Small Claims Court
Small claims are civil lawsuits seeking money judgments of $10,000.00 or less; this might include landlord-tenant issues, breach of contract, property damage or personal injury. Civil claims for judgments greater than $10,000.00 are considered large claims and are addressed under the “Civil Court” heading.
Other cases handled by small claims court include:
- All Evictions no matter what dollar amount is claimed.
- Property Repossessions (Replevins) of $10,000.00 or less
- Replevins of consumer goods bought or leased on credit from a dealer
- Actions to change, correct, confirm or vacate Arbitration Awards in settlements involving real estate transactions
- Suits seeking the Return of Earnest Money for the purchase of Real Estate
The Wisconsin Director of State Courts has developed the Wisconsin Court System Self-Help Small Claims Website to help you smoothly navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of small claims. In addition, the Guide to Small Claims is downloadable in pdf format for you to view or print.
- Eviction Procedures (Rock County Civil Process Office)
- Garnishment Procedure (WI Court System)
- Wisconsin Court Self-Help (WI Court System)
- Small Claims Guide (WI Court System)
The small claims filing fee is $94.50. Be sure to fill out the form completely, including names, addresses, and dates. Small Claims hearings are held every WEDNESDAY at 8:00 A.M. in the JURY ASSEMBLY ROOM on the 2nd floor of the Rock County Courthouse. The defendant must be served with the Summons and Complaint at least 8 days before the return date. Rock County sets return dates approximately 21 - 30 days from the date of filing, but not more than 30 days. One exception is an Eviction which must be personally served at least 5 days before the return date. If an eviction action is contested it will be heard in the Duty Judges courtroom and you will be directed where you need to go. Please note that the Duty Judge will hear the EVICTION PORTION ONLY. Any money issues will be assigned to a Judge and a Notice will be mailed to all parties of that hearing date. Landlords may obtain further information on Writ's of Restitution for Eviction from the Clerk of Circuit Court Office. Rock County Sheriff's Eviction Procedures
Effective July 1, 2011, Act 32 raised the limit for money judgments, replevins, attachments, and garnishment actions to $10,000.00. Tort/Personal Injury claims are limited to $5,000.00. Do not include filing or service fees in the amount you are claiming. These are allowable costs that will be added when you are awarded your judgment. The complaint must be notarized and that can be done in the Clerk's office or with any other notary public. When the summons and complaint are complete, file it back with the Clerk of Courts and decide how you want the defendant served.
REGULAR MAIL: Service may be made by regular mail if the defendant lives in Rock County. The mailing MUST be done by the Clerk of Court's Office. This may be done by leaving the original, a copy for each defendant, and a $2.00 mailing fee per defendant with the clerk's office. Service is considered complete when it is mailed unless the envelope containing the summons and complaint is returned unopened to the clerk's office. If this happens the court will notify you with a new court date so service can be tried again. Only the court can do mail service.
PERSONAL SERVICE: EVICTION'S, REPLEVIN'S (return of property), and OUT OF COUNTY DEFENDANT'S MUST be personally served. This means you will have to hire the appropriate County Sheriff's Department (Rock County 608-757-7946) or a process server to hand-deliver the papers to the defendant. After service has been obtained, you should receive an affidavit of service from them. This must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court office before the court date. Please make sure the amount charged for this service accompanies the proof of service. It is the plaintiff's responsibility to notify the Clerk of Circuit Court Office if they have not been able to serve the defendant prior to the court date. (608-743-2210.)
IF the plaintiffs DOES NOT have an address in Rock County the following is to apply:
(a) In the county where the claim arose;
(b) In the county where the real or tangible personal property is situated;
(c) Where the defendant resides or does substantial business; or
(d) If (a) to (c) do not apply, then in the county designated by the plaintiff.
MANDATORY APPEARANCES ARE REQUIRED BY BOTH PARTIES
If the plaintiff or their attorney fails to appear the case will be dismissed. If the defendant or their attorney fails to appear a default judgment will be entered. If the defendant lives out of state they may file a written answer with the court and plaintiff prior to the return date and the case will be set for trial. A Notice for the hearing will be mailed to the defendant. This will waive the out of state defendants 1st appearance only.
