Mark Urban in his introduction of our speaker, said that Mark Johannssen is going to talk to us tonight on the Small Claims Court where he serves as a volunteer judge.
Mark is an attorney is private practice specializing in family law and is city counsel member mayor protem. Mark has attended Chico State, Golden Gate University where he earned his MBA, and his Doctor of Jurisprudence at Southwestern University. Interestingly enough, he served as CPA/Attorney with Price Waterhouse in Amsterdam and as attorney with a Japanese law firm in Tokyo.
Mark said that he is a volunteer judge or protem judge a few days a week. The small claims are generally for money and is not a family court. There are no attorneys there and it is for people who don’t know the law. In using evidence you can use “hearsay” evidence, what is important is credability.
Some issues are landlord/tenant issues – perhaps the landlord doesn’t want to give back the apartment deposit; there are cases of people accused of reneging on bail bond deposits; car accidents, dogs biting people, dogs biting dogs; general contractor disputes and home owner issues.
The claims are generally for $5,000 to $10,000 max., and $25,000 limit per year.
Protem judges have to take a course on small claims court and their purpose is to keep people from fighting on the streets. He/she needs to control the courtroom and keep things respectable. The process is that you file a claim and then there is a cross claim. It doesn’t have to be very specific. You can’t sue someone who is out of state.
Trial Process:
Mark says that he gives people a lot of leeway – which is good for family disputes and likes to work with a mediator. Certain cases like a dispute about dental implants with your orthodontist is not appropriate since it needs to be determined by a professional opinion.
There are a lot of shows on TV like Judge Judy but there is not that amount of drama in real small claims court. Emotions get tamped down, Mark tries to work things out. The judgement rendered is appealable to a regular judge which in Mark’s experience doesn’t happen very often.  The judgement does have the weight of law and Mark makes his decisions under submission – delaying the giving of his judgement to a later time. Credibility is very important in making a judgement.
President Bauer creditably mentioned that, in honor of Mark’s presentation, a book will be donated to Carmichael library.