California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 280


Introduced by Assembly Member Brown

February 11, 2015


An act to amend Sections 116.130, 116.220, and 116.231 of the Code of Civil Procedure, relating to small claims court.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 280, as introduced, Brown. Small claims court: jurisdiction.

Existing law establishes a small claims division, known as a small claims court, in each superior court. Existing law provides that the small claims court has jurisdiction over actions seeking certain forms of relief, including money damages in specified amounts. Existing law prohibits a city, county, city and county, school district, county office of education, community college district, local district, or any other local public entity from filing a claim in the small claims division if the amount of the demand exceeds $5,000. Existing law also provides that a small claims action filed by a city, county, city and county, school district, county office of education, community college district, local district, or any other local public entity must be transferred out of the small claims division if the opposing party is represented by legal counsel and properly informs the entity of this fact.

This bill would give the small claims court jurisdiction over an action filed by a city, county, city and county, school district, county office of education, community college district, local district, or any other local public entity if the amount of the demand does not exceed $10,000. This bill would also eliminate the provision relating to the transfer of small claims actions where the opposing party is represented by counsel.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P2    1

SECTION 1.  

Section 116.130 of the Code of Civil Procedure
2 is amended to read:

3

116.130.  

In this chapter, unless the context indicates otherwise:

4(a) “Plaintiff” means the party who has filed a small claims
5action. The term includes a defendant who has filed a claim against
6a plaintiff.

7(b) “Defendant” means the party against whom the plaintiff has
8filed a small claims action. The term includes a plaintiff against
9whom a defendant has filed a claim.

10(c) “Judgment creditor” means the party, whether plaintiff or
11defendant, in whose favor a money judgment has been rendered.

12(d) “Judgment debtor” means the party, whether plaintiff or
13defendant, against whom a money judgment has been rendered.

14(e) “Person” means an individual, corporation, partnership,
15limited liability partnership, limited liability company, firm,
16association,begin insert city, county, city and county, school district, county
17office of education, community college district, local district,end insert
or
18begin insert anyend insert other entity.

19(f) “Individual” means a natural person.

20(g) “Party” means a plaintiff or defendant.

21(h) “Motion” means a party’s written request to the court for
22an order or other action. The term includes an informal written
23request to the court, such as a letter.

24(i) “Declaration” means a written statement signed by an
25individual which includes the date and place of signing, and a
26statement under penalty of perjury under the laws of this state that
27its contents are true and correct.

28(j) “Good cause” means circumstances sufficient to justify the
29requested order or other action, as determined by the judge.

30(k) “Mail” means first-class mail with postage fully prepaid,
31unless stated otherwise.

32

SEC. 2.  

Section 116.220 of the Code of Civil Procedure is
33amended to read:

34

116.220.  

(a) The small claims court has jurisdiction in the
35following actions:

P3    1(1) Except as provided in subdivisions (c), (e), and (f), for
2recovery of money, if the amount of the demand does not exceed
3five thousand dollars ($5,000).

4(2) Except as provided in subdivisions (c), (e),begin delete andend delete (f)begin insert, and (h)end insert,
5to enforce payment of delinquent unsecured personal property
6taxes in an amount not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000),
7if the legality of the tax is not contested by the defendant.

8(3) To issue the writ of possession authorized by Sections 1861.5
9and 1861.10 of the Civil Code if the amount of the demand does
10not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000).

11(4) To confirm, correct, or vacate a fee arbitration award not
12exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) between an attorney and
13client that is binding or has become binding, or to conduct a hearing
14de novo between an attorney and client after nonbinding arbitration
15of a fee dispute involving no more than five thousand dollars
16($5,000) in controversy, pursuant to Article 13 (commencing with
17Section 6200) of Chapter 4 of Division 3 of the Business and
18Professions Code.

19(5) For an injunction or other equitable relief only when a statute
20expressly authorizes a small claims court to award that relief.

21(b) In any action seeking relief authorized by paragraphs (1) to
22(4), inclusive, of subdivision (a), the court may grant equitable
23relief in the form of rescission, restitution, reformation, and specific
24performance, in lieu of, or in addition to, money damages. The
25court may issue a conditional judgment. The court shall retain
26jurisdiction until full payment and performance of any judgment
27or order.

