If more than one defendant, provide copies of each document along with supporting AN IMPORTANT SUGGESTION: Before filing a claim, parties are encouraged to discuss their case civilly with the other party before the suit is filed to avoid litigation. Try to contact the other person or party and solve your problem by coming to a personal agreement or settlement. By using this method, much time and money will be saved. If you cannot get the other party to come to a reasonable agreement to resolve the matter, your course would then be to file a claim in Small Claims Court.
Small Claims Filing Procedure
You go to the Clerk of the Superior Court Small Claims Division and ask for the Small Claims forms. They consist of a Summons, Declaration and a Docket form. The forms are all self explanatory and easy to fill out. The Small Claims clerk can assist with filling out these forms. Once the forms are completed, file it with the Small Claims Clerk and you must pay the filing fee. The Clerk will date stamp your forms and assign a case number. At this time At this point you must decide whether you want the Court Marshal to serve the Summons and Declaration on the defendant, or you can get a Special Process Server to serve the documents. There is an additional charge for this service and you must contact the Special Process Server on your own.
How long before the court hears my case?
The setting of a Small Claims suit for hearing is not less than 20 days from the date filed and no more than 30 days from that date. Note: As plaintiff, you are required to be present at all scheduled hearings. If you fail to appear, your case could be dismissed.
Can the dispute be settled before the hearing?
Yes. If you do accept a settlement before the hearing date, the agreement should be made in writing. You must file with the Court the Settlement Agreement and the Consent Judgment. By doing this, you can take necessary legal actions to enforce the judgment. If the defendant pays you in full and you are satisfied, you must file a Notice of Dismissal before the hearing date. While awaiting for your court date, try to prepare your case by gathering all the evidence you need to present in Court. Contact all witnesses to appear and get them ready to testify at the hearing. If necessary, bring a diagram or drawing to facilitate your explanation. The first hearing is only an answering. The Small Claims court recommends that you consider mediating your dispute before requesting a trial, if you cannot settle your dispute with the other party. A mediation can be conducted thereby applying the mediation process via a mediator in order for the parties to resolve the dispute between one another. If you'd like to take advantage of this option you can request a mediation from the court at the first hearing.
You should always be present and on time for any of your hearings. As plaintiff, you will have to tell your side first. The defendant will be given an opportunity to tell his/her side of the dispute. At the end of the hearing, the Judge may make his/her decision right then and there, or, the Judge may decide to take the matter under advisement and may also inform you when the decision will be available.
What happens if the defendant fails to appear for the hearing, or if you dont appear?
There are several actions the court could take if the defendant does not appear, or if you do not appear, or if both of you do not appear for the hearing.
Judgment by Default - If you appear and the defendant does not appear, Judgment by Default may be entered against the defendant for amount of your claim plus costs and interest at the legal rate of 6% per annum.
Dismissal - If you failed to appear and have not informed the court that you cannot appear or may be late for your hearing, and the defendant appears, the Court may enter a judgment for defendant by dismissing the case.
One of the basic rules of the Small Claims Court is that the plaintiff cannot appeal the Court's decision. But if you lost based on the defendant's counterclaim you can appeal the decision. To appeal the decision, you must file your Motion for a New Trial in the Civil Division of the Superior Court of Guam. There is a filing fee which must accompany your appeal.
Can you appeal the Judge's decision?
If the defendant filed a counterclaim against you, the court may grant judgment to the defendant based on its counterclaim. You may move the court to set aside the judgment by filing your motion with the Small Claims Clerk. The clerk will then set a date and time for the motion, at which time you must convince the court to set aside the judgment.
How do you collect the judgment?
Collecting or enforcing your judgment is your responsibility. The Small Claims Clerk can provide you with the necessary forms to help you collect your judgment. Collecting can be frustrating as it may require extra effort, time and costs. You may file a Declaration and Order for Examination Judgment Debtor and Related Supplemental Proceedings. It requires a fee, a hearing date and time, and a service to the defendant. Examination of Judgment Debtor is the second hearing in which the Plaintiff asks questions of the defendant(s) assets, and why he/she has not paid any money, or when can the judgment be paid in full.
What happens when the defendant does not appear at the examination of judgment?
If the defendant was served with the Order for Examination of Judgment Debtor and did not appear for the hearing, the Court may order the plaintiff, to file an Order to Show Cause. This is the hearing in which the defendant may be held in contempt for failure to appear, to comply with the order of the Court. A hearing date and time will be given by the Small Claims Clerk and service upon the defendant. The Order to Show Cause must be served by the Marshal or Special Process Server personally to the defendant.
What happens when the defendant still does not appear for the Order to Show Cause?
If the defendant was served with the Order to Show Cause personally and did not appear for the hearing, the court may order that a Warrant of Arrest be issued. The Court will set a bail amount for his/her release pending the hearing date or may be brought to court and is held in contempt for failure to comply with the court's order, and he/she may be punished by confinement or payment of a fine depending on the court's discretion.
Are there any other remedies available in collecting the judgment?
Yes. Once a judgment is filed you may ask the Small Claims Clerk for a form called Writ of Execution. This is a court order authorizing the Marshal to seize property belonging to the defendant and sell it to pay your judgment. There is a fee when filing this form. Plaintiff may also get a garnishment, which is an order to withhold some of the defendants wages every pay period in order to pay the judgment. Parties are encouraged to work out payment arrangements.
What do I do after the judgment is paid?
After you have received payment in the full amount of the judgment, you the plaintiff are required to file a Satisfaction of Judgment with the Small Claims Court. This ends the case.
Checklist for Plaintiff:
Additional publications about Guam's court systems are available upon request at the Superior Court Building.