Len Dastard, consumer law heavyweight vs the Small Claims Court Part 3

28 October 2010

Hola, gente guapa. It is I, Len Dastard, masked consumer champion - a genuine legal executive with a fictional wrestling alter-ego.

Remember the Saltillo Shakedown of 1975, where I defeated Malvado Rey in three rounds, shortly before his armed banditos threatened my family? No? That's because I made it up just then. In my mind.

Yet that situation is strikingly similar to this, the final stage of our three part journey through the Small Claims Court. Part 1 can be found here, while Part 2 is here.

Today we will look at what to expect when you arrive at court and tips on how to cross examine your opponent. Not all courts look like this, I promise. Many people would imagine that a court is a dark and daunting place. Not always.

The Small Claims Court, as covered in Part One is a relatively relaxed environment which is intended for use by the lay person.  You can bring your own claim and you can subsequently represent yourself before a judge.

What to expect at Court

When you arrive at Court you will be greeted by some burly security officers who will confiscate your knives, guns and any incriminating items that you would usually carry. They will then give you a body scan before sending you on your way.

Before taking a seat you must make yourself known to the court usher. They will usually be in a prominent position and will tick you off of their list to say that you are attending. They then should point you in the general direction of whichever court you are due to be seen. You will then be called (in person or on the tannoy) to make your way to the courtroom.

When you enter the courtroom either the judge or the usher will indicate where you should sit. Usually you would be sat in a row and the judge will sit in front of all of the parties. Some courts differ and may have a round table for you to sit around.

When addressing the judge the correct term is "Sir" or "Madam". On entering the judge's room a polite "Good Morning, Sir/Madam" wouldn’t hurt. Then, when asked, introduce yourself and say who you are. This will either be:

• Claimant
• Defendant; or
• Litigation friend

A litigation friend is someone representing you who is not legally qualified. You must ask the Judge permission for your litigation friend to present your claim.

The judge will request the Claimant's evidence first - this being a statement of claim (which would have already be filed with the court and you should have kept a copy) and a brief description of the circumstances. The Defendant (if they are attending) will then have an opportunity to respond to the assertions that you make.

At each stage the judge will give you an opportunity to respond to the other side and you should ensure that you respond to statements in the same order as they are made. Make sure that you answer the questions and only ask questions which are relevant to the claim. Remember, your cross examination is done in an attempt to throw doubt/add weight to the Defendant/Claimants claim or defence.

If you wish to add something else to your response ask the judge first: "may I add further information, Sir/Madam".

Some basic rules that you must follow

•    Do not interrupt the judge
•    Do not interrupt the other side when they are responding
•    Do not use bad language or raise your voice
•    Do not laugh or snigger at statements made by the other side
•    Do not call the other side "liars" or use any other uncomplimentary names
•    Always tell the truth
•    Behave in a polite and respectful way

So, there we are. Small Claims Court - done. If you have any questions relating to any of the three parts then get in contact with me, Len Dastard, at [email protected]

Until next time, estar a salvo!

TOPICS:   Economy

6 comments

  • Mr. H.
    The part 1 and part 2 links are the wrong way round
  • Bill
    Hey Len Bastard, our MPs in Parliament need to follow all of your suggestions below. • Do not interrupt the Speaker • Do not interrupt the other side when they are responding • Do not use bad language or raise your voice • Do not laugh or snigger at statements made by the other side • Do not call the other side “liars” or use any other uncomplimentary names • Always tell the truth • Behave in a polite and respectful way
  • kev
    sounds like a cross betwee Judge Judy & Phoenix Wright
  • Gadget 4.
    I don't think "Litigation friend" is quite right, my understanding was that they are someone who represents a person who doesn't have the mental capacity to enter litigation - like a child or someone who is mentally incapable. The inference from the article is that a fully cogniscant adult can have their next door neighbour represent them as their litigation friend, which i'm not sure is quite right.
  • Len D.
    Gadget 4free! The term "litigation friend" is to be used, as you say, when you are representing a protected party or a child. The same term is also used when you are representing a friend in their litigation. I have been before judges and they insist you go on the record as a litigation friend if you are not the instructed solicitor or Claimant/Defendant. This is usually as there is no other "class" available. Len
  • Len D.
    Hey Bill - I agree with you!! If anyone is interested to see how the Small Claims Court works they could always telephone their local County Court and ask when the next "Small Claims hearing day" is and they can sit in. The Judge will just run through a load of cases and it is sometimes quite interesting to see what happens. You will need to ask the usher/clerk to obtain the consent of the Judge but if you have a genuine interest it can sometimes get quite animated! Len

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