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Small Claims Court

If you lose, this is the Appeal Process


If you lose, you can choose a small claims court appeal. Small claims courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They have been created to speed up the process for claims of lesser amount and lawsuits. This also means that their judgments can be appealed as a matter of right.

This is important because an appeal must be heard (MUST). There is no discretionary review by the superior court. You can appeal to the superior court or district court, depending on how the court system is setup in your county. Most courts will give you a handout for how to go about a small claims court appeal and how to argue there. This is not necessarily given to you, so you might have to ask for one.

The good thing about appeals is that the higher court will do a “de novo” review of the case. This means they will look at everything again (not just questions of fact or questions of law) and make a new decision based solely on their own interpretation of the facts.

This can be somewhat difficult because the appellate court will look at the record (everything said on small claims court is recorded and is entered into the record). The appellant (you) will have to pay to have the record transcribed (about $200) so you can write your own appellate brief and the court can review it.


You also have to pay a bond. Most states require you to pay a bond that is twice the amount of the judgment so if you lose, attorney’s fees can be awarded to the prevailing party. Posting a bond is not as expensive as paying this out of your own pocket or with a cashier’s check. However, if you lose again you must be able to cover the bond.

As you can see, appealing can be very difficult (if you do not know how to write a legal brief, you are in for a surprise) and expensive. If you are thinking of appealing, you must talk to an attorney to know about all your rights and to see if your case is worth appealing. Sometimes you will lose more on attorney fees than you will lose from a judgment.

There are those cases that you want to appeal out of principle and a lot of weight should be given to that. However, talking to an attorney can give a better understanding of how to proceed. Appealing a small claims court case is much more difficult than “arguing it” the first time.

You have to write and you have to comply with the local rules or your case will be thrown out. The fact that you are pro se (not represented by an attorney) will not exempt your from following the rules closely. Cases can be thrown out because the margins are not correct or the paper is not the type the court requires.


Above I detailed that the appeal will be heard as “de novo” and that the small claims court will make a new decision without any deference to the lower court. This is true in the “legal sense of the word”. You do not have to show that the lower court abused its discretion.

However, judges do not like to overrule lower court judges. It is embarrassing for a judge to be overruled and the appellate judges know this. Judges are professionals and they probably know each other (legal organizations, your state bar association, golf, judicial meetings, etc). What I am trying to tell you is that even if you have a good case, you have to consider showing that there was a pretty “severe” or a very big “mistake” by a judge. Appeal court judges tend to affirm more than reverse.

Read more here:

Traffict Ticket eBook
Speeding Ticket eBook

1. Small Claims Court (Overview)
2. When to go Small Claims Court
3. Important Small Claims Considerations
4. How to argue your Small Claims Case
5. Small Claims Court Legal Argument Part I
6. Small Claims Court Legal Argument Part II
7. Arguing in Small Claims (the Police Report)
8. Small Claims Court and the Auto Damages
9. Small Claims and the Injury Claim
10. Collecting the Small Claims Award
11. Appealing the Small Claims Court decision

Total Loss eBook
Personal Injury eBook

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