Small Claims

Time and Location

Small Claims Court Trials are held on Thursdays at 8:30 AM and 1:30 PM in Department 20 located at the Marina Courthouse, 3180 Del Monte Boulevard, Marina, CA 93933. The party filing the claim may request that the Processing Clerk set the Court Trial on the morning calendar or the afternoon calendar.

Parties should arrive at the courthouse at least 15 minutes prior to the time set for the Court Trial.

NOTE: Small Claims documents are filed and processed at the Monterey Courthouse located at 1200 Aguajito Road, Monterey, CA 93940.


Small Claims Mediation Program

What is mediation?

Mediation is a confidential, voluntary process in which a trained mediator facilitates communication between the parties and assists parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of all or part of their dispute. Mediation is a flexible and less formal process that may reduce the time and costs often associated with the trial. If an agreement is reached, the parties can agree to make it legally enforceable.

Mediation may be particularly useful when parties have a relationship they want to preserve. For example, when family members, neighbors, or business partners have a dispute, mediation may be the most effective process to use. Mediation is also effective when emotions are getting in the way of resolution. An effective mediator can hear the parties and help them communicate with each other in an effective and constructive manner.

Click here for a video regarding mediation

Will a mediator decide my case?

No. The mediator is not the decision-maker and does not resolve the dispute -- the parties do. The mediators are impartial and do not give legal advice. However, a mediator is often able to more fully explore the parties' underlying interests, needs and priorities. 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.

What is the court’s policy regarding mediation for small claims cases?

It is the policy of the small claims court that all small claims actions be referred to mediation prior to their hearing.

To opt out of mediation, the party will have to complete the court’s local court form, titled “Small Claims Mediation Program Opt Out Form and Order Thereon CI-183” and specify the reasons why the party is requesting to opt out of mediation. The court will review the request to determine on a case by case basis whether the case will be opted out of mediation.

Is there a cost to participate in the mediation?

No. There is no cost to participate in the mediation that is court referred and conducted by the Mandell-Gisnet Center.

What is the process to attend mediation?

Once you have served your claim or you have been served with a claim, you are required to do the following:

  1. Contact the Mandell-Gisnet Center at (831) 582-5234 at least 5 days before your hearing.
  2. Once you contact the Mandell-Gisnet Center, a representative will reserve your mediation session hour that will take place two days before your trial. You will be given either log in instructions or the telephone number that you will need to call to appear by on-line video (such as Zoom) or telephonically for your session.

    Note: Only the parties named in the action participate in the mediation session (witnesses do not participate and should not be present).

  3. Parties that complete and reach a settlement agreement will receive instructions from the Mandell-Gisnet Center with regards to the signature of the agreement. The parties’ agreement will be filed with the court and they will not be required to appear in court.

    Parties that are not able to reach a settlement agreement will be required to appear for the trial and will be required to show all documentary evidence concerning their claim (including photographs and any other material) to the other party.

What happens if I or the other party fails to attend the mediation session?

If either party fails to attend the mediation session and the party was not given leave/permission by the court to opt out of mediation, the case may be continued to a different date, usually the next available court date, and the parties re-referred to mediation.

What will happen at my on-line video or telephonic mediation session?

Specially trained mediators from the Mandell-Gisnet Center will meet with both parties either by an on-line video platform, such as Zoom, or telephonically at the same time.

The mediators will work with a 40-minute time frame to identify the issues that are most important for each side and then to help the parties develop and find a practical resolution. While mediators work within this time frame, it may be that an agreement can often be reached more quickly. However, if more time is needed, the Center can notify the court to grant a continuance to allow for completion of the process.

Once an agreement is reached, a written agreement is drafted and there could be a clause allowing the agreement to be converted to a judgment if one of the parties defaults. The agreement reached at the mediation can be entered into the court record without having to appear in court.

If a settlement agreement cannot be reached your case will proceed to trial on the date provided on the claim and a judicial officer will decide the outcome.

CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT THE ADVANTAGES OF MEDIATION ARE:

There are several advantages of mediation. Below are some highlights of the 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.