How to Achieve Justice in Small Claims Court

Make that dreaded trip to the courthouse worthwhile by winning your case with these legal strategies.

Instructions

  • TIP: Always refer to the judge as "Your Honor" every time you address the bench.
  • Step 1: Wait until it's your turn to speak to make your argument or give a response. If you've ever seen a trial on TV, you know judges don't like to be interrupted. So unless you want to lose, pipe down and be patient.
  • Step 2: Stay cool. Avoid getting overly emotional and making personal attacks. Everything you say and do becomes part of the court record.
  • Step 3: Avoid being unnecessarily stubborn. If the other side has a valid point on a minor issue, cop to it. It may win you points with the judge, who may see you as more reasonable than your opponent. Remember, it's about winning the war, not the battle.
  • FACT: The nationally syndicated, reality courtroom series _Judge Judy_ started its 15th season in September 2010.
  • Step 4: Pay attention and carefully listen to the opponent's argument. Even if you know they're wrong, by being attentive you can use any holes in their allegations to your advantage once it's your turn.
  • Step 5: Bring a witness, if possible, to back up your argument. If your witness can't be there, make sure to present a statement signed by them.
  • Step 6: Organize all evidence by category, including documents, letters, and photos. Make sure everything is properly signed, dated, and clipped or bound together neatly. Consider using a highlighter to draw attention to especially relevant information.
  • Step 7: Practice your argument. Shape it like an essay, with a brief introduction stating what you are going to say, a body told in chronological order, and a summary. Memorize it, if possible, in case time is limited and you need to summarize quickly.
  • TIP: Ask a trusted friend to listen to your argument to find any weaknesses.
  • Step 8: Dress appropriately. Conservative, professional attire such as a suit is ideal. Remember, judges are called that for a reason and they definitely notice your appearance.
  • Step 9: Be punctual. Plan on getting to court early to avoid being late and blowing your case.

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