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What is a Small Claims Subpoena?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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A small claims subpoena is a particular type of subpoena or legal summons. A small claims subpoena is a formal request to appear in small claims court to help a plaintiff or defendant within the court system present his case. Failure to comply with such a subpoena can subject an individual to contempt of court charges, just as failure to comply with any subpoena can.

Small claims court is a special court of limited jurisdiction. This means the court can hear only certain cases. While the specific limits vary by state, generally a small claims court can only hear a case if the total dollar amount the plaintiff and defendant are in disagreement over is equal to $5,000 US Dollars (USD) or less. There are numerous types of cases heard in small claims court, from wrongful termination employment cases to breach of contract cases; in fact, almost any type of case can be brought by a plaintiff in small claims court as long as the dollar amount is low enough.

Special rules generally apply to small claims court cases. In general, people are not permitted to bring attorneys. This means they must prove the case themselves or defend the case themselves. Although they are not allowed to bring attorneys, plaintiffs and defendants in a small claims court are allowed to call witnesses and present other evidence.

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If a witness does not wish to come to court voluntarily, a small claims subpoena can be issued mandating that he come to court. Because no attorneys are used, the plaintiff or defendant would have to prepare this small claims subpoena themselves. Most small claims courts offer forms to do so and/or assistance from the court clerk or other court staff. These staff members can help the plaintiff or defendant in a small claims court write a request for a small claims subpoena; the judge will then review the request and grant the subpoena, which must be served.

The witness who is served the subpoena must then either turn over the evidence or come to court. The evidence can be information, as long as it is not subject to privilege. For example, a subpoena issued by small claims court can require a person to turn over certain non-confidential documents required to prove the plaintiff's case, such as receipts for a purchase of an item that the plaintiff now believes has been stolen.

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Feryll
Post 3

@Laotionne - I have seen that TV court show you mentioned. In general, I think TV judges are ridiculous. For the most part, they seem to be more interested in the way they come off to the audience than they are in the people and the cases brought before them.

Honestly, I think these shows give our judicial system in the U.S. a black eye. And we have enough problems in that area without any help from reality TV. You are right that a real small claims court would be much different than what you see on that TV program.

Animandel
Post 2

I am considering going to court over an issue I have where my car was damaged by a mechanic when I took it in for service. I thought I might have a tough time getting some of the people involved to appear in court as witnesses, but after reading this article, I think they could be legally obligated to attend if they were sent small claims subpoenas.

The good thing about small claims cases is that I won't need to hire a lawyer, which would cost me more than the money I am trying to get to repair my car.

Laotionne
Post 1

There is a TV show, a reality TV show, that comes on every weekday. The show takes place in a small claims court. People come in with various disputes and then try to convince a judge that they are owed money or that they do not owe the other person anything.

I don't know how much like a regular small claims court this really is because when people get in front of a camera they are going to act differently. Anyway, I find the show interesting. I feel like I am getting at least a small taste of what court is really like, but with more drama.

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