Do you have a dispute with a local merchant, a neighbor, someone who did you wrong? If so, you might be able to easily handle the dispute on your own without having to hire a lawyer! Below are the nuts and bolts for handling a Small Claims Court matter in New York. Since my office is in Elmira, I will use the Small Claims Court information in Elmira as my example but I will also provide information for other courts throughout the State of New York.

First, a few of the basics. Small Claims Court in the City of Elmira is for claims up to $5,000. You can bring a claim against a person who lives in the City of Elmira or is doing business in the City of Elmira. Here is a link to the Small Claims Court website: You can access the Court Forms here.

Second, a few tips for handling your own case.

In the City of Elmira, you can go to the second floor of City Hall and go to the window for the Court Clerk. Just tell the Clerk the details of your claim (ie the name and address of the person you wish to sue, the relevant dates, the amount of your claim, etc.) and the Clerk will assist you in filing your Claim. They will then give you a court date for your case.

On the date of your hearing it is important that you bring with you any witnesses and/or documents that support your claim– bring photos, invoices, diagrams,etc.– basically anything that will help you explain to the Judge what happened and why you deserve to be compensated.

Keep in mind that the Judge hears lots of cases on each court day so try to be very organized so that you can quickly and clearly explain your position. Be polite even if your opponent is not– remember, the Judge will be deciding who wins and who loses and in my experience, nice folks usually win and the jerks lose….

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading, Jim Reed

PS– For information on other New York courts a great starting point is the official N.Y. Courts website at: