Scott A. Kingsley


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Melrose, MA. 02176-0014


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Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The Attorney General's Guide To Small Claims Court
Attorney General

If you have a dispute you have been unable to resolve on your own, or by going to mediation through the Attorney General's office, you may want to consider going to court. A claim can be filed in a Small Claims session for:

Small Claims sessions are somewhat less formal than other court hearings and are customarily heard by a Clerk-Magistrate. The filing fee is much smaller than for other court filings. You may hire an attorney to represent you; however, you are entitled to represent yourself. You may also bring a non-lawyer to help you present your case. If you are under 18, you need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian who can sue on your behalf.

The idea of any court proceeding is that an impartial person or persons will listen to the facts presented by both parties, and then make a decision based on the laws that apply to the situation presented. By choosing to go to Small Claims, you, the PLAINTIFF, give up your right to a jury trial. The case will be heard by a Clerk-Magistrate in the first instance. The party you are suing, the DEFENDANT, may appeal the case and have a trial in front of a jury if he or she loses. You may appeal only in very limited situations- where the defendant has filed a counterclaim against you, and you have lost on that claim.

Small claims cases are heard in every Massachusetts District Court, the Housing Courts in Hampden County, Worcester County and Boston, and in the Boston Municipal Court, too. You may file your case in the district court where you live, where the defendant lives, or where the defendant has his place of business or employment. In landlord-tenant Small Claims cases, you may sue in the district where the property is located.


If the defendant has been ordered to pay you or to take other action, and fails to comply with the order, you must let the Clerk-Magistrate know, so that the Clerk-Magistrate or a judge can consider taking additional steps to enforce the order. The court will schedule a payment hearing, and the defendant will need to fill out a financial statement if he or she claims to be unable to pay the judgment, so that the court can determine how (or whether, if the defendant is truly unable to pay) payment can be made to you.

TIP: The best way to find out what goes on in a Small Claims session is to arrange to go to a session near you. That way, you can see how the courtroom is set up, and become comfortable with how you will need to present your case. In any court session, each party gets to tell his or her story in turn, presenting the facts through his or her own testimony, the testimony of any witnesses and through any other evidence, such as documents or photographs, presented.


Office of the Attorney General Tom Reilly
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 727-2200

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