The person or company being sued may be an individual, sole proprietor, a partnership, a corporation or a incorporated association. The person being sued is called the "defendant." In some cases there may be more than one defendant. It is important that you properly identify and sue the correct person or company that has caused you damage or injury.
For your suit to be filed in the proper "venue", the following general guidelines apply:
The claimant does not need an attorney. The court can accept verbal claims, but usually the court has fill-in-the blank forms that serve as pleadings. The Justice of the Peace cannot give legal advice, nor will the court rule in advance; however, the office does provide information on claim filing procedures.
Once the defendant(s) is served, he has ten (10) days in which to file a response. If the defendant fails to file a response, the claimant can take a "default" judgement by presenting evidence to the court sufficient to justify a judgement in his favor. If a response if filed, the court will set a hearing at the convenience of the parties in which both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony.
There are various tools to collect money owed under a judgement. The most common method is to garnish the debtor's wages. Another remedy is to seize and sell property of the debtor. The judgement may also be recorded in the mortgage records which acts as a judicial mortgage on the debtor's property.
A party has fifteen (15) days to appeal, which includes the posting of an appeal bond. The claim will then be heard "de novo" (from scratch) by a district court judge, at which point the decision will be final.
Justices of the Peace are committing magistrates authorized to issue warrants for arrest in many matters. The only criminal matters that may be tried are prosecutions of litter violations. If you have any reason to believe a crime is being committed, please contact your nearest law enforcement agency. Litter violations may be reported to the Constable or the Sheriff's office. The court cannot issue restraining orders, but in some instances may require a peace bond.