judge's decision on your case is. This form also tells you about your rights and lists the date the form was mailed or given to you. This date is very important.

    You have only 30 days from this date to file a motion to vacate or appeal. Exception: If you are the defendant and you did not go to court because you were not properly served with the order to appear, you have 180 days to file a motion to vacate.

    If the judge gives his or her decision right after hearing both sides of the case, the court clerk will give you a copy of the Notice of Entry of Judgment. If not, you’ll get it in the mail.

    If you don’t get your Notice of Entry of Judgment in two to three weeks after your hearing, call the court. Ask about your case. Tell the clerk your case number and the date of your hearing, and that you haven’t gotten your Notice of Entry of Judgment.

    Stay of Enforcement:

    This is a court rule that stops a judgment that awards money or property from being enforced for 30 days. In those 30 days, the party that loses can:

    • challenge the judgment
    • pay, or
    • do nothing

    If you don’t challenge the judgment in 30 days, it will be final. If the defendant hasn’t paid, the person who won can start proceedings to enforce the judgment.

  2. How to challenge the judge’s decision if you did not go to court

    If you didn’t go to your small claims hearing, you can’t use an appeal to challenge the judge’s decision. You have to file a motion to vacate.

    Defendant's motion to vacate:

    If you are the defendant and you didn’t go to court, you can ask the court to cancel (or “vacate”) the judge’s decision. You will have another hearing. You have 30 days to file your motion after the clerk mails you the Notice of Entry of Judgment (SC - 130) . Exception: If you weren’t properly served with the notice to appear, you have 180 days to file.

    Use the form called "Notice of Motion to Vacate (Cancel) Judgment " (SC - 135)  to say why you didn’t go to court or why you weren’t properly served. You have to pay a filing fee. (See small claims fees on the local fee schedule .)

    Defendant's motion to vacate hearing

    The clerk will schedule a hearing for your motion. At the hearing, the judge will decide if you had “good cause” for not going to the hearing. The plaintiff can go to court to oppose your motion. If the judge decides you had good cause, the old judgment will be canceled and you’ll get a new hearing.

    If the plaintiff is there, you’ll have the hearing right away. Or, the judge will schedule another hearing. If the judge decides you didn’t have “good cause” for not going to the hearing, he or she will deny your motion.

    Defendant - Appeal your motion to vacate

    If the judge denies your motion, you can appeal if:

    1. You are the defendant; or
    2. You are the plaintiff but lost on defendant's claim.

    File a form called "Notice of Appeal" (SC - 140)  within ten days and pay a fee. You will get a notice of your hearing date for your appeal in the mail.

    At your appeal, the judge will decide if your motion should have been approved. The plaintiff can go to oppose the appeal. If the judge decides that your motion should have been approved, he or she will cancel the judgment and you’ll get a new hearing. The hearing can happen right away, or it can happen later on back in the small claims court.

    If the judge decides that your motion should have been denied, he or she will deny your appeal. This decision is final.

    Plaintiff's motion to vacate:

    If you are the plaintiff and you didn’t go to court, you can ask the court to cancel (or “vacate”) the judgment. You will have another hearing. You have 30 days to file after the clerk mailed you the Notice of Entry of Judgment.

    Use the form called “Notice of Motion to Vacate (Cancel) Judgment” (SC - 135)  to say why you did not go to the hearing. You have to pay a filing fee.

    Plaintiff's motion to vacate hearing

    The clerk will give you a hearing date for your motion. At the hearing, the judge will decide if you had “good cause” for not going to your hearing.

    The defendant can go to court to oppose your motion. If the judge decides that you had good cause, then he or she will cancel the judgment. You will get a new hearing. If the defendant is there, you will have the hearing right away. Or, the judge will schedule another hearing.

    If the judge decides you didn’t have good cause, he or she will deny your motion. This judgment is final.

  3. How to challenge the judge's decision if you went to court:

    If you went to your hearing and you want to challenge the judgment, you can:

    Request to correct or vacate a judgment:

    If you think the judgment is wrong, you can ask to fix a clerical error or cancel the judgment because it’s legally wrong. Either the plaintiff or the defendant can do this. A clerical error is when there’s a mistake that the judge didn’t mean to make, like spelling a plaintiff or defendant’s name wrong. A judgment is incorrect or legally wrong if the judge didn’t apply the law to the evidence in the right way.

    Use the form called “Request to Correct or Vacate Judgment” (SC - 108)  to point out a clerical error in the judgment or to explain why it’s legally wrong. The clerk will mail a copy to the other party. They have 15 days to file a letter responding to the other party's request. Make a note on the letter showing a copy was mailed ("cc'd") to the other party and mail a copy to the other party.

    After 15 days, the court will mail you its decision or set a hearing date. If there is a clerical error, the judge will fix it. If the judgment is wrong, the judge will cancel it and set a new hearing.

    Note
    : The court assumes that all judgments are correct. A judgment is not incorrect or legally wrong just because you don’t agree with how the judge interpreted the evidence. Also, it is not wrong just because you had evidence that you didn’t show the court.

  4. How to appeal the judge's decision

    The right to appeal:

    You can’t appeal a decision if you filed the claim. You can only appeal the other party’s claim. If your insurance covers the judgment, your insurance company can appeal if the judgment is more than $2,500.

    An appeal means that the whole case is heard again in the appellate level of the Superior Court. If you won your claim but lost the other person’s claim, you can’t just appeal the part of the case you lost. If you appeal, the superior court will hear all the claims again.

    Things to think about before you appeal:

    • An appeal can be much more complicated and expensive than your 1st hearing.
    • If you lose, the court can make you pay $150 for the other person’s lawyer and $150 for their lost earnings and expenses. For more information on this, see the California Code of Civil Procedure section 116.780(c) .

    Note: If the appeal judge decides that you only appealed to harass or delay the other party, or try to get them to drop their claim, the judge can make you pay up to $1,000 of their lawyer’s fees and $1,000 of lost earnings and expenses.

    How to file an appeal:

    You only have 30 days to file your appeal after the Notice of Entry of Judgment was mailed or given to you. Use the form called “Notice of Appeal” (SC - 140)  and pay the filing fee. (See local fee schedule .)

    The judge’s decision won’t be enforced until your appeal is heard or dismissed. Your appeal will be dismissed if you file it late or don’t pay the filing fee.

    Your appeal hearing:

    The clerk at the appellate level of the Superior Court will give you a hearing date. At the hearing you and the other party will get to tell your side of the story again. The difference between an appeal and the 1st hearing are:

    • Your appeal hearing is in the superior court, not the small claims court.
    • You and the other party can hire lawyers to represent you.

    When you go to your appeal hearing, be prepared to tell your side of the case. Bring all of your witnesses and evidence. The appeals judge will only look at the evidence that you bring to the appeal hearing.

    Sometimes, the appeals judge will give his or her decision right after the hearing is over. If you are there, the clerk will give you a copy of a form called “Small Claims Appeal Judgment.” Or, the clerk will mail you a copy. The Small Claims Appeal Judgment is final. You can’t challenge it with a motion to vacate or an appeal.

© 2014 Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara