Information for Defendants in Small Claims Cases
Appeals of Small Claims Judgments
Filing an Appeal – If the judge enters judgment in favor of the plaintiff, you can file an appeal. If the judge enters judgment in your favor or if the judge enters judgment in favor of the plaintiff for less than the plaintiff asked for, the plaintiff can file an appeal. If you want to appeal the judgment you can ask the court clerk for a form called “Notice of Appeal.” The form must be filled out completely and signed and either typewritten or printed in black ink. You must give the completed form to the court clerk to file your notice of appeal. If you or the plaintiff files a notice of appeal, a hearing will be scheduled and a notice of the date and time of the hearing will be mailed to you and the plaintiff. If both parties appeal, both appeals will be set for hearing at the same time.
Deadline for Filing an Appeal – You must file your notice of appeal within 30 days (including weekends and holidays) after the date the judgment was filed. The date the judgment was filed is shown in the upper right-hand corner of the judgment. The 30-day deadline for filing an appeal is absolute—you cannot get an extension of the deadline for any reason. Either you or the plaintiff can ask for a jury trial on an appeal of a small claims judgment. If you want a trial by jury, there are steps you must follow that are set forth in the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Fees for Filing an Appeal – When you file your notice of appeal you must pay a filing fee. In some counties the filing fee must be paid in cash or money order; in some counties the court clerk will accept a personal check. In most counties the filing fee is non-refundable (the court clerk will not give it back to you for any reason). In a few counties there are certain limited circumstances in which the court clerk may refund the filing fee.
The Hearing on Appeal – On appeal, the case will be assigned to a different judge for a trial de novo (new hearing). At the hearing on appeal, the judge will not be deciding whether the first judge made a mistake. Instead, the case will be treated like a new case. You may want to review the information in this document about getting ready for a hearing on a contested claim.
However, there are some important differences between the first hearing on your claim and the hearing on appeal. One big difference is that the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules of Evidence apply at the hearing on appeal. These rules have been adopted by the Idaho Supreme Court and they set the procedures that the judges, court clerks, and parties must follow. The first hearing on your claim was informal and these rules did not apply. The hearing on appeal is more formal and these rules do apply. One of the most important of these rules is the rule on hearsay evidence (when you tell the judge something that someone other than the plaintiff told you). When someone other than the plaintiff says something in writing and you try to give the written statement to the judge, that is called hearsay evidence. Generally, hearsay evidence is not allowed, although there are some exceptions when a judge can allow it. For a judge to allow hearsay evidence, usually the person offering it has to provide other information to convince the judge that the hearsay evidence is reliable. If you have something important to your case that someone other than the plaintiff has told you, you may call that person as a witness and have them testify to the statement(s) at your hearing.
Another important difference is that the parties may be represented by lawyers. You may choose to represent yourself at the hearing on appeal; however, when you represent yourself in a case where you can have an attorney you are held to the same standards as an attorney. In other words, if you choose to represent yourself it is not an excuse that you are not a lawyer or that you don’t know the law or the rules.
The judge may issue a pretrial order that requires the parties to follow certain steps in a small claims appeal. If the judge in your case issues a pretrial order, the court clerk will mail a copy to both you and the plaintiff and you must comply with the order in preparing for your case and presenting your case to the judge.
After the judge has heard the appeal, the judge will make a written decision and the court clerk will make a copy of the decision to you and the plaintiff. A judgment in a small claims appeal can also be appealed to the district court and the judgment of the district court can be appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court.