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Small Claims Courts - Records Management and Case Processing

NCJ Number
R P Wolfe
Date Published
116 pages
Published by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), this book presents general principles of and practical guidelines for records management and case processing in small claims courts.
Manual recordkeeping systems are emphasized, although automated alternatives for larger courts are also discussed. The concepts and recommendations are based on NCSC staff research and site visits throughout the U.S. Common obstacles to improving case processing in small claims courts include frequent staff turnover, inadequate facilities and supplies, the unique role of small claims court personnel, and statutory rule requirements. Records management systems should include appropriate filing equipment, filing supplies, a case numbering system, an indexing system, inactive records maintenance, and records control. Records and forms should be written in understandable language, should be easy to complete, should be standardized in size, and should be limited in number. Judicial records should encompass complaint summons, affidavit of indigency, general notice, order to appear, and counterclaims form. Court records include index cards, minutes, audio recordings, judgments, case action summaries, accounting records, and court calendars and statistics. Crucial administrative issues revolve around organization of space and facilities for efficient use and easy client access, case scheduling to provide prompt case management and fairness to litigants, and staff training through use of detailed procedures manuals and written materials on court philosophy and rules. Court assistance to users should be provided both personally by court appointed employees and indirectly through specially prepared handbooks explaining the small claims process. A summary of recommendations on records, filing systems, budgeting, case scheduling, personnel, court-provided assistance, and litigant handbooks is presented. Tables, photographs, footnotes, and appendixes presenting sample records and forms and sample handbooks for plaintiffs and defendants are also provided.