How to Appeal a Judgment in California

If you are considering filing an appeal to a judgment in California, chances are the matter has been litigated in small claims court, where, in general, an attorney may not represent a party. The appeals procedure can be used by a defendant who believes the judgment is erroneous. If this is the case, refrain from satisfying the judgment and promptly file a Notice of Appeal. If the new judge assigned to the case agrees with you, the judgment will be set aside.


    • 1

      Note the date by which you must file the Notice of Appeal. The court must know within 30 days of the judge's decision whether you intend to dispute the judgment. Count 30 days (including weekends) from the date the decision was handed down or mailed to you and mark this date on your calendar. This date is the absolute latest you can file the Notice of Appeal. Absent extenuating circumstances, an untimely filed Notice of Appeal will result in the judge's decision being upheld.

    • 2

      Complete Form SC-140 Notice of Appeal (Small Claims). On the form you must provide contact information (name, address, telephone number) for all parties involved in the lawsuit. At the top of the document, write the name and address of the court that has jurisdiction over the matter. Also indicate the case number. All of this information can be found on the court's judgment. Do not complete the section labeled "Notice of Filing Notice of Appeal" as the clerk of the court completes this portion of the form. Under "Notice of Appeal," check the box indicating that you would like to appeal the small claims judgment. Print your name and sign the document at the bottom. Do not date the form. The clerk will enter the date when you file the document.

    • 3

      File Form SC-140 in the small claims court that issued the judgment. Bring two copies of the completed form with you and request one form to be time/date stamped and returned to you for your records. The clerk will send a copy to the plaintiff informing him that you are appealing the judgment, and the clerk also will set a hearing date.

    • 4

      Attend the appeal hearing. The hearing will be in the Civil Division of Superior Court and in front of a new judge who is not familiar with the case. The sides will present their arguments again and may utilize attorneys at this stage. The goal is to convince the new judge that the prior judge erred in his decision. If you are incurring expenses during the appeal, request that the judge reimburse these costs in the ruling. Bring documents