A Small Claims action may be filed if the claim does not exceed $10,000 (except personal injury and torte claims which remain at $5000.) All eviction cases, regardless of the amount of damages claimed, are filed in small claims court. You are responsible for presenting your own case. It is not necessary to be represented by an attorney. The Clerk of Circuit Courts, court commissioners and other personnel are not authorized to provide legal advice. This page is intended to provide only a summary of basic procedures and information. Small Claims procedures are contained in Chapter 799 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Our local court rules can be found by clicking here. The number for the Small Claims clerk is 920-674-7157.
For most claims, the proper county to file your lawsuit is:
1. Where the claim arose;
2. Where the defendant resides.
It is your responsibility to review the facts of your case and to decide where to file your action.
By clicking on the links in this paragraph you will find the Wisconsin Court System website has a "Guide to Small Claims" booklet and also has fill in the blank forms available. If you wish to purchase the blank forms to fill out they are available at the Clerk of Court's Office, Room 115, 311 S. Center Ave., Jefferson, WI 53549 for a fee.
The original summons and complaint must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Courts office, Room 115, along with the proper filing fee.
All small claims actions are scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on every Wednesday of each month in Intake Court . Make sure that you allow adequate time to accomplish timely service when choosing your court date. Remember that Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are not included in computing the number of days required for proper service. In eviction actions, the court date cannot be more than 25 days from the date the summons is "issued" by the clerk or attorney. The defendant must be served at least 5 days prior to the return date (first court date). For all other small claims cases, the court date cannot be more than 30 days from the "issue" date. The defendant must be served at least 8 days prior to the return date.
Service of Summons
All summons and complaint forms must be served by the Sheriff's Office or a process server. There is a fee for the Sheriff's Office service. A copy of the summons and complaint should be personally served on the defendant or a competent member of the defendant's household. If, with reasonable diligence, the defendant cannot be personally served, the plaintiff may appear on the court date or call the small claims clerk and ask for an adjournment to allow for service by publication. Publication is accomplished by placing notice in the legal section of a local newspaper for one week and mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the defendant's last known address. Proof of service must be filed with the Clerk's office.
The plaintiff must appear at the court date or the case will be dismissed. If the defendant does not appear, a judgment will be granted. If the defendant does appear and contests, a pre-trial conference will be held by a Judge or Court Commissioner in an attempt to resolve the case. If no agreement can be reached between the parties, the case will be then set for a trial before the court.
If a defendant fails to appear at any hearing the judge/commissioner may enter default judgment. If default judgment is ordered - before it can be entered/docketed you are required to file an Affidavit of Non-Military Service (State form available at: www.wicourts.gov) and an Affidavit of No Answer - a local form available from the clerk on the "Affidavit of No Answer-SC" link in the sidebar of this webpage.
If a judgment is rendered by a judge or commissioner after the final hearing or trial, it will be entered on the court record by the clerk of circuit court staff and a Notice of Entry of Judgment will be mailed to each party at their last known address. This notice will state the amount of the judgment, including statutory costs. Judgment rendered by a commissioner will not be entered until the 11th day after the order pursuant to statute.
State law directs the Clerk of Circuit Court to compute costs and insert them in the judgment in favor of the successful party as follows: Filing fee, service fees, statutory attorney fees, witness fees, jury fees and any other costs which may be allowed by the court.
Selected Fee Schedule
Small Claims Summons & Complaint $94.50
3rd Party Complaint $117.50
Counter Claims $125.50
Small Claims garnishment $92.50
Writ of Eviction $5.00
Writ of Execution $5.00
Sheriff's Service $60.00 (for additional information call 920-674-7339)
Copies $1.25 per page
Disclosure of Assets
State law provides that a person obtaining a judgment for money is entitled to receive information regarding the financial status of the unsuccessful party within 15 working days after entry of judgment. Forms called Order for Financial Disclosure are sent to the judgment debtor with the Notice of Entry of Judgment. Failure of the judgment debtor (unsuccessful party) to provide this information in writing to the judgment creditor is punishable by court imposed sanctions. The judgment creditor may compel the judgment debtor to appear in court and disclose this information by filing a Petition and Order for Hearing on Contempt. This form is available in Room 115 of the Courthouse. If the judgment debtor fails to appear at this hearing, the court may issue a warrant.
A court judgment in your favor does not automatically result in the payment of money. You must first initiate collection of a judgment. Further court proceedings are necessary. The primary method available to small claims litigants for enforcing the payment of judgment are (A) Garnishment and (B) Writs of Execution. Garnishment is a method of collection that allows the judgment creditor to obtain monies owed by others to the judgment debtor, usually by attaching the judgment debtor's earnings or bank accounts (See 815 Wis. Stats.) A judgment creditor may ask the court for a Writ of Execution directing the sheriff to seize specific, non-exempt personal property belonging to the judgment debtor for purposes of satisfying a judgment. You may want to obtain professional advice to decide whether a Writ of Execution is appropriate for your case (see 815 Wis. Stats.).
Docketing a Judgment
Once a judgment has been obtained, the judgment creditor may "docket" it by paying a fee. When a judgment is docketed, the effect is to place a lien on any real estate owned by the judgment debtor in Jefferson County for 10 years. However, it is not required that a judgment be docketed to attempt collection from judgment debtor.
The small claims court may reopen a default judgment. To reopen a judgment, a Notice of Motion and Motion to Reopen is prepared and submitted to the assigned court. This form is available in Room 115 of the Courthouse. A date and time of the hearing is obtained from the clerk of the assigned court. A copy of the notice of motion must be served on the opposing party before the motion date. The judge will determine whether the judgment will be set aside and a hearing held on the merits of the case.