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I want to sue a former neighbor in small claims court. She promised to pay half of the cost for a fence we built on the property line last year, but never did. She recently moved down to San Diego County. Do I have to go to San Diego to sue her, or can I do it in the Sacramento court?
Picking the proper court to file your case can be tricky. If you file in the wrong court, your case may be dismissed, and you’ll have to start over again in the proper court. The proper court is called “venue” in legal terminology.
California law has strict guidelines for determining proper venue. In some situations, there may be several courts that could be considered proper. In that situation, you may select whichever court you prefer.
A small claims case may always be filed in county where the defendant resides. Other courts may also be the proper venue, depending on your case. In addition to the county where the defendant lives, proper venue for common case types also include:
More information about the proper venue for a small claims case is available from the California Courts’ Self-Help website at http://www.courts.ca.gov/9745.htm.
Information about Small Claims cases in general is also available from the California Courts’ Self-Help website at http://www.courts.ca.gov/1256.htm, as well as from the Department of Consumer Affairs and from the Sacramento Superior Court.
Additionally, the Law Library has books that provide excellent background information about Small Claims court, as well as instructions for filling out the necessary forms. You may also want to visit the Small Claims Advisory Clinic, which may be able to assist you with your case.
Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday's column. Even if your question isn't selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.
Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian