At the first appearance, an employee or agent (not an attorney) may appear on your behalf if that employee/agent has sufficient facts in order to present the case and is authorized to bind the party represented. If the plaintiff and defendant both appear on the assigned first appearance date, it is mandatory that they participate in mediation to attempt to settle their dispute. In most cases, neither party is one hundred percent right nor wrong. You are encouraged to try to settle your case before trial. The case will be assigned to a trained mediator and mediation will follow immediately as scheduling permits. Mediation is mandatory before a trial is allowed. The purpose of mediation is to settle the case if possible; if no settlement is made at mediation, the case will be set for trial. Attorneys and paralegals may not represent parties at mediation. If the parties have already submitted the case to another type of mediation or arbitration service, the case may proceed directly to trial.
If agreement is reached the parties will sign an agreement which will be entered into the record. Parties will receive a copy of the agreement. No judgment will be entered. If the agreement is breached, the non-breaching party may return to the Court for judgment after filing a motion and affidavit setting forth the failure to comply with the terms of the agreement. A copy of this motion and affidavit MUST be served on the other party and proof of that service presented to the Court prior to the Court entering a judgment.
If the plaintiff fails to appear at first appearance, a dismissal will be entered. In cases where the defendant has filed a written counterclaim against the plaintiff and proof of service is presented, the defendant may be allowed judgment against the plaintiff on the counterclaim. If the defendant fails to appear and proof of service is presented, and if the plaintiff’s testimony supports the claim, the plaintiff will be granted a default judgment against the defendant up to the amount set forth in the Notice of Small Claim form and for costs of filing and service. If neither party appears the case will be dismissed without prejudice.