Legal Blogs

Differences Between Courts in California

If you are considering filing a lawsuit in California, you need to know the differences between small claims court, district court, superior court, the court of appeals, and the Supreme Court. Different courts have the authority to preside over different kinds of cases. This authority is called jurisdiction. A court must have personal jurisdiction (the right to rule over those involved in the case) as well as subject matter jurisdiction (the right to make decisions on issues that arise in the case). courtroom

An Irvine litigation lawyer can explain the differences between courts in California and can help you to understand where you should sue. At Brown & Charbonneau, LLP, we can provide legal representation to clients with cases at all levels, from the District Court to the Court of Appeals or even the Supreme Court. We will work hard to help you navigate the legal system and make it work to protect your interests. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can assist with your lawsuit.

Understanding the Differences Between Courts in California

Small claims court is a court that has limited subject matter jurisdiction. A case can be filed in small claims court only if there is a small amount in controversy.   In general, a person can use small claims court only to recover damages up to a maximum of $10,000 while a business can file a claim in small claims court only to recover damages up to a maximum of $5,000. Businesses that are operated as sole proprietorships are subject to the $10,000 limit that applies to people and not the $5,000 limit that applies to businesses.

California also restricts you to filing only two cases per year in small claims court when the amount you are asking for is more than $2,500. You can file as many claims per year as you want in small claims court when asking for less than $2,500.

In California, the majority of cases begin in trial courts or superior courts. There are 58 trial or superior courts, each located within one of the 58 counties in California.  These courts are courts of general jurisdiction. They can preside over cases arising from contract breaches, personal injuries, warranty disputes, and a host of other legal issues.

If you are not satisfied with the decision made in the trial or superior court, you can appeal. At this point, the case goes to the Courts of Appeal.  The Courts of Appeal does not make a decision on the facts of individual cases, but instead reviews the court record from what the lower court did in order to determine if the law was applied correctly or if procedural errors occurred.  The Court of Appeals can overturn decisions made by the trial court, but the trial court cannot change decisions made by the Court of Appeals.

The highest court in California is the Supreme Court. If you aren’t satisfied with a decision made by the Court of Appeals, you can take the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court choses what decisions it wants to review, and you aren’t entitled to have your case heard by the Supreme Court.

Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can explain how the differences between California courts impact your case, and can help you to choose the right court to hear your legal matters. Call our Irvine litigation lawyers today to learn more.