Navajo Rules for Small Claims Proceedings
The original rules were made effective on February 27, 1990. The amendments were made effective on November 22, 1993 by Navajo Nation Supreme Court Order No,. SCD-03-92. Small Claims Proceedings uses its own forms. Please consult your local court.
Definition. A small claim is a civil claim for money or the delivery of tangible property where the matter in dispute has a value of two thousand dollars ($2,000) or less, exclusive of interest and costs. Disputes involving real property and repossession of consumer goods covered by a security agreement shall be excluded from small claims proceedings. A claimant shall not break a large claim into small claims so as to take undue advantage of these Rules.
A small claim may be filed by any person who is eighteen years of age or older.
Jurisdiction and limitations of actions in small claims proceedings shall be the same as provided in Title 7 of the Navajo Nation Code. All cases filed under these Rules shall be filed only with a district court of the Navajo Nation, which shall include the Alamo and Canoncito Circuit Courts.
Although parties can represent themselves in small claims proceedings, a party in a small claims proceeding may be represented by counsel at the party’s own expense. The counsel must be an active member in good standing of the Navajo Nation Bar Association.
A small claims proceeding is initiated by the claimant appearing at the local district court and completing a small claims proceeding form to be provided by the district court clerk and paying the filing fee for a small claims proceeding.
The small claims proceeding form shall contain the following:
a. The correct name and address of the claimant.
b. The correct name and address of the defendant.
c. A brief statement of the facts upon which the claim is based.
d. A description and value of the property, claim, or transaction in dispute.
e. A brief statement explaining the relief sought.
f. The signature of the claimant.
When the claim is filed, the district court clerk shall write upon the original of the small claims form the date and time of hearing and give the claimant a stamped copy of the form. The hearing shall take place no later than sixty (60) days from the date the claim is filed. Continuances may be granted for good cause.
All small claims proceedings shall be docketed by the district court clerk and assigned case numbers containing the designation of “SC” for small claim.
The district court clerk shall immediately after docketing send a copy of the small claims proceeding form to the defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested. This copy shall contain the notice of hearing as entered on the original. In the event that service of process cannot be obtained by mail, personal service may be made by either the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety or a private process server who is registered with the court.
Service by publication shall not be permitted in small claims proceedings. A small claims proceeding shall be dismissed without prejudice if the court finds at the hearing that the defendant has not been served.
A written answer by the defendant shall not be required and the defendant may present any defense at the hearing.
The defendant may file a counterclaim by completing a small claims proceeding counterclaim form at the district court and paying the filing fee which shall be the same as for a small claims complaint. The value of the counterclaim shall not exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000), exclusive of interest and costs. If the counterclaim exceeds that amount, the case shall be transferred out of small claims pursuant to Rule 24.
The court clerk immediately after docketing send a stamped copy of the counterclaim to the claimant by ordinary first-class mail.
A counterclaim must be filed at least fifteen (15) days prior to the hearing.
The district court shall conduct hearings upon small claims in such a manner as to do substantial justice between the parties using the rules of substantive law, including Navajo common law. In the interest of substantial justice between the parties, the court shall not be bound by statutory provisions or rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence, except as it relates to privilege communications and personal transactions or communications with a decedent or mentally ill person.
An itemized bill or invoice or two itemized estimates for services or repairs, are admissible in evidence and are prima facie evidence of the reasonable value and necessity of such services and repairs.
All parties may present evidence and the testimony of witnesses in accordance with the permission, instructions and discretion of the court.
Subpoenas for witnesses may be issued by the court upon request. The subpoenas may be served by a registered private process server who is registered with the court or any person eighteen years of age or older who is not a party to the action. The person making service shall complete the return of service and file the subpoena with the district court clerk.
Upon a determination of a small claim, the judge shall enter judgment. A judgment may be executed on using the laws in the Navajo Nation Code and the Navajo Rules of Civil Procedure.
A party commencing an action as a small claims proceeding waives all right to appeal except that either party may appeal on the sole ground that substantial justice has not been done between the parties according to the rules and principles of substantive law, including Navajo common law. The party desiring to appeal shall so notify the district court and the court shall immediately file a final decision setting forth findings of fact, conclusions of law and judgment. The appeal shall be filed with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court within thirty (30) days after the district judge has signed the final appealable decision. The appeal shall thereafter proceed in accordance with the Navajo Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure or the instructions of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.
Note: In Oliver v. Apache, No. SC-CV-19-10 (2010) the Supreme Court clarified Rule 20 as meaning that there is no right to an appeal of a small claims judgment except where "substantial justice has not been done."
Trial by jury shall not be permitted in a small claim proceeding.
Natural persons, businesses, and public or private entities may file a small claim proceeding on his, her, or its own behalf. An assignee of a small claim may not use a small claim proceeding.
A judgment obtained in a small claims proceeding may be pleaded as res judicata in any other action or court only as to the amount involved in the particular action and shall not otherwise be deemed an adjudication of any fact.
Whenever justice so requires, the district court shall have the power to transfer a small claim out of small claims proceeding to be tried as a civil action under the Navajo Rules of Civil Procedure and the usual practice and procedure used by the court.
The use of small claims proceedings in discretionary. A party is not prohibited from initiating a civil action under the Navajo Rules of Civil Procedure.
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