Many lawyers (or pro se) litigants are uncomfortable in Davidson County General Sessions Court (where the jurisdiction/amounts at issue are below $25,000, with some exceptions). Justice moves really fast in small claims court, and that’s the general complaint, that the 50-100 cases on each docket make practice there difficult.
That having been said, before you step into that fast paced world, take a moment to read the Davidson County General Sessions Court Local Rules.
Those Local Rules have answers to the following issues that come up every day:
- Do I need a lawyer to represent me in General Sessions? A person can represent himself, but a non-attorney “will not be permitted to represent anyone other than him or herself in the General Sessions Courts.” See Rule 2.01. This means that a non-lawyer cannot appear and defend a case for a corporation or other business entity.
- Can I get a continuance on the first court date setting? Maybe. “In civil actions the Court may liberally grant a continuance on the first setting of a case or on the first setting after an indefinite continuance.” See Rule 5.01. But, you should always call the other side and tell them you want or plan on asking for a continuance. See my # 4 advice from last year.
- Can cases be continued “indefinitely”? No. You have one year to resolve the case, and you only get three continuances. Rules 6.01 and 6.02.
- If I’m the Plaintiff and I don’t show, what happens to my case? “When a case is dismissed without a trial for want of prosecution, said dismissal shall be without prejudice to either party’s right to re-file.” Rule 4.01.
That’s just a sampling of the 4 most common “rules” that everybody cites, but not everybody knows where to find the rules. If you have a sticky issue in small claims court (or if you don’t go there much), be sure to read the Local Rules before you go.
One final piece of advice: There aren’t enough elevators for the crowds that show up for Court. To be sure get into the courtroom on time, get there at least thirty minutes early for your docket.