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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 93351 Find in a Library
Title: Small Claims Court Reform
Author(s): W DeJong
Corporate Author: Abt Associates, Inc
United States of America
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 25
Sponsoring Agency: Abt Associates, Inc
Cambridge, MA 02138
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
US Dept of Justice NIJ Pub
Washington, DC 20531
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This monograph reviews major criticisms leveled against small claims courts, reforms suggested to improve their accessibility and effectiveness, and the need for State legislative action to reform these courts.
Abstract: Although small claims courts were developed in the early 20th century to increase citizen access to justice for small monetary claims, recently critics have complained about their inaccessibility and ineffectiveness. Inconvenient court hours, excessive delays between case filing and trial, and high court costs discourage many potential claimants from filing legitimate claims. Pro se litigants, especially defendants, are given inadequate assistance in preparing for trial. Moreover, disproportionate use of small claims courts by businesses, creditors, and landlords has tarnished the courts' public image. Many judges process small claims cases in a hurried fashion because of time pressures created by crowded dockets, problems in dealing with pro se litigants, and the belief that small claims are unimportant. Some critics contend that permitting attorneys to participate actively during trial puts pro se litigants at a distinct disadvantage and defeats the small claims courts' objectives of providing informal, speedy, and inexpensive conflict resolution. Finally, studies show that between 25 to 75 percent of judgments in many small claims courts are never paid. The report examines recommendations made to address these deficiencies, noting practical or legal restrictions that might limit their implementation. Suggestions include adopting a limit of $1,000; actively publicizing the small claims court; offering bilingual services; modifying complaint forms and publishing brochures in layman's language; restricting attorney fees for such cases; and experimenting with mediation/arbitration alternatives. The report appends model legislation, 42 references, and a list of experts on small claims courts.
Index Term(s): Court reform; Small claims courts
Note: National Institute of Justice Policy Brief
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