Anatomy of a Case



If you are the Plaintiff or the Defendant and you lose, you are often entitled to appeal. However, attorneys have often heard persons claim "they would appeal to the Supreme Court." You need to check the law in your state, because some states do not even allow appeals, others only allow the Defendant to appeal. The Small Claims Court clerk will have a copy of the Appeal Rules for your jurisdiction.

Assuming you are allowed to appeal, the appeal of a Small Claims Court is most often to a formal court. The case usually starts over, although not always, depending upon your state. The key difference is that in such a formal court, you are entitled to an attorney, and so is the other party. Remember, you almost never have to be represented by an attorney, but judges usually have much less patience with persons who do not know the procedural rules in their court, and there are usually plenty of rules to know.

Tactically, a person who loses might often appeal, if permitted, simply to delay the payment of the funds to the winner. Also, such an appeal may become a problem for a winner because the winner may now be required to hire a lawyer, when he/she did not have to in Small Claims Court.

Another strategy employed by losers in Small Claims Court is to give the appearance of having an attorney to represent them, once they have filed an appeal. It is not uncommon, instead of receiving a check for the judgment, that the winner receive a Notice of Appeal and a letter from an attorney indicating that the judgment will be appealed and the loser now has a lawyer to represent him/her. This letter and Notice of Appeal is often designed to scare off the winner from trying to collect on the judgment, and it often does.

If this happens, any winner should understand several things. First, the letter from the attorney may be just that - a letter. The loser's attorney, if you were to press the issue, might require the payment of a substantial retainer fee from the loser before actually representing him/her. Before giving up, you should at least make the loser's attorney perform some services [hence costing the loser some money, which he/she could be paying you] before you decide not to go further. That way you can determine if the loser's attorney is really willing to represent the loser.

In many states the rules of the formal court may be relaxed so that you can still represent yourself if you cannot afford an attorney. But this is not always the case. Check with the court clerk before abandoning your attempts to extract the money from the loser.

Also, you should certainly discuss such an appeal with a Plan Attorney, regardless of which side you are on in the case. Finally, understand that you must file a Notice of an Appeal with the court on the Court of Appeals paperwork and meet all of the Appeals Court procedural requirements, within a very short time of winning or losing [often within 5 - 30 days - check your state law.] Failure to meet every procedural requirement within the specified time limits may damage your appeal.

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