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					SMALL CLAIMS COURT CLINICS


Christopher B. Hopkins | Butzel Long, P.C.
Palm Beach County Bar Association

October 28, 2009
PALM BEACH COUNTY BAR
ASSOCIATION

 Established 1922
 1601 Belvedere Road, Suite 302E
  West Palm Beach, Florida 33406
 Telephone (561) 687-2800
 www.palmbeachbar.org
 Email: info@palmbeachbar.org
Palm Beach County Lawyer Referral
Service


 West Palm Beach: (561) 687-3266

 Boca Raton/Delray Beach: (561) 451-3256
The Florida Bar
Protecting Rights, Pursuing Justice,
Promoting Professionalism




  651 East Jefferson Street
  Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300
  Telephone: (850) 561-5600
  www.floridabar.org
Christopher B. Hopkins
B.A. in Religion from University of Richmond
M.T.S. from Wesley Theological Seminary
J.D. from Tulane Law

Shareholder at Butzel Long, a professional corporation

Lawyer | Mediator | Arbitrator

FloridaLawCommentary.com
Legal Disclaimers


   Not the views of the Florida Bar, the Palm
    Beach County Bar Association, or any
    committee

   General Information

   Not Legal Advice
Small Claims Court Clinics

   Show people how to handle matters on their
    own without having to hire an attorney.
    AREA COURTHOUSES
    (PALM BEACH COUNTY)



South County Courthouse       North County Courthouse
200 West Atlantic Avenue      3188 PGA Boulevard
Delray Beach, Florida 33444   Palm Bch Gardens, FL33418
(561) 274-1588                (561) 624-6650

                              Belle Glade Courthouse
Palm Beach Cty Courthouse
                              38844 State Road 80
205 North Dixie Highway       Belle Glade, Florida 33430
West Palm Beach, FL 33401     (561) 996-4843
(561) 355-2500
AREA COURTHOUSES
(BROWARD COUNTY)

North Regional Courthouse        Broward County Courthouse
1600 West Hillsboro Boulevard    201 S.E. 6th Street
Deerfield Beach, Florida 33442   Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301
(954) 831-1209                   (954) 831-5622
WAYS TO AVOID DISPUTES

Communicate Clearly
      * Say what you want to say
      * Listen
Document Clearly
      * Date, Time, Name, Discuss
Read
If Do Not Understand, Do Not Sign – Seek
   Legal Advice
Ways to Resolve Disputes

Communication
    * Face to Face
    * Telephonic
    * Letter
    * E-Mail

Mediation
Pre-Filing Small Claims Mediation

 Allows citizens an opportunity to attempt to resolve
   disputes through mediation before filing a County
                      Civil lawsuit.

 The Palm Beach County program is $30.00 to the
                      parties
          www.communitymediation.us
                (561) 729-5111
Mediation (Continued)


      Dispute Resolution Center
       Supreme Court Building
      Tallahassee, Florida 32399
            850-921-2910
           www.flcourts.org
OPTIONS IN A DISPUTE


   Fight in the Ring

   Walk Away and Move on

   Settle

   Litigate in the Courtroom
Fight in the Ring


   Depending on your skill, may lose

   May get injured

   May get arrested and go to jail!

   May get sued for damages
Walk Away and Move On


   Move on to Bigger and Better Things

   No Additional Costs Involved

   You Still Have your Health
Settle


   Create your own destiny

   Avoid the uncertainty of the Judge

   Save Money, Time and Emotion

   No worry about collection
Litigate in the Courtroom
(This is why you are here)

   In the Correct Court

   In the Correct Place

   Have the Correct Person

   Have the Correct Facts

   Have the Correct Proof

   Use the Correct Logic
Public Resources at Our Disposal

LIBRARIES
Law Library
University Library

INTERNET
www.floridabar.org
www.mypalmbeachclerk.com
www.15thcircuit.co.palm-beach.fl.us
www.leg.state.fl.us
Other Public Information

          Florida Small Claims Rules
Rules       -     7.010 – 7.300
Forms       -     7.310 – 7.350

                Florida Statutes
Venue       -     Chapter 47
Service     -     Chapter 48
Self Service Center

   The Self Service Center is offered by the Clerk &
    Comptroller’s Office to help individuals help
    themselves in the court process. The goal is to
    provide a friendly, informative environment to guide
    you through the court system. The Self Service
    Center is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to
    5:00 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in
    Room 2.2209. User friendly forms ($1.00/minute).
   Interactive forms (Small Claims and Evictions)
   Public Access Terminals
   Lawyer Referral
In the Correct Court
(Subject Matter Jurisdiction)


   Small Claims Court is Civil – Not Criminal

   Money Damages less than $5,000.00 (not
    including court costs)

   Not a Federal Case
In the Correct Place
(Venue)

Where Does the Defendant Reside:
 Where the Individual Resides
 Where the Corporation Maintains an Office
Where the Action Accrued:
● The Last Event/Where Are Actual Damages
● Where is the Money Owed
Where the Property is Located:
In the Correct Place (Continued)
(Venue)

 Contracts:
Where Entered Into
Where Contract Provides
●Promissory Notes:
Where Signed by the Parties
Where Payment is to be Made
Have the Correct Person
(Personal Jurisdiction)

   Serve the Correct Defendant

    Individual (15 years of age or older)
    Corporation (Registered Agent)
               Registered Agent
                      Florida Department of State
                      www.sunbiz.org
                      (850) 488-9000
               Officer/Director
Have the Correct Facts
(The Claim Should be Simple & Sweet)

