SURVIVING SMALL CLAIMS COURT

Fire Island News September 5, 2003

(Volume 47 No. 10 page 20)

By Aislinn Fahy

Americans are guaranteed their day in court but when you plead your case to a Judge Judy type there's no guarantee you'll emerge victorious.

Winning in the New York Small Claims Court is a new book that offers practical tips to those residents of the Empire State looking to survive the court system without paying inordinate legal fees.

The book is the brain child of Long Island attorney, and Ocean Beach resident Richard Solomon. After advising countless people in search of some practical information Solomon realized that most people deal with their small claims cases by either hiring an attorney or through an often exhaustive process of trial and error.

"I'd be out at a bar or restaurant and someone would ask my opinion on really basic things going on with a situation they were dealing with in the courts," Solomon said. "I realized after awhile that there really wasn't one source that contained a comprehensive look at procedures, forms and rules specific to New York."

Solomon spent the better part of the last three summers putting together this step by step self help book. He hopes that by cutting through a lot [of] complicated legal jargon people will achieve a level [of] confidence in the court system that they'll feel comfortable representing themselves.

The current limit on a Small Claims Court action is $3,000 and it's estimated that nearly 30% of all New Yorkers will go to small claims court in their lives.

"It's about a comfort level for most people," Solomon said, adding that the general assumption is it's better to have an attorney with you when you go to court. "In most small claims cases it is better to do the work yourself and ultimately it will save you time and money."

The book's topics run the proverbial gamut from what cases qualify for small claims court, how to prepare and file your case, court procedures, case winning strategies and most importantly how to collect your judgment.

Solomon, a trial attorney, includes actual case studies in the mix that offer its reader recommendations of what to do to help their case and warnings of what to steer clear of.

"There's a lot of little subtle things that can make all the difference when presenting your case," Solomon said. "This book will hopefully provide the knowledge for anyone to litigate with confidence."

Sample forms are provided along with clear concise explanations of the maze of legal terminology that often proves time consuming and confusing.

"I really tried to take a lot of the guess work out of it." Solomon said. "It's meant to be an effective tool that you could bring into the courthouse with you and refer to no matter what comes up."

Solomon said the book serves a purpose but jokes that it's probably not going to be on the list of hot beach reads.

"It's about laws and procedures," he said. "Obviously it's for a specific audience but it provides valuable info for anyone that may feel intimidated by the court system."