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Op-ed: New law expands opportunity for justice

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Imagine you’ve moved from your rental apartment, but your landlord refuses to return the security deposit that you are rightly owed. Picture having paid for a kitchen remodel, only to discover faulty work that your contractor refuses to fix. Imagine being in a dispute with a neighbor over a dog bite, or unable to resolve a disagreement with someone who damaged your car.

When cases like this can’t be resolved one-on-one or through mediation, small claims court [sometimes referred to as “the people’s court”] is often the best option. These courts play an important role in our legal system by providing a quick, efficient and less formal avenue for resolving disputes over modest amounts of money.

This year, access to this swift and relatively inexpensive forum for justice was expanded thanks to Senate Bill 221, authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. Signed into law last year, SB221 raised the small claims court jurisdictional limit—the maximum amount of damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff—from $7,500 to $10,000. This builds on a previous measure by Simitian, signed into law in 2005, that raised the limit from $5,000 to $7,500

View the full story (Santa Cruz Sentinel)