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Small Claim Courts

The "jurisdiction" of a court is the power of that court to hear and decide a particular type of case. The small claims court has jurisdiction over civil cases in which the plaintiff is seeking a money judgment up a relatively small amount generally in the several to few thousands of dollars.

In trials before the small claims court, witnesses shall be sworn. The judge shall conduct the trial in an informal manner so as to do substantial justice between the parties. The judges shall have the discretion to admit all evidence which may be of probative value although not in accordance with formal rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence, except that privileged communications shall not be admissible. The object of such trials shall be to determine the rights of the litigants on the merits and to dispense expeditious justice between the parties.

The successful plaintiff in a civil case will in most cases be awarded a money judgment as compensation for the defendant's wrongful act. The judgment is judicial recognition that the defendant is indebted to the plaintiff for a particular sum of money. The plaintiff is never assured of actually receiving the money, however, since the judgment can only be enforced out of property belonging to the defendant. Remedies to enforce judgments are available, but a defendant in a civil case is not subject to criminal sanctions for failing to pay a money judgment.

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