28(c) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the small claims court has
29jurisdiction over a defendant guarantor as follows:

30(1) For any action brought by a natural person against the
31Registrar of the Contractors’ State License Board as the defendant
32guarantor, the small claims jurisdictional limit stated in Section
33116.221 shall apply.

34(2) For any action against a defendant guarantor that does not
35charge a fee for its guarantor or surety services, if the amount of
36the demand does not exceed two thousand five hundred dollars
37($2,500).

38(3) For any action brought by a natural person against a
39defendant guarantor that charges a fee for its guarantor or surety
P4    1services, if the amount of the demand does not exceed six thousand
2five hundred dollars ($6,500).

3(4) For any action brought by an entity other than a natural
4person against a defendant guarantor that charges a fee for its
5guarantor or surety services or against the Registrar of the
6Contractors’ State License Board as the defendant guarantor, if
7the amount of the demand does not exceed four thousand dollars
8($4,000).

9(d) In any case in which the lack of jurisdiction is due solely to
10an excess in the amount of the demand, the excess may be waived,
11but any waiver is not operative until judgment.

12(e) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), in any action filed by a
13plaintiff incarcerated in a Department of Corrections and
14Rehabilitation facility, the small claims court has jurisdiction over
15a defendant only if the plaintiff has alleged in the complaint that
16he or she has exhausted his or her administrative remedies against
17that department, including compliance with Sections 905.2 and
18905.4 of the Government Code. The final administrative
19adjudication or determination of the plaintiff’s administrative claim
20by the department may be attached to the complaint at the time of
21filing in lieu of that allegation.

22(f) In any action governed by subdivision (e), if the plaintiff
23fails to provide proof of compliance with the requirements of
24subdivision (e) at the time of trial, the judicial officer shall, at his
25or her discretion, either dismiss the action or continue the action
26to give the plaintiff an opportunity to provide that proof.

27(g) For purposes of this section, “department” includes an
28employee of a department against whom a claim has been filed
29under this chapter arising out of his or her duties as an employee
30of that department.

begin insert

31(h) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the small claims court has
32jurisdiction over an action brought by a city, county, city and
33county, school district, county office of education, community
34college district, local district, or any other local public entity if
35the amount of the demand does not exceed ten thousand dollars
36($10,000).

end insert
37

SEC. 3.  

Section 116.231 of the Code of Civil Procedure is
38amended to read:

39

116.231.  

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (d), no person
40may file more than two small claims actions in which the amount
P5    1demanded exceeds two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500),
2anywhere in the state in any calendar year.

3(b) Except as provided in subdivision (d), if the amount
4demanded in any small claims action exceeds two thousand five
5hundred dollars ($2,500), the party making the demand shall file
6a declaration under penalty of perjury attesting to the fact that not
7more than two small claims actions in which the amount of the
8demand exceeded two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) have
9been filed by that party in this state within the calendar year.

10(c) The Legislature finds and declares that the pilot project
11conducted under the authority of Chapter 1196 of the Statutes of
121991 demonstrated the efficacy of the removal of the limitation
13on the number of actions public entities may file in the small claims
14courts on claims exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars
15($2,500).

16(d) The limitation on the number of filings exceeding two
17thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) does not apply to filings
18where the claim does not exceedbegin delete fiveend deletebegin insert tenend insert thousand dollarsbegin delete ($5,000)end delete
19begin insert ($10,000)end insert that are filed by a city, county, city and county, school
20district, county office of education, community college district,
21local district, or any other local public entity.begin delete If any small claims
22action is filed by a city, county, city and county, school district,
23county office of education, community college district, local
24district, or any other local public entity pursuant to this section,
25and the defendant informs the court either in advance of the hearing
26by written notice or at the time of the hearing, that he or she is
27represented in the action by legal counsel, the action shall be
28transferred out of the small claims division. A city, county, city
29and county, school district, county office of education, community
30college district, local district, or any other local public entity may
31not file a claim within the small claims division if the amount of
32the demand exceeds five thousand dollars ($5,000).end delete



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