And Justice for All, Part Two - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

February 5, 2002

And Justice for All, Part Two

In part one, you heard straight from a city court judge that small claims court is the best-kept secret in Baton Rouge. In part two, we continue our special report on how you can argue for justice, up to $3,000 worth, without an attorney.

More than 11,000 people did it last year. Court clerks say the bright-orange booklet is all you need to file in small claims court. But know this, you've got to fight your own battle and court officials are quick to say, even if you win your judgment, you still might have to play detective and chase down your money.

Still, some folks say it's well worth it! "If you're like me you don't have the money to get something fixed over and over", says Sandra Jones who filed a small claim. And the folks at small claims court say you don't have to. By law, you have the right to take your case to court without an attorney.

Three-time small claims filer, Sandra Jones, says you simply fill out the forms and speak the facts. Chief deputy clerk Wanda Dupas says as long as your ducks are in a row and you have all your documents, justice should prevail. "We really do hold their hand because they're afraid but you don't need to be afraid”, says Dupas.

The brochure breaks it down. You may sue in small claims court if someone owes you money. For instance if a landlord owes you a deposit, a defective product someone is refusing to fix, or if you're injured because of someone's negligence. Small claims will not take care of real estate, evictions or divorce.

It’s a one-page user-friendly form. Just fill in the blanks and be ready to talk to a judge, or arbitrator, face to face. Though, unlike other courts, there are no appeals in small claims and the most you can sue for is $3,000.

But for folks like Sandra Jones, this quicker and cheaper road to justice was like an answer to her prayers. For a line-by-line look at the small claims brochure click on the link attached to the upper right side of this page.

And, lucky for so many folks who simply want justice, small claims court is nothing like those over-the-top court TV shows. Once you file, the papers are served on the defendant, he replies, and depending on whether you want it heard by a judge or an arbitrator it could take a few months. And remember, if the incident occurs outside of the Baton Rouge city limits, you would file small claims at your justice of the peace court.

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