If parties appear and the defendant denies the complaint, the Court Commissioner will conduct a pretrial conference and a hearing date will be set. On the date of the hearing both parties will bring their witnesses and any evidence, they have in support of their case. The Court Commissioner will make a decision to enter a judgment or dismiss the case. The decision of the Court Commissioner will become final after 10 days. There is an absolute right to have the matter heard before the court. Either party may request a trial by a Circuit Court Judge. They must file a "Demand for Trial" form WITHIN 10 DAYS of the decision.
If a default judgment is granted the plaintiff MUST file an Affidavit of Non-Military Service. These forms are available in the Clerks office. These are to be used for individuals and any business that is NOT a Corporation.
Once you have obtained your judgment, you may have the judgment docketed by paying a $5.00 fee. This will place your judgment on the Civil Lien Index and will be recorded by Credit Bureaus, Title Researchers, and may even act as a lien on any property owned by the debtor in Rock County.
When you have obtained payment in full for your judgment it is your obligation to supply the debtor with a Satisfaction of Judgment. These forms may be obtained at the Clerk of Courts Office or from the Internet @ wicourts.gov. It is the responsibility of the debtor to file the Original Satisfaction with the court and pay a $5.00 fee.
There is a Small Claims Guide that can be downloaded off the internet or purchased at the Clerk of Circuit Court Office. This guide has a lot of information that may answer some other questions you may have.
Serving the Summons
The defendant must be served with the Summons and Complaint at least 8 days before the return (court) date. One exception is an eviction, in which case they must be *personally served at least 5 days before the return (court) date.
As a Party to the Action, You (The Plaintiff)
May Not Serve the Complaint On the Defendant!
Service may be made by the following methods:
REGULAR MAIL: Service may be made by regular mail if the defendant lives in Rock County and the claim is for money only. The summons MUST be mailed by the Clerk of Court's Office. This is done by providing the Clerk of Court with the original (white) form and one copy for each defendant being served by mail, along with a $2.00 per person mail fee. Service is considered complete when it is mailed unless the envelope containing the summons and complaint is returned unopened to the Clerk of Court's Office. If this happens, the court will notify the plaintiff/attorney with a new court date so service can be attempted again. The Clerk of Court will mail a letter of notification of the new court date to the plaintiff one week prior to the return (court) date.
*PERSONAL SERVICE: Evictions, replevins, and out of County claims MUST be done with personal service instead of through the mail. This means you will have to hire the Rock County Sheriff (or the County Sheriff where the defendant lives) or a Personal Process Server/Investigator to hand-deliver these papers to the defendant. Your server will then fill out an "Affidavit of Service" stating the date, time, and person with whom the papers were left and how much they charged you for this service. The "Affidavit of Service" must be filed with the court on or before the court date.
Appearance in Court
Appearance by both parties is mandatory.
If the plaintiff/attorney fails to appear, the case will be dismissed.
If the defendant fails to appear, and the defendant has been properly served, a default judgment will be entered against the defendant.
If the defendant is from out of State, they may file a written answer with the court and the plaintiff/attorney prior to the return (court) date. This would then waive their first appearance. This case will then be set for a court trial and a notice of that hearing will be mailed to the defendant. Also, if the plaintiff is from out of State their first appearance is also waived.
If both parties appear, and the defendant denies this claim, the Court Commissioner will do a Pretrial Conference that morning. This case would then be set for a hearing.
At the hearing, the Commissioner will make a decision to either have a judgment entered or dismiss the case. The decision of the Court Commissioner will become a judgment after 10 days. There is an absolute right to have the matter heard before the court. If either party wishes to request a trial by a Circuit Court Judge, they must file a Demand for Trial form, which the Commissioner will give to you. This must be filed within 10 days of the hearing
If the Small Claims court has issued a judgment in your favor, you can have the judgment docketed by paying a $5.00 fee. This will become a lien against any real estate the Debtor may own in Rock County.