You can help yourself by being well prepared. To prepare for the trial, collect all papers, photographs, receipts, estimates, cancelled checks, or other documents that concern the case. It may be helpful to write down ahead of time the facts of the case in order that they occurred. This will help you to organize your thoughts and to make a clear presentation of your story to the judge. 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 claims cases are heard.
Your case will be heard by a District Court judge or judge pro-tem. A judge pro-tem is an attorney who is hired to fill in for judicial vacations and sick leave. A judge pro-tem has all the responsibilities and powers of a judge. Attorneys and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims suit unless the judge grants advance permission. Each party will have a chance to tell their side of the story. It is important to bring evidence such as photos, witnesses, bills, receipts, contracts or anything else that will prove your case. The judge may decide the case at the time of the hearing or mail a written decision to the parties. Both plaintiff and defendant may testify, call witnesses, and present exhibits for the Court to consider. If it is inconvenient or overly expensive to call a witness to appear personally, affidavits of witnesses can be presented. Any affidavit expected to be considered by the Court shall be served on the other party at least 5 days (excluding Saturday, Sunday and Holidays) before the trial. A responsive affidavit may be presented at the trial. Copies of such affidavits must be made available to the other party before the trial commences. A simple "signed statement" will not be considered an affidavit and will not be accepted as evidence. The same rules apply at this hearing as applied at the first appearance if the parties fail to appear.
Continuance of Mediation or Trial
The party requesting a continuance must contact the other party who must also agree to the continuance. Both parties must contact the Court in person or by telephone. If one party will not agree to the continuance, the party seeking the continuance may make a written motion for continuance and set a hearing date prior to the scheduled mediation or trial date. The motion and notice of hearing must be served on the opposing party at least five days prior to the date set for the motion to continue. At the hearing, the judge will determine whether the matter will be continued. If there are less than five days prior to the mediation or trial date to serve the opposing party, the party requesting the continuance may contact the Court to explain the circumstances which require the mediation or trial to be continued. The matter may be continued by the Court upon showing of good cause.