LITIGATION: What Court Do I Bring My Lawsuit In?

By Jesse Cook

Sometimes, where you bring your lawsuit can affect the outcome more than any other  factor.  You may not have a choice where you can file your suit, but sometimes you do.
Generally speaking, you can bring a civil lawsuit in Small Claims Court, Justice Court, or Superior Court.  Each of these venues is set up to handle different types of cases.


Small Claims Court
If the amount in controversy is $2,500 or less, you can go to Small Claims Court.  The good things about this?  Because procedures are simple, it is not hard to represent yourself, and lawyers are not allowed.  This is often a good thing because it would be very difficult for a lawyer to keep her fees much below $2500.


For a small claim, you do not have to stay in Small Claims Court.  For instance, if you want a lawyer, you can have the case transferred to Justice Court.  (If you win, you might get your attorney’s fees reimbursed to you.)  Remember that the other side has the same right to transfer to Justice Court.


Justice Court
Generally, Justice Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all civil cases involving amounts of $2,500 to 5,000.  Also, if your matter is worth between $5,000 and $10,000 (not including attorney’s fees and costs), you have a choice whether to bring the matter in Justice Court or Superior Court.
The good thing about bringing such a case in Justice Court is that the procedures are simpler and, therefore, less expensive than those in Superior court. You will also get to trial faster in Justice Court.  Also, the filing fees are lower in Justice Court ($93) than in Superior Court ($301).  The bad thing is that, because Justices of the Peace are not required to be trained in the law, most are not.  This can be a problem if your case involves any relatively complex legal issues.


Superior Court
This is where all claims of $10,000 or more must be filed.  There is no ceiling on what you can claim.  Because you will have to strictly adhere to all of the rules of civil procedure, few try to go it alone without a lawyer.  You are permitted to do so, but keep in mind that you will get no special breaks because you are a layman.


Note that there are a few other factors affecting jurisdiction.  For those, you should contact an attorney.


Let me tell you about two of my past clients.

Romero was a legal immigrant who had pulled himself up by his bootstraps to a place where he was ready to buy his first apartment house.  But he had three problems.  First, he spoke a little English, but not a lot.  Second, because he had done well, he thought he was smarter than his problems and the people he was dealing with.  Third, as a result of number two, he negotiated the contract himself.  Three  months later, the deal fell through because the other side had defrauded him and the language of the contract had taken away his protection. Within another month, he was involved in litigation which lasted two years and forced him to pay the firm I worked at over $200,000.


George was an astute businessman and a veteran of past litigation. He wanted to buy a struggling company and turn it around, but he had to deal with an ornery seller who, it seemed, would rather see the company go down than make a deal which would fill his pockets. George did not try to handle the problem himself.  He knew he needed an Arizona Business Litigation lawyer, so he came to us.  We developed a number of strategies to determine just how difficult the seller would be. We found out that there could be no deal without George making sacrifices that destroyed the attraction of the company.  So he walked away, probably saving himself hundreds of thousands of dollars chasing after the company, and paying us less than $10,000.

The first scenario brought the firm a lot of money. The second was far more satisfying for the client and for us.

The message is clear. When you sense a problem ahead, see an Arizona Contract Lawyer or Business Litigation Lawyer. You don’t have to commit. You can take the time to decide what is best for you . But at least you will know your options and, perhaps, avoid a much larger problem.



Divorce: My God I’m Alone!

“My God, I’m Alone”: The First Steps To Take When You Separate

You thought it might be happening, but you weren’t sure, and now your mate is gone.  You feel debilitated with barely enough energy to get out of bed and get the kids to school. But you know you can’t just sit around because you are now the one who must handle your life.  Your mate did the money, including the bills and the mortgage and the car payment and who knows what else, and now, with that person not around, you don’t know where to start.  This is a critical time for you: despite your hurt, there are steps you need to take right away to avoid worse problems later.  Here are five things at the top of that list:

  1. Get your credit report. These are offered through several services, one of which may be your bank. A credit report allows you to see what debts you and your spouse have. You share your credit with your spouse, and his or her actions can ruin you.  Frequently, in a divorce, one spouse learns for the first time that the other spouse took on a major debt. A credit report prevents against such an in-court surprise. Get knowledgeable.


2. Close joint accounts.  To prevent your mate from running up debts that you may be held responsible for, cancel all joint credit cards immediately and apply for credit cards that are in your name alone. Even the credit cards you have not used in years. Similarly, if you have a joint loan, you may want to either pay off the loan or sell the asset.

 3. Create a financial plan. Make sure you have enough money to live on for the next few months. You are going to lose one income and face some new expenses. It is important to set aside enough money to live on for several months and to also budget. Cutting back on some costs will cut down on your stress in an already emotional time.  You may also find it useful to talk to a financial planner.

4. Open a bank account in your name. Now that you are out on your own again, it is time to rebuild your credit. One of the first steps is to open your own bank account. Arizona is a community property state, meaning that any money you or your spouse earn during marriage is split between you. And remember that the fact that the two of you have separated does not mean that the marriage has ended.  But go ahead and do your separate account anyway.  If the Petition for Dissolution ever turns into a finalized divorce, then all the money that went into your account as of the date of the service of the Petition will be deemed to be your separate property.  Confusing?  I understand.  Talk to an Arizona Divorce Lawyer.

5. Create a record of your assets and property. This starts with taking inventory of all your assets and personal property. You need to have a written list and photographs of the property that you and your spouse own. Put together an organized file with records of all marital property, assets, debts and financial documents (bank account statements, credit card statements, 401K documents, life insurance, tax returns, etc.), and photos. Make sure that they are organized in a way that enables you to find each document quickly. This will also make it easier for your divorce lawyer (which will save you money).

Finally, divorce is an emotional and complicated process, and you will have a lot on the line. It really is in your best interest to get an Arizona Divorce Lawyer on your side as soon as possible.