The Edmond Sun
Q: Do I have to have an attorney to file a small claims case?
A: No. In fact, you don’t have to have an attorney to file any case. While representing yourself in court is almost never a good idea, the small claims system is designed to allow quick resolution of small disputes, and the rules are designed in a way that makes representing yourself easier than it would be in a major lawsuit. But before you file a case, you should familiarize yourself with the process. You can do this from any computer. Simply go to The Oklahoma Supreme Court Network at www.oscn.net. Once there, click on “Legal Research,” then “Oklahoma Statutes Citationized.” Click on “Title 12,” then on Section 1751. Read this section and the following sections, through Section 1773. You can even do this in your pajamas.
Most actions seeking to recover up to $6000.00 in money damages or property can be filed in small claims court, including suits that are based on contracts, torts, and repossessing personal property. But suits against anyone for libel or slander and suits against a city, county or state agency, or their employees that result from incarceration cannot be filed in small claims court. Persons who are currently incarcerated may not bring small claims actions.
As the plaintiff, you initiate the suit by filing an affidavit. The form of the affidavit is set out in the statutes identified above. Copies of the form may also be obtained from the court clerk, and the law requires the court clerk to assist you in drafting the affidavit if you request. This does not mean that the court clerk will give you legal advice. That won’t happen.
You must pay a fee to file the affidavit with the court clerk. The court clerk will then set a date for a hearing and help you serve the defendant.
If your case is for less than $1500, it will be tried to the court without a jury. But if you seek more than $1500, either party may demand a jury trial by written notice to the court clerk at least two working days before the hearing date. Whichever party requests a jury will have to pay a small additional jury fee.
Then, on the date of your hearing, you go to court and argue your case. You should take any witnesses and documentary evidence you have. Good luck.
MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.