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Viewing Blog: A Brief History of California Small Claims
9/21/2010 12:37:30 AM
A Brief History of California Small Claims

Californians rely on California small claims court to settle disputes under $7,500. This established process has been around and functioning for many years. Do you wonder how it all got started?

Surprisingly, small claims court is not a very old institution and California small claims did not kick off the entire process. That honor goes to Cleveland, Ohio. In 1913, less than 100 years ago, the first American small claims court was established in Ohio. It must have been a success since all municipal and country courts were ordered to create their own small claims court departments in 1925. Following that, it only took a few years before every state had a small claims court division.

The process has not changed much since its inception. Like the small claims courts of yesteryear, the plaintiff starts a claim by filling out and filing paperwork and the hearing still takes place sans jury. What has changed, however, is the claim amount. In New York, for example, a plaintiff could claim $50 in 1934, $100 in 1945 and $5000 in 2004. California small claims cap at $7,500. Each state sets their own filing fees and claim amounts.

The types of cases heard in small claims court has not varied much either. Like cases heard in California small claims, complaints revolve around damaged property, unpaid loans, and landlord/tenant issues. Items such as criminal cases and custody disputes are heard in other courts.

It says a lot for the process that so little has changed in nearly a century. In fact, the only changes seen involve the natural process of modernization. In this digital age, it would be counterproductive not to use the Internet to facilitate the efficiency of small claims court. Many states offer downloadable forms, and those needing the services of California small claims can even outsource the entire process by filing out an online package and paying a nominal fee. The plaintiff needs only to show up to the hearing when instructed.

Like small claims all across America, California small claims will continue to be treated with the utmost dignity, honesty and fairness we have come to expect from the American legal system. The strong historical foundation of small claims court moves us to the promising future of this process where everyone of every race, income and social status can evoke his or her right to be heard and treated fairly.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this site is not legal advice, but general information on legal issues commonly encountered in the Small Claims process.’s Legal Document Service is not a law firm and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. cannot provide legal advice and can only provide self-help services at your specific direction.