Excerpt from “Winning Big”
The Colorado General Assembly enacted legislation in 1976 creating a small claims division for each County Court in the state. The legislature did this because it was concerned that individuals, associations, and even small businesses frequently did not pursue valid small claims because of the expense of retaining legal counsel and the time and effort such litigation usually required. They also realized that the intricacies of the law and the complicated rules of court procedure deterred many who might have legitimate claims. They sought to create a forum where claims involving a relatively small amount of money (currently less than $7,500) could be resolved in an inexpensive, speedy, and informal manner.
Here are four of the big advantages of the Small Claims process over regular civil suits.
1. Less Complicated. While the substantive law still governs, in Small Claims Court many of the technical rules of pleading and evidence have been relaxed to make the process friendlier to people bringing actions without an attorney.
2. More Accessible. The legislature decided that small claims cases should be heard at times convenient for Colorado citizens, including evenings and Saturdays, and that court personnel in the small claims divisions be trained to assist anyone interested in using the small claims process.
3. Reduced Expense. Small Claims Court is designed for the person who wants to pursue a case without an attorney. In fact, parties are not allowed to have legal representation in small claims cases.
4. Faster Resolution. Again, the whole idea behind Small Claims Court is to provide citizens with a place for the easy and quick resolution of disputes. Cases brought in Small Claims Court are often decided within a month of the initial filing. Compare this with the months or even years a case may be in litigation in a County or District Court. By removing many of the complicated rules and procedures of the regular court process and eliminating attorney’s altogether, cases are more likely to be focused on the central dispute, thus simplifying them and allowing for a more speedy resolution.
The experiment in making the courts more accessible to the average citizen has proven successful, both in Colorado and elsewhere. Every state now has some variation of the small claims court concept. Since the establishment of small claims courts in Colorado in the late 1970s, thousands of such cases have been filed. Remember that each one of these filings represents someone who was willing to enter the legal system without the benefit of legal counsel.
For more information about the small claim process, see “Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court : How to Sue and Collect”, by Charles P. Brackney, Esq.