HARNEY COUNTY JUSTICE COURT SMALL CLAIMS DEPARTMENT
A small claim is a civil lawsuit involving a claim for money that is equal or less than $10,000. Lawyers are not allowed to represent clients unless permission is given by the court prior to the trial. To start a small claims case, the person making the claim (the "plaintiff") fills out a Claim and Notice of Claim and submits them to the court. The court has this form available for free. The Claim contains a summary of the reason for the lawsuit. There is a $37.00 filing fee paid to Justice Court. It is up to the Plaintiff to have the Defendant (the person allegedly owing the money) personally served with a copy of the Claim and Notice of Claim. The Plaintiff cannot make this service, and most people ask the Sheriff to make this service. The Sheriff charges $45.00 to serve one or two people. Once the defendant is served with the Claim and Notice of Claim, the defendant has 14 days to file an Answer. An Answer denies all or part of the claim. The defendant can also sue the plaintiff with a Counterclaim. Forms are available from the court to file an Answer and/or a Counterclaim. The filing fee for an Answer is $37.00. A counterclaim has no fee in addition to the Answer fee of $37.00. If the defendant does not file an Answer, after 14 days, the plaintiff can ask the court for a default judgment.
If the defendant files an Answer or Counterclaim, the court will schedule a trial and send both parties a trial notice. At trial, it is up to the plaintiff to bring in witnesses and exhibits (papers, photos, etc.) to prove their case. That is, what are the facts showing that the judge should award money to the plaintiff. The defendant can bring witnesses and exhibits to show the judge there are facts showing that the Plaintiff should not be awarded money. Witnesses testify under oath, and both parties and the judge can ask the witness questions. At the end of the trial, the Judge has to decide the issues of fact and the legal issues, and then decide which party should be awarded a money judgment. A judgment is issued once the judge has ruled on the case. ORS 20.190 provides for the court to award prevailing fees to the party who is awarded a judgment. It is the policy of the court to award prevailing costs and fees. The law allows an appeal to Circuit Court for a new trial. The appealing party needs to obtain a bond for the amount of the money judgment entered against them, as part of the appeal process. If the court awards a money judgment, it is up to the party receiving that money judgment to collect it from the other party.
To transcribe the judgment to Circuit Court, you will need to submit $18 to the Justice Court ($9 to move from the small claims to the civil docket, plus $9 for the transcript) and another $18 to Circuit Court for filing. The Justice Court will forward the $18 along with the prepared transcription.
The court cannot give legal advice. Legal advice includes helping you choose words to describe your claim, or tell you how much money you should ask for. If you want legal advice, you can contact a lawyer, look up the law at the county library, or use a computer. The Oregon State Bar has a web page which gives some directions for legal advice: https://www.osbar.org/index.html.
Legal Aid Information. Legal Aid's phone number is 1-888-245-4091.
FORMS AVAILABLE AT COURT HOUSE and at the links below:
- Instruction to Plaintiff
- Small Claim and Notice and Declaration of Good Faith
- Instructions to Defendant
- Defendant’s Response
- Motion for Default Judgment
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.