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Ellensburg, WA 98926-2887
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Kittitas (pronounced 'KITT-i-tass') County is located in central Washington
State. It spans from the lush forested Cascade Mountains to the upper Yakima River Valley plains and
the Columbia River.
This is intended to be a general statement of small claims procedure. For more detailed information,
please consult applicable
provisions of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapters 3.66, 4.16, 4.28, 12.40, and applicable
provisions in the Civil
Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, Rule 5 (CRLJ 5). RCWs and court rules can be found at libraries
and the following
websites: www.leg.wa.gov (for RCWs) and
court rules). Court contact information can also be found
Any individual, business, partnership, or corporation (with a couple of exceptions) may bring a small
claims suit for recovery of money only for an amount up to $5,000. In general, the claim must
be filed in the district court of the county in which the defendant(s) reside. Exceptions and specific
rules can be found at RCW 3.66.040. The state of Washington may not be sued in Small Claims Court. Attorneys
and paralegals are excluded from appearing or participating with the plaintiff or defendant in a small
claims suit unless the judge grants permission.
You must pay the court clerk a $50.00 filing fee at the time the suit is filed. You may have some additional
fees payable to the sheriff or process server to have the Notice of Small Claims served on the defendant.
As an alternative, you may serve notice on the defendant by registered or certified, return receipt
mailing. If you win your case, you can request to recover your costs of filing and service fees.
First you will prepare a Notice of Small Claim form that is provided by the clerk. On the Notice form
a hearing date, trial
date, or response date will be entered by the clerk. It is the plaintiff's responsibility to accurately
identify the defendant,
provide a proper address and, if possible, provide a phone number.
Notice of Small Claims Form
Notice of Small Claims Form
Time limits range from one (1) to ten (10) years. See Chapter 4.16 RCW to determine which time limit
applies to your type
The clerk will assist you with forms and general information about the process. The clerk is not allowed
to give legal advice.
Service of the claim form can be accomplished by any of the following:
The Notice of Small Claim must be served on the defendant not less than ten (10) days before the first
hearing. A return
of service, or mail return receipt bearing the defendant's signature, must be filed at or before the
time of the first hearing.
You cannot personally serve the claim. See RCW Chapters 4.28 and 12.40, and CRLJ 5 for more detailed
In most cases, neither party is one hundred percent right or wrong. The Lower Kittitas County District
Court commonly invites a trained mediator from the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and Kittitas
Counties to assist with mediating Small Claims actions. The Judge will ask that the two parties to
the case meet with the mediator prior to hearing the trial. You are encouraged to try to settle your
case before trial. If you settle the dispute before the hearing, you must inform the court so the hearing
can be canceled and your case dismissed. If the other party agrees to pay at a later date, you may ask
the court for a continuance. If the other party pays before the postponed date, ask the court to cancel
the hearing. If you do not receive your money by the time of the continued hearing, proceed with the
case in court. If you drop the suit, your filing fee and service costs are not returned.
You can help yourself by being well prepared. To prepare for the trial, collect all papers, photographs,
canceled checks, or other documents that concern the case. It may be helpful to write down ahead of
time the facts of the
case in the order that they occurred. This will help you to organize your thoughts and to make a clear
presentation of your
story to the judge.
It is also a good idea to sit through a small claims court session before the date of your hearing.
This will give you first-hand
information about the way small claim cases are heard.
When you arrive at the court, report to the courtroom in which your case has been assigned. When your
case is called in
the courtroom, come forward to the counsel table and the judge will swear in all the parties and witnesses.
Don't be nervous--remember that a trial in small claims court is informal. The judge will ask the plaintiff
to give his
her side first, then will ask the defendant for his or her explanation. Be brief and stick to the facts.
The judge may interrupt
you with questions, which you should answer straight out and to the best of your knowledge.
Be polite, not just to the judge, but also to your opponent. Do not interrupt. Whatever happens, keep
your temper. Good
manners and even tempers help the fair, efficient conduct of the trial, and make a good impression.
After both sides have been heard by the judge, he or she will normally announce the decision right then
and will sign and
hand the parties a judgment.
If the defendant fails to appear for trial, the plaintiff will be granted judgment for the amount of
the claim proven in
court, plus costs--provided the plaintiff can show proof of service. If the plaintiff fails to appear,
the claim is dismissed;
however, generally the court will permit the plaintiff to start over, if good cause for the non-appearance
A money judgment in your favor does not necessarily mean that the money will be paid. The Small Claims
Court does not collect
the judgment for you. If no appeal is taken and the judgment is not paid within 30 days, or
the time set by the
court in the payment plan, you may request (in writing) and upon payment of a $20 fee, that a transcript
of the judgment
be entered into the civil docket of the court. At that time you may proceed with a method of collection
such as garnishment
of wages, bank accounts, and other monies of the defendant or an execution may be issued on cars, boats,
or other personal
property of the judgment debtor. Remember, the clerks cannot give you legal advice. You may need the
assistance of an attorney
or collection agency at this point. In the alternative, you may take your transcript of the judgment
and file it in superior
court for a fee of $20. Other fees may be required by the superior court clerk or county auditor. When
this is done, it
places a lien against all real estate in the name of the judgment debtor that is located in the county.
When the judgment has been paid in full you must send written notice to the district court that the
judgment has been satisfied.
No party may appeal a judgment where the amount claimed is less than $250. If an appeal is taken to
the superior court, the appealing party is required to follow the procedures set out in Revised Code
of Washington (RCW) 12.36. The following steps must be taken within 30 days of the entry of
When the appeal and bond are transferred to superior court, the appellant (person appealing the decision)
may request that
the superior court suspend enforcement of the judgment until after the appeal is heard.
Within 14 days of filing the Notice of Appeal, the district court clerk will transmit the court record
to the superior court
clerk who will assign a new number and notify the district court. The district court clerk will advise
the appellant of
that number, and the appellant must then contact the superior court for further instructions.
Once the judgment has been appealed to the superior court, then enforcement of any judgments entered
in the case will be
handled in superior court in the same manner as any other superior court judgment.
Kittitas County has a total area of 2,333 square miles. The highest point in the county is Mount Daniel at 7,959 feet above sea level.