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Can someone else represent you in California small claims court?

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Small claims court in California is designed to provide individuals with a simplified and accessible way to resolve disputes involving relatively small amounts of money. The average lawyer will charge you a retainer fee plus a handsome hourly rate to take on your case. In the end, your legal fees may actually exceed the actual amount of damages you suffered.


While the process in small claims court is typically less formal than traditional court proceedings, many individuals wonder whether they can have someone else represent them in small claims court. In California, the rules regarding representation in small claims court are clear: you cannot have a lawyer represent you.


Individuals are allowed to represent themselves in small claims court proceedings in California. This means that if you are a party to a small claims case, you have the right to appear in court and present your own case without the need for an attorney or other representative. Self-representation, or “in pro per,” is often preferred by individuals seeking to save on legal fees and navigate the process independently.


However, there are instances where you may want or need someone else to represent you in small claims court.


Here’s a closer look at the exceptional circumstances under which representation by another individual may be allowed


  • If you are under 18 or have been declared mentally incompetent by a court, you may be represented by a guardian ad litem.
  • If you are a minor, this person is usually a parent. If the court decides that you are unable to properly present your claim or defense for any reason, the court may allow another person to help you, but this other person cannot be an attorney.
  • If you are a business owner, you may be represented by a regular employee if the claim can be proved through sufficient evidence and the employee has knowledge of this evidence.
  • If you are in a partnership, one of the partners can represent you.


Can someone else represent you in California small claims court?


  • If you are a corporation, an employee, officer, or director can represent you only if they were not hired solely to represent the corporation in court.
  • If you are a military service member, another person may represent you so long as you submit declarations to support your claim or defense.


It’s important to note that regardless of who represents you in small claims court, you are still ultimately responsible for the case’s outcome. Therefore, it’s essential to choose a representative who is capable, knowledgeable about the case, and able to effectively advocate on your behalf. Additionally, consider seeking legal advice to ensure that you understand your rights and obligations under California law.

Self-representation is a blessing in disguise for some plaintiffs. When given the opportunity to present your own case, make sure to focus on the hard, cold facts and only use emotions strategically. You want to be as organized, calm, confident, and composed as possible in front of a judge or jury. Understanding the rules regarding representation can help you navigate the small claims court process effectively and pursue a favorable outcome in your case.