Idaho Small Claims Courts
Small claims courts exist to simply the legal process for non-legal professionals. Court rules are simplified in small claims cases. Parties may not hire an attorney to represent them in the small claims case.
This article provides a brief overview of Idaho's small claims cases. For more specific information, consider the following resources:
- Small Claims Forms: The State of Idaho Judicial Branch provides all the court forms litigants in a small claims case need. This link also offers helpful instructions for parties involved in small claims cases.
- Idaho Rules on Small Claims Actions (I.R.S.C.A.): The Idaho Supreme Court sets out the rules regarding small claims actions.
- Small Claims Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): The Idaho Legal Aid Service, Inc., answers FAQs regarding small claims cases.
- File Your Small Claims Case: A plaintiff may e-file their Idaho small claims case online service, iCourt.
- Idaho Small Claims Case Self-Help: The Idaho Legal Aid Service, Inc., has self-help resources for parties involved in a small claims case.
- Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure (I.R.C.P.): The I.R.C.P. sets the rules for Idaho courts and claims.
- How to Sue in Small Claims Court: This guide briefly summarizes what a plaintiff must do to file a small claims case.
- Small Claims Information for the Defendant: This guide outlines what you must do if you are sued in small claims court.
- How To Enforce a Judgment: This guide summarizes different methods to enforce a judgment.
Idaho Small Claims Cases
Idaho small claims courts have limited jurisdiction. These courts can hear specific civil cases that are at most $5,000.00. Idaho's small claims division is part of Idaho's Magistrate Division of the District Court.
Idaho small claims cases deal with the recovery of money or personal property. Examples of small claims cases include:
If a plaintiff has a claim that exceeds $5,000.00, they may file their case in the Magistrate Court.
Filing a Small Claims Case in Idaho
To initiate a small claims case, the plaintiff must complete the following forms:
- Claim form
- Affidavit of Competence and Non-Military Service (Ada County only)
Once the plaintiff completes these forms, they must file them in the magistrate division in the appropriate county. The plaintiff must file the claim in the county where the defendant lives or where the cause of action arose. The court will charge the plaintiff a filing fee.
Plaintiffs can obtain the necessary court forms online or from the court clerk at the county courthouse. The Court Assistance Office may also assist plaintiffs looking to file a claim. Although the court clerk can help you file the documents, they cannot provide legal advice.
Serving the Defendant
The plaintiff must serve all defendants with a copy of their court filings. The plaintiff can serve the defendant using the following methods:
- Personal service: An adult other than the plaintiff may personally serve the defendant. This means that someone over the age of 18 must personally hand the documents to the defendant. The adult must have no relation to the plaintiff's case.
- Sheriff's office: A plaintiff may contact the sheriff's office and request they serve the defendant. The sheriff's office will likely charge a fee to do so. The sheriff will provide the plaintiff or the court clerk with an affidavit of service. Plaintiffs may ask the court clerk how to effect service if they use the sheriff's office.
- Process server: A plaintiff may hire a private process server to serve the filings on the defendant.
- Certified mail: A plaintiff may pay a fee to the court clerk, and the clerk will send the filings to the defendant via certified mail. If the defendant refuses to sign, the plaintiff must use another method to serve the defendant.
Once the plaintiff serves the defendant, the plaintiff must file an affidavit of service form with the court.
Responding to a Small Claims Case
A defendant who receives notice of a lawsuit and disagrees with the plaintiff must file an answer to the plaintiff's case. The court must receive the defendant's answer within 21 days of the defendant's receipt of the plaintiff's claim.
If the defendant does not file a timely answer to the plaintiff's claim, the court may enter a default judgment in the plaintiff's favor. In such a scenario, the court will grant the plaintiff's claim.
The court will set a hearing date once the defendant answers the plaintiff's claim.
A defendant in an Idaho small claims court cannot file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. However, if the defendant has claims against the plaintiff, the defendant may file a separate claim against the plaintiff.
Small Claims Court Hearing
Before the small claims court hearing, parties may gather evidence and secure witnesses to testify. Parties may also file additional pleadings if necessary. A party may request a subpoena from the court to compel the other party to produce evidence or to secure a witness's testimony at the hearing.
All parties to the lawsuit should appear at the small claims court hearing. Failing to appear at the hearing can significantly impact a party's case.
Both parties will typically make an opening statement of their case at the hearing. The plaintiff will then present their evidence and witnesses. If a party calls a witness to testify, the other party can cross-examine the witness. When the plaintiff rests their case, the defendant will present their case.
The judge will decide the case, either immediately or at a later time. The judge will issue a written judgment.
Any party may appeal the small claim court's judgment. The district court will hear the appeal. The appealing party must file their notice of appeal within 30 days of the small claims judgment.
Enforcing a Small Claims Court Judgment
It is the plaintiff's responsibility to enforce a small claims court judgment. Depending on the type of case, the decision will instruct the defendant to pay money or return property to the plaintiff. The plaintiff and defendant may communicate about the payment or return of property.
The timelines for enforcing a judgment depend on the following factors:
- If both parties attended the hearing, the plaintiff must wait 30 days after the judgment date to collect the judgment.
- If the court issues a default judgment, the plaintiff may enforce the judgment immediately.
- If the defendant appeals the court's judgment, the plaintiff may not enforce the judgment. Instead, the court must rule on the appeal before the satisfaction of judgment occurs.
The plaintiff may ask the court for assistance if the defendant cannot or does not pay the judgment. The defendant may request the court to issue one of several Writs to satisfy the judgment. These Writs are as follows:
- Writ of Execution: A Writ of Execution allows a plaintiff to request the sheriff seize the defendant's personal property. The sheriff may then seize and sell specific property to satisfy the judgment.
- Writ of Garnishment: If the case involves a monetary judgment, the plaintiff may request a Writ of Garnishment. If the court issues the Writ, the defendant's employer will withhold wages from the defendant's paycheck until the judgment is satisfied.
- Writ of Possession: If the case involves the return of personal property, the plaintiff may file a Writ of Possession. This Writ instructs the sheriff to recover the personal property.
Consult an Attorney in Your Small Claims Case
Although parties to an Idaho small claims case cannot hire attorneys to represent them at the hearing, contacting an attorney before the trial can still be helpful. An experienced attorney may provide beneficial legal advice regarding your claim's strengths and weaknesses or whether you should file the case in a small claims court or a superior court. If you are considering filing a small claims case in Idaho, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney near you.
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