Small Claims Advisor E-mail Program - Contra Costa Superior Court

Self-Help icon Project Name: Small Claims Advisor Email Program
Court: Contra Costa Superior Court
   Documents: Samples
   Links: Program Website
    Court Small Claims Webpage

Overview/Program Description:

Contra Costa Superior Court created a Small Claims Advisor e-mail program that utilizes a data bank of small claims legal topics that are e-mailed to claimants who contact the Small Claims Advisor. The small claims advisor service consists of e-mail, lectures, and very limited phone service. Claimants contact the Small Claims Advisor by e-mail and the Advisor responds on average within three business days. The e-mails are created from a databank of over 600 pieces of discreet information categorized alphabetically by subject matter in files in Microsoft Word format. For example, under the letter C folder, information is divided into Collections and Corporation subfolders, which then are subdivided into smaller increments of information by topic files, including procedure; substance (by parties, law subjects, etc.); tips (such as how to prepare for court, gathering evidence, and organization); and where to obtain more information (agencies and websites).

Most topics are addressed in no more than two to three pages as attachments to the e-mail response. Where necessary, boiler plate information files have been developed for common questions requiring answers with multiple-topic files. These boiler plate files combine multiple topic files, addressing the order in which the court user is to read the attachments or to consider legal options depending on the inquiry.

Program Benefits/Savings:

  • Efficient use of limited court resources.
  • Court users receive attachments that they can read at their own pace on their own schedule.
  • Court users formulate better subsequent inquiries if they need follow-up information.
  • When different users ask similar questions, the advisor doesn't have to write new answers each time.
  • The same advice (attachment) is given in response to the same inquiry regardless of the user.
  • Once the budget crisis impacted the court, the level of service did not diminish.
  • Keeping up with changes in the law is also easier because the databank entries are tracked with dates of creation and revision, allowing for updates.

Other Courts Using Similar Programs:
  • Kern Superior Court
  • Orange Superior Court (Legal Aid Society of Orange County)
  • San Bernardino Superior Court
  • Santa Clara Superior Court (Self-Help Email Project)
  • Shasta Superior Court
  • Sutter Superior Court