Myles M. Mattenson
ATTORNEY AT LAW
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
Email: MMM@MattensonLaw.com
Web: http://www.MattensonLaw.com
Small Claims Court:
Quick, Simple And Inexpensive!

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.


Small Claims Court:
Quick, Simple And Inexpensive!

      In  a  moment of weakness, over a few beers,  a  couple  of
Margaritas,  and a Long Island Iced Tea, which a  friend  assures
you  has  no  alcoholic content, you loan $3,500 to your  friend.
You  thought  he said he had a medical need and would  race  back
with  the money as quickly as possible.  He actually said he  had
an  emotional need to go to the racetrack and would get  back  to
you as quickly as possible.

     After the gestation period for a thoroughbred1 passes and no
money  is  forthcoming, you consider alternatives of mayhem  upon
his person or Small Claims Court.  As a rational person, you pick
the legal alternative, Small Claims Court!

      Can  you sue in Small Claims Court for $3,500?  Yes!  Small
Claims  Court  has  jurisdiction over cases in which  the  amount
demanded  by the plaintiff, including interest, does  not  exceed
$5,000;  however, you cannot file more than two actions for  more
than  $2,500  anywhere  in  California during  a  calendar  year.
[Claims against guarantors are always limited to $2,500.]

      You live in Santa Monica, the debtor lives in Burbank,  and
the loan was made in an Inglewood saloon!  Where do you sue?  The
rules for determining venue, i.e., place of suit, are the same in
Small Claims Court as those rules prevailing in the Municipal and
Superior   Courts.   Although  the  place  for   performance   is
frequently  acceptable, the general rule and judicial  preference
is that your suit be maintained in the judicial district in which
the  defendant  resides at the time the action is commenced.   An
opportunity is thus at hand to visit beautiful downtown Burbank!

      You  know  that the debtor's brother is an attorney.   Does
that  mean you can expect the debtor's brother to appear  on  his
behalf and that you will need a lawyer?  No!  No individual other
than the plaintiff and the defendant can take part in the conduct
or defense of the action.  An attorney is generally not permitted
to  represent a party in a Small Claims Court action,  except  on
appeal.

      The  bartender  overheard your discussion with  the  debtor
regarding  the loan and when you would be repaid.  Unfortunately,
you  discover that the bartender will be on vacation at the  time
set  for the Small Claims Court hearing.  How can you present the
bartender's  evidence to the Judge?  In Small Claims  Court,  the
parties   can  provide  evidence  through  their  own  testimony,
witnesses testifying in person, or by declarations.

      In  Small Claims Court, as a general rule, the formal rules
of  evidence,  including  those  limiting  the  admissibility  of
hearsay  evidence, do not apply.  Judges routinely admit  all  of
the  evidence presented and thereafter determine its  credibility
and persuasiveness.

      At  the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge announces that
he  will take the matter under submission2 and notify the parties
by  mail of the decision.  You wonder, what if you lose?   It  is
important  to  remember that a plaintiff has no right  of  appeal
from a judgment in Small Claims Court.  It is only the defendant,
who appears at the hearing, who may appeal from the judgment.  If
an  appeal is filed, enforcement of the judgment is automatically
suspended.

      To  your  delight and to the consternation of  your  former
friend,  you are successful in Small Claims Court and  receive  a
judgment  for $3,500 plus interest.  The debtor now  advises  the
Judge  that  he has lost his high-paying job, is now working  for
peanuts,  and desires to weekly allocate a few peanut  shells  in
your direction toward the debt.  Translation: the debtor requests
an  order  authorizing payment of the judgment  by  installments.
Can the debtor make this request in Small Claims Court?  Yes!  An
order  authorizing payment of a judgment by installments  can  be
made  at  the hearing, as part of the original judgment,  at  the
request  of the defendant or on the Court's own motion.  Such  an
order can also be made at any time after judgment, at the request
of the judgment debtor or on the Court's own motion.

     Few judgment debtors simply hand over the money.  Collection
of  money  sufficient  to satisfy your judgment  is  yet  another
hurdle to be crossed before you reach the finish line of success!
Perhaps  a levy upon the debtor's automobile (in which he travels
to the racetrack) might get his attention!

      The  moral of the story?  There are occasions in which  you
can act as your own attorney and not have a fool for a client!

_______________________________
     1   The  gestation period for a thoroughbred is  within  the
range  of  320  days to 365 days or longer, but is typically  340
days.   If you knew the answer, tell the next person you  see  to
pat you on the back!

     2   Since I periodically serve as a Small Claims Court Judge
Pro  Tem,  I can share with you that the decision is most  likely
being  written by the Judge as you walk out the door, but is  not
announced to avoid emotional fireworks in the courtroom!


[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]


Reprinted from New Era Magazine
Myles M. Mattenson  1997-2002