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NH Limits on Small Claims Court Won’t Help Lawyers

by Carolyn Elefant on January 29, 2006 · 4 comments

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David Giacalone of f/k/a writes this post about a New Hampshire bill that would reduce the jurisdictional limit in small claims court in New Hampshire from $5000 to $2500.  Lest anyone think that this kind of legislation is a lawyers-relief bill in disguise, I can assure you that it is not.  A case valued at $2500, particularly of the sort commonly brought in small claims (contract disputes, lost earnings, individual attempt to collect a debt) are rarely worthwhile for a lawyer to take or a client to bring.  (do the math – it’s going to take a lawyer at least 3 hours to gather facts, draft a complaint and file suit, which is $450 at a rate of $150 an hour, plus at least $100 for filing fees.  So you’re out $550 at the outset, even if the lawyer doesn’t bill another minute on the matter.  For a $2500 matter, that’s 20 percent even before you start).  So in the absence of small claims court, most of these claims simply won’t be brought at all. 

NH

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq David Giacaloneda

    Carolyn, You make sense, which again makes me wonder just what the retired judge and lawyer who proposed this bill, Robert H. Rowe, is trying to do — decrease access to justice? Help landlords and small business defendants?
    Also, the Bill might actually hurt small-town, small-time lawyers, who did take cases to Small Claims in the $2500 to $5000 range. They spent very little time with the client and only a couple minutes filling out the Small Claims petition, which is simplified for nonlawyers to use. For all the reasons you give, those cases are now less likely to be brought, given the complexities of the local trial court.

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq David Giacaloneda

    Carolyn, You make sense, which again makes me wonder just what the retired judge and lawyer who proposed this bill, Robert H. Rowe, is trying to do — decrease access to justice? Help landlords and small business defendants?
    Also, the Bill might actually hurt small-town, small-time lawyers, who did take cases to Small Claims in the $2500 to $5000 range. They spent very little time with the client and only a couple minutes filling out the Small Claims petition, which is simplified for nonlawyers to use. For all the reasons you give, those cases are now less likely to be brought, given the complexities of the local trial court.

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