HARNEY COUNTY JUSTICE COURT SMALL CLAIMS DEPARTMENT

General Information

  • YOU MUST FIRST MAKE A BONA FIDE EFFORT TO COLLECT.
  • If you get a Judgment, the Court DOES NOT COLLECT; you must take the steps to collect the judgment.
  • Limits:  Claim (not including court costs) must be $10,000 or LESS, and either the Plaintiff or Defendant must live in Harney County.  Check the statutes for time limits on specific claims.  Claims must be for either recovery of actual money, damages or specific personal property only.

PLEASE READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY AND COMPLETELY.

Small Claim Court is available to you so that you may pursue your claim without legal representation.  All steps of the process depend upon your initiation and follow through.  The court CANNOT advise you in filling out forms, or in proper procedure.  If you get a judgment, you must take the steps to collect. The court CANNOT collect the judgment for you.

  1. USE BLUE INK AND PRINT CLEARLY OR TYPE
  2. Make one check payable to Harney County Justice Court for filing fee. ($37.00)
  3. Make one check payable to Harney County Sheriff for service fee ($45.00). If more than 75 miles round trip from the Court House, make check for $76.00.
  4. Names and statements made in the Claim and Notice must be legible and correctly spelled.  You are the Plaintiff if you are filing the claim.  The person or company being sued is the Defendant.  All persons must be listed by proper names (ex: John Doe, Jane Doe, not Mr. and Mrs. John Doe).
  5. Service cannot be made upon a post office box. You must provide a physical address or work place for the defendant.
  6. If a business is not a corporation, the name of the business owner should be listed, followed by “dba” (doing business as), and the name of the business (i.e., John Doe dba John’s Catering). You cannot collect against an individual, nor a company it they are not named in the caption of the claim.
  7. If a business is incorporated, it should be so identified, and the name and address of the corporation’s registered agent or an officer of the corporation provided (i.e., John’s Catering, Inc., an Oregon corporation, Registered Agent: Jane P. Smith, 1234 North Street, Burns, OR 97720).  If you need information about an Oregon corporation, call the Corporation Division of the Secretary of State’s Office at 503-986-2200.
  8. If a person or business is a partnership, list the name of the partnership after the name of each partner (i.e., John H. Doe and Jane P. Smith, dba J&J Catering, a partnership).
  9. If any person involved in the dispute is under the age of 18 years, or is in military service, or mentally incapacitate, you must determine the legal standing of that party.  You may want to consult an attorney for assistance.

WE ARE NOT PERMITTED BY LAW TO GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU NEED HELP WITH YOUR CLAIM BEYOND THESE INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE CALL AN ATTORNEY.

Plaintiff must fill out the claim and Notice of Claim form completely. SIGN IN THE PRESENCE OF A COURT CLERK OR NOTARY PUBLIC. Your signature must be sworn. You must have previously made a bona fide attempt to collect the amount, prior to filing.

Statutory filing fee is $35.00 (cash, check or money order), payable to Harney County Justice Court.  FILING FEES ARE NOT REFUNDABLE.  Service fees $36.00 payable to Harney County Sheriff (if claim is to be served in Harney County).  If service location is 75 miles round trip or more, the service fee is $76.00, which will provide service to 1-2 defendants at same address.

Service may also be make be RESTRICTED DELIVERY CERTIFIED MAIL TO EACH DEFENDANT named, if the amount of your claim is LESS THAN $50.00 (ORS 55.045).

Filing and service costs are added onto the claim you are filing, and if you are awarded a judgment, will be included in that amount along with the statutory prevailing party fee of $100.00, unless there are other costs.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MAY A PLAINTIFF SERVE A   DEFENDANT. SERVICE MUST BE MADE BY A PERSON 18 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER, IS A RESIDENT OF THE STATE OF OREGON, AND WHO IS NOT A PARTY TO THE CLAIM.

Defendant is directed to file an “ANSWER” with the court WITHIN 14 DAYS of service. 

Defendant may:

  1. PAY THE CLAIM. Payment by Defendant must include Plaintiff’s filing, service and prevailing party fee.
  2. DENY THE CLAIM AND DEMAND A COURT TRIAL.  A trial date is set and all parties will be notified by mail.  The judge’s decision is final.
    ($35.00 ANSWER/RESPONSE fee).
  3. DENY THE CLAIM, DEMAND A COURT TRIAL, AND FILE A COUNTERCLAIM.  This counterclaim must involve the SAME MATTER as the Plaintiff’s claim. ($35.00 ANSWER/RESPONSE fee).
  4. DENY THE CLAIM AND DEMAND A JURY TRIAL. Claim must be for over $750.00.  The court will notify Plaintiff that a formal complaint must be filed and served on the Defendant with a summons, then the matter will be set for trial in Justice Court ($90.00 answer fee + $125 Jury Trial fee = $215.00). ($55.00 additional Plaintiff fee).