                    KISS
Keep
It
Simple and
Sweet
             WHO DID WHAT TO WHOM
                   AND WHEN
Have the Correct Proof


 Contract or Other Written Agreement
      Oral, Written or Implied
● Statutes
      (I.E., Bad Check, Security Deposit)
● Negligence
Use the Correct Logic
(The Statement of Claim)

   First Write out the Issues and Facts

   Proofread and Rewrite

   Have Neighbor, Friend, Family Member
    Read and Provide Constructive Criticism

   Typing is Better than Handwriting
Use the Correct Logic
(The Breathing Evidence)


   Should be Credible

   Should be Competent (Experts)

   Hearsay Not Allowed (No Affidavits/Letters)
Use the Correct Logic (Continued)
(The Inanimate Evidence)

 Paper Evidence
     Contracts
     Invoices
     Checks
●Visual Evidence
     Photographs
     Video
At the Courthouse

 Papers to be Brought
     Statement of Claim (3 Copies)
     Contract/Invoice Exhibits (3 Copies)
     Defendant’s Address/Service Information
● Money
     Filing Fee
     Service of Process Fee
Filing Fees (Palm Beach County)

Claims of less than $100 - $55.00
Claims of $100 or more, but less than $500 -
  $80.00
Claims of $500 or more, but less than $2,500 -
  $175.00
Claims of $2,500 or more, but less than $5,000
  - $300.00
Issuance of Summons - $10.00
At the Courthouse (Continued)


   Prepare to Wait (Book, Newspaper, Other)

   Have Papers in Order and Ready to File
    (Exhibits Properly Attached and Marked)

   Clerk is Unable to Give Legal Advice – Don’t
    Ask and Don’t be Insulted.
Serving the Defendant
(Service of Process)

   Process Server
        Sheriff of Palm Beach County: ~ $25.00
        Private Process Server (Yellow Pages):
        ~ $35.00
● Certified Mail Return Receipt W/Green Card
        Upon Florida Resident signed by the Defendant, or
        someone authorized to receive mail at the residence or
        principal place of business of the Defendant


        Follow-Up With Process Server For Status
Time to Contemplate

 Defendant
       Potential Loss and Risk
       Call Plaintiff, then Follow Up in Writing
       Consider Counterclaim
● Plaintiff
       Listen/Read As To Defendant’s Position
       Consider Potential Loss and Risk

Jury Trial: Within 5 Days After Service of Notice of Suit
       or at the Pretrial Conference - by Defendant
When Mailing to Court/Judge


 I certify that a copy hereof has been furnished to
 (here insert name or names and address or
 addresses) by (delivery) (mail) on ....(date)......
 ____________________
 Party or party’s attorney

 Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.080(e)(1)
The Pretrial Conference
(This is Not Your Trial)

   The Right Stuff
       Be in the Right Place
       Be at the Right Time
       Be Dressed in the Right Clothes
             Shorts Are A No No
             Business Casual is a Yes Yes
             Lightweight Jacket for Comfort
The Pretrial Conference (Continued)
(This is Not Your Trial)

   More of the Right Stuff
       Bring Copies of What you Filed
       Bring List of Witnesses
       Bring Your Calendar
       Defendant May Bring Money
       Bring Moral Support if Necessary

              Do Not Bring Witnesses
Corporate Plaintiff/Defendant

   A corporation may be represented at any
    stage of the trial court proceedings by an
    officer of the corporation or any employee
    authorized in writing by an officer of the
    corporation. Fla.Sm.Cl.R. 7.050(a)(2).
The Risk of No Shows at the Pretrial
Conference

 Plaintiff
      Dismissal
      Fees and Costs
● Defendant (After Proper Service)
      Default
      Default Judgment
● Defendant (With No Service): Continuance
Pretrial Conference Procedures

   Continuances in Writing With Good Cause
   Rules of Evidence Apply Although Liberally
    Construed
   The court may not instruct any party not
    represented by an attorney on accepted
    rules of law. The court shall not act as an
    advocate for a party. Fla. S. Cl. R. 7.140(e)
   Mediation
Preparing For Trial


   Observe an Earlier Trial

   Dress is Business Casual

   Know Where to Sit
The Day You’ve Been Waiting For -
TRIAL

 Arrive Early
 Focus
       Be Prepared
       Be Short & Simple
       Be Respectful
       Be Organized (Papers, Argument, Story)
● Speak When Spoken to and Listen
● Plaintiff First then Defendant
Defenses to Plaintiff’s Claim

   Accord & Satisfaction      Estoppel
   Arbitration                Improper Service
   Bankruptcy                 Waiver
   Contributory               Wrong Court
    Negligence                 Statute of Frauds
   Discharge                  Statute of Limitations
   Duress
After Trial

   Decision Will be Mailed
   Judgment is Only a Piece of Paper
   Make Demand for Payment
   Certify then Record Judgment
   Docket a Judgment Lien Certificate After 30
    Days (www.sunbiz.org)
Enforcement Tools - Plaintiff

   Execute on Real Property
   Seize Personal Property
   Garnishment of Wages and Bank Accounts
   Hearing in Aid of Execution. Fla. Sm. Cl. R.
    7.221(a)
   Fact Information Sheet
   Costs of Collections are Awarded
   If paid, Satisfy Judgment
Defense Tools - Defendant

   Do Not Pay
   Appeal to the Circuit Court
   File Bankruptcy
   Fraudulent Transfers Should be Avoided
   Offer Payment Plan
The Time is Yours Now

   Cannot Give Legal Advice to Specific Legal
    Questions
   Cannot Answer Questions About Specific
    Issues

				
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