ADA
checklist for the defendant

This page tells you about:

  1. Before the hearing
  2. During the hearing
  3. After the hearing
  4. More help for before, during and after the hearing...
  1. Before the hearing

    • Contact the plaintiff to talk about the case. Try to settle without going to court.

    • Suggest mediation or at least trying it. Or, see if there is some other informal way to solve your dispute.

    • Learn how small claims court works. Read over this website, contact the Small Claims Advisor or go to a small claims court session.

    • Try to figure out if the plaintiff has a good case and if you have a good defense.

      • Does the law support the plaintiff’s case?
      • Does the law support your case?
      • Can you prove your defense?

      If you don’t have a good defense, and you know that you owe money, try to pay it or to work out a payment plan. If you don’t settle and the there’s a judgment against you, it can go on your credit record.

    • Figure out if you have a claim against the plaintiff. How much is the claim for? Figure out the exact amount. If you file a Defendant’s Claim and Order to Plaintiff (SC - 120 ), and are suing as an individual, or as an individual who owns a business (i.e. sole proprietor), you can't get more than $10,000 in small claims court.

      If you are suing as a corporation, partnership or any other kind of business other than a sole proprietorship, you are limited to asking for $5,000.

      Figure out if you have a claim against the plaintiff. How much is the claim for? Figure out the exact amount. If you file a Defendant’s Claim and Order to Plaintiff (SC - 120 ), you can’t get more than $10,000 for your claim.

    • Get someone to serve a copy of your claim on the plaintiff. Make sure the plaintiff gets enough notice and file the Proof of Service (SC - 104 ) at court before your hearing.

    • Prepare your defense. Prepare to present your defense:

      • Organize your thoughts,
      • Collect evidence,
      • Talk to witnesses, etc.
      • Make 2 copies of papers you want to show the judge.
      • Ask your witnesses to write a declaration or to go to your hearing.
    • Keep talking to the other person. Try to settle the case before your hearing. If you think more time could help you settle, ask the court to move your hearing to a later date.
  2. During the hearing

    • Take the original and 2 copies of all of the papers you want to show the judge. Take your witnesses’ declarations or make sure they go to the hearing.

    • Get to the courthouse 15 minutes early. Make sure your case is on the calendar. Go to the courtroom where your case will be.

    • When the clerk calls the names of all the cases, let him or her know you are there.

    • They might ask you if you want to let a temporary judge decide your case. If you don’t want to, the clerk will probably give you another hearing date with a permanent judge or court commissioner.

    • After the witnesses take their oath, the clerk will ask you to leave the courtroom with the plaintiff so you can share evidence and try to settle the case. You have to give the plaintiff a copy of all the papers you want to give to the judge. When you’re done, go back to the courtroom and wait for them to call your case.

    • When they call your case, walk to the defendant’s table with your witnesses. If you agreed to settle the case, tell the judge right away. If you are close to settling the case, you can ask the judge to have the hearing later on so you can try to settle.

    • If you couldn’t settle the case:

      • The plaintiff will have a few minutes to present his or her case and answer questions.
      • Then, you will have a few minutes to present your case and answer questions. Give your most important points first.
      • If you filed a defendant's claim, make sure you can explain how you figured out the damages.
    • Tell the judge about the papers or evidence that you want to show the court. The judge will probably ask you to give 1 copy to the clerk. The clerk will mark the papers as evidence and give them to the judge.

    • Don’t interrupt the judge or the plaintiff. If you forgot to say something during your turn, wait until the judge and the plaintiff stop talking and ask permission to talk.

    • Before you leave, make sure the clerk has your address. If the judge needs time to decide the case (called “taking the case under submission”), the court will mail you a copy of the decision at that address.
  3. After the hearing

    • Get a copy of the Notice of Entry of Judgment (SC - 130 ).

    • If you didn’t go to the hearing, and the judge decided against you, you can ask the court to cancel the judgment. File a Notice of Motion to Vacate (Cancel) Judgment (SC - 135 ).

      You have 30 days to file the motion. But, you must have a good excuse for not going to your hearing. Exception: If you weren’t properly served, you have 180 days to file the motion. If you lose the motion to vacate (cancel) the judgment, you can appeal the motion. File a Notice of Appeal (SC - 140 ).

    • If you went to the hearing and lost the case, you have 30 days to:

      • Pay the judgment,
      • Fill out a Judgment Debtor’s Statement of Assets (SC - 133 ) and mail it to the plaintiff, or
      • File a Notice of Appeal (SC - 140 ).

      If you do nothing, the plaintiff can try to enforce the judgment.

    • If you won a claim against the plaintiff, you have to wait 30 days before you try to enforce the judgment. If the plaintiff doesn’t pay you or file a challenge, you can take legal action.

    • If the plaintiff appeals or files a motion to vacate the judgment, you have to wait for the court to decide how to handle the appeal or motion before you can enforce the judgment.

    • After the plaintiff pays you, sign and file the form called Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment. It is on the bottom of the back of the Notice of Entry of Judgment form (SC - 130 ).

    • If you recorded an Abstract of Judgment (EJ-001 ) with the County Recorder’s Office, you also have to fill out an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment form (EJ - 100 ) and have it notarized.

    • If for any reason you think the judgment is wrong, file a Request to Correct or Vacate Judgment (SC - 108 ).
  4. More help for before, during and after the hearing...

    See the "As the Defendant - You've Been Sued!" page for more help.

    Also see the Small Claims Advisor and Small Claims FAQs pages, as well as the pages for both the defendant and plaintiff: About Small Claims Court, Alternatives to Lawsuits, Prepare for your Day in Court, Judgment - Judicial Decision, and Property/Money Collection.
© 2014 Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara