The Special Civil Part section of the Civil Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey handles disputes ranging from $3,000 to $15,000. Much like the Small Claims section, these proceedings are not as formal and regimented as the big cases that are handled by the regular Law Division. However, because more money is involved here, the proceedings are not as simple as in Small Claims: that is to say, it may not be as simple as one court appearance.
Much like in any litigation, a proceeding is commenced by the filing of a Complaint and Summons. Service is often effected by the court or the local Sheriff's Department. However, unlike Small Claims, a written Answer must be filed to trigger the adversarial portion of the litigation. In this Answer, a Defendant must respond to each part of the Complaint, as well as assert any affirmative defenses or counterclaims he or she may have. Depending on the nature of the case, it may be necessary to request Discovery from the other party, to get a better idea of what they intend to present at trial, and whether there is even merit to the claim in the first place. The discovery process takes place on a shorter time frame than in the Law Division, but is still an important part of the process.
When your trial date arrives, you will be referred to mediation, much like in Small Claims. The mediator will attempt to get both sides to come to an agreement that satisfies both of their concerns. If a settlement is reached, the appropriate paperwork will be filed with the court, and each side will be bound by the terms of this agreement. Failure to abide by the agreement may result in a judgement being entered against the offending party for the full amount demanded.
Again, you have the absolute right to a trial. Bear in mind that, regardless of whether you proceed with or without an attorney, you will be expected to have knowledge of the Rules of Court and be prepared when your case is called. Both sides will present their case, and the judge will make a determination of liability. When a judgement is entered, the successful party will then have to collect on the judgement using whatever methods are allowed by law. The court cannot collect the judgement for you.
Special Civil Part judgments are valid for 20 years. It is not uncommon, however, for judgement creditors to have difficulty located assets that can be seized for purposes of satisfying the judgement -- simply obtaining a judgement against an individual or corporate entity does not entitle you to receive the money automatically.
While these proceedings are not rigid and regimented, Special Civil Part cases are not easy. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney by your side will help you achieve the best result on your day in court.
Contact me today to have your questions answered, whether you are looking to sue someone, are being sued by someone, or are looking to collect on a judgement due to you.