DC After Small Claims Court

Generally, the judge's decision will be announced at the end of a small claims trial. The judgment will specify which side prevailed and if money damages are being awarded and the amount of those damages.

Sometimes the judge will want to take additional time to review the evidence or research case law before entering a final judgment. When this occurs, the parties will receive a copy of the final judgment in the mail.


If you lose your case in a small claims court hearing, you may appeal the decision by filing a motion for judicial review. If the small claims order is signed by a magistrate judge, you have ten days to file a motion for review by an associate judge in the superior court.

If the small claims order is signed by an associate judge, you can file an application for allowance of appeal directly in the court of appeals. In this case, you will have only three days to file your motion for review.

The judge won't consider any new evidence when ruling on a motion for judicial review. You may also request that the judgment be "stayed," which means it will not take effect immediately, because you are going to file a motion for judicial review.

Appeals from the Small Claims Court are not automatic. The Court of Appeals will decide whether or not to consider your appeal.

An appeal can take a lot of time and be complicated. You need to know and follow court rules. The Court of Appeals staff will help you as much as they can, but they can't give you legal advice.

Application for Allowance

You'll need to file an application for allowance of appeal. In your application you'll tell the court what the small claims' judge did wrong. The Court of Appeals Clerk's Office has blank application forms that you can use. You will be charged a small fee to file the application.

If you can't afford to pay the application fee, you can file a motion for waiver of prepayment of court fees and costs. You file that motion with your application for allowance of appeal. If you have already been allowed to proceed without paying costs in the trial court, you don't need to file this motion because your costs will also be waived on appeal.

You'll need to sign and put your address and phone number on everything you file with the court. You also have to keep the court up to date on your address and phone number, so let the court know right away if you move and they change.

Application Granted or Denied

If your application is granted, it will be treated like a notice of appeal. This means that the rules for civil appeals will apply. You will also be required to pay an additional fee.

If your application is denied, it means the Court of Appeals has affirmed the small claims decision. In this case, you may file a petition for reconsideration within seven days.

Motion to Vacate

If you're the defendant and a case was filed against you and a judgment was entered against you but you never received a notice of the claim, you may file a motion to vacate the judgment. After you file your motion with the clerk's office, a court date will be scheduled. You must appear on that date to give reasons why the judgment should be removed. The other party will be notified of the court date by the clerk's office.

You may also file a motion to vacate and quash the writ of attachment if you were never notified of the court date, a judgment was entered against you and the winning party is now collecting on that judgment by garnishing your bank account or your wages.

Notice to Opposing Party

You have to send a copy of anything you file to the other party. You can do this by mail, by a private delivery service, by bringing it to them personally or by faxing it to them if you both agree. You also have to attach a certificate of service to the filing.

Collecting the Judgment

Even if you win a judgment, you may need to take measures to collect it if the other party doesn't willingly pay it. Many times collecting the judgment is harder than proving your case in court.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I didn't receive a final judgment at my trial nor in the mail and it's been 30 days since my small claims trial - what should I do?
  • What happens if the defendant doesn't appear at the trial?
  • How long does it generally take to get the judge's decision by mail if the judgment wasn't announced at the trial?
Have a legal question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer

Get Professional Help

Find a Consumer Law lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys

Talk to an attorney

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you