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October 11, 2005

For More Information, Contact:
Hema Sareen Mohan at (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he signed SB 422, by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), which will give Californians access to affordable justice by raising the threshold for individuals in small claims court from $5,000 to $7,500. 

“Small claims courts are an essential part of our justice system,” said Simitian.  “SB 422 provides a greater measure of justice for middle class Californians, and helps maintain public support for our system of civil justice.”

Because the small claims court system currently caps claims at $5,000, people with claims valued at more than that amount are often forced to take their cases to the state’s superior courts.  Simitian noted, “There they are typically obliged to retain an attorney—usually at substantial cost.  In fact, it is often difficult to convince a lawyer to take a case for claims of less than $25,000.  The result is that folks with claims between $5,000 and $25,000 are left with no practical venue to settle their disputes.”

The small claims court threshold has remained at $5,000 for the past 15 years.  It was raised from $2,000 to $5,000 in 1990.  “Consumers will have a new remedy for the first time in 15 years,” said Simitian. 

“SB 422 will help to make small claims court a better place for individuals to resolve legal problems quickly and easily,” said Gail Hillebrand, Senior Attorney with the Consumers Union. 

SB 422 will also help provide additional resources to small claims court.  A new filing fee for cases between $5,000 and $7,500 has been written into the state budget.  The new fee, $75, will help fund advisor services, legal library services, and other administrative costs. 

SB 422 gained widespread support from consumers, lawyers, and judges.  Consumers Union, the Consumer Attorneys of California, the California Judges Association, and the California Association of Realtors all supported the measure. 

Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla (D-Pittsburg) carried a companion bill, AB 1459, in the Assembly. 

Simitian added, “SB 422 will ensure Californians that the court system will serve them, not shut them out at the courtroom door.”