IF PLAINTIFF’S FORMAL COMPLAINT IS NOT FILED WITHIN 20 DAYS AFTER NOTIFICATION BY THE COURT, DEFENDANT MAY ASK THE COURT TO DISMISS THE CLAIM.  IF PLAINTIFF’S FORMAL COMPLAINT IS FILED, THE CASE WILL NO LONGER BE CONSIDERED A SMALL CLAIM CASE, AND PARTIES MAY BE REPRESENTED BY AN ATTORNEY IF THEY SO CHOOSE.

If the matter goes to trial, the prevailing party fee is $115.00.

ENTRY OF DEFAULT JUDGMENT

  • If Defendant does not file an Answer within 14 days, including weekends, excluding legal holidays, Plaintiff may be granted a Default Judgment. PLAINTIFF MUST REQUEST JUDGMENT.
  • If Plaintiff does not request judgment by default within 90 days after service on the Defendant, the Court may dismiss the case for want of prosecution.

DISMISSAL OF CASE

  • Plaintiff may dismiss at any time after filing the claim.
  • Defendant may request dismissal if formal complaint not filed within 20 days after Plaintiff is notified of Defendant’s request for a jury trial.
  • Court may dismiss if neither party takes action for 90 days.

JUDGMENT VALIDITY

  • A judgment is valid for a period of 10 years and is renewable for an additional 10 years.  An order renewing a judgment must be signed by a judge and filed with the court before the expiration of the original Judgment.

JUDGMENT COLLECTION INFORMATION

  • If a judgment is given and the losing party does not voluntarily make payment, the winning party may file a WRIT OF GARNISHMENT with the Court. This WRIT is issued against the debtor’s employer, a third-party holding debtor’s personal property, or a bank where the debtor has an account in order to obtain money or other personal property of the judgment debtor.  Judgment must be transcribed to the Civil Docket ($9.00 fee).
  • The Plaintiff must completely fill out the garnishment forms and present them to the Court (or an attorney) to be issued. If payment is being made by check, make SEPARATE CHECKS TO EACH AGENCY.
    • Writ Issuance Fee: $20.00
    • Sheriff’s Service Fee: $25.00
    • Financial Search Fee: $15.00 per debtor payable to financial         
                                                                  institution.
  • NOTE:  Other methods for collection of judgment may also be available to the creditor.  An attorney may be consulted, or the Oregon Revised Statutes are available to the creditor in the law library of the Harney County Courthouse.

JUSTICE COURT PERSONNEL ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GIVE LEGAL ADVICE.  THE COURT IS NOT THE COLLECTOR OF JUDGMENTS, THE PLAINTIFF IS.

TRANSCRIBING JUDGMENT TO CIRCUIT COURT

  • A Small Claims Court judgment can be transcribed to Justice Court and then to Circuit Court in order to place a lien against judgment debtor’s real property in Harney County ($18.00 fee payable to Justice Court; $16.00 fee payable to Harney County Circuit Court).
  • Creditor may also pursue a WRIT OF EXECUTION against vehicles the debtor may own, or transcribe judgment to another Oregon county for pursuit under that jurisdiction.  Please consult an attorney or the law library for further information,

SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT

  • The judgment creditor must file a SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT with the Court when full payment of the judgment has been received.  The satisfaction form for use by the creditor is available at the Justice Court office.

A JUDGMENT IS THE DECISION OF THE COURT.  THE COURT IS NOT A COLLECTION AGENCY, AND WILL NOT SECURE PAYMENT FOR THE JUDGMENT CREDITOR.

ONCE THE JUDGMENT HAS BEEN PAID, THE CREDITOR IS LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR FILING A WRITTEN SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT

IF A CLAIM IS SETTLED BETWEEN THE PARTIES PRIOR TO ENTRY OF A JUDGMENT, THE PLAINTIFF MUST FILE A DISMISSAL FORM WITH THE COURT.

FORMS AVAILABLE AT COURT HOUSE and at the links below:

If you have any questions, you may call the Oregon State Bar tape library at 1-800-452-8260, or go to www.osbar.org.  Click on Public Info or you may wish to call an attorney.