SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SMALL CLAIMS MEDIATION PROGRAM
IMPORTANT INFORMATION - PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
IT IS THE POLICY OF THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT THAT SUITS BE SETTLED, IF POSSIBLE, THROUGH MEDIATION.
Specially trained mediators will be at court on the day and time of your hearing to help you resolve your case. The mediators are impartial. They do not give legal advice or make decisions. The parties involved in the dispute make the decisions and the mediators and the parties work together to identify the issues that are most important for each side and then to find practical resolutions. A clause allowing the agreement to be converted to a judgment if one of the parties defaults is included. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached the case goes to trial that same day and a judge will decide the outcome. The mediators work with a 45 minute time frame but agreements are often reached more quickly. If more time is needed, the court will grant a continuance to allow for completion of the process. Plaintiffs also have the option of dismissing the case and pursuing mediation outside of the judicial system.
ADVANTAGES OF MEDIATION:
Mediation is confidential. Only the parties directly involved in the suit attend the mediation session. Mediators cannot be called to court to testify about the mediation session and offers made in mediation may be restated in court only by the party who made them. By contrast, a trial is open to the public and all information related to the trial is a matter of public record. A judgment may appear on the debtor's credit record for a period of seven years. Mediation is flexible. The parties can create options that work for both sides and develop practical solutions. In a trial, a judgment is based strictly on the law and the evidence presented. Plaintiffs who lose may not appeal. Defendants may appeal in Superior Court, but expenses and time frames are much greater. Mediated agreements protect both parties. The court keeps the original copy of the agreement until the terms are met. If the terms are not met (one of the parties defaults), the agreement can be converted to a judgment. However, experience has shown that mediated settlement agreements are rarely defaulted because they are the work of both sides. WHAT TO EXPECT: 1. Litigants report to their assigned department (courtroom) by 12:30 pm or 5:30 p.m. in Santa Cruz or by 1:00 pm in Watsonville. Night court is not available in Watsonville at this time. 2. An orientation and roll call will occur prior to assigning cases. 3. Only the parties named in the suit participate in the mediation sessions (witnesses will be called in as needed). 4. Litigants completing a settlement agreement are free to leave after the agreement is signed and all parties have their copy. 5. If an agreement cannot be reached the case will be sent to a courtroom for hearing that day. 6. Before going to trial, litigants will be asked to show all documentary evidence concerning their claim (including photographs and any other material) to the other party.
supsc.005 (Rev 6/27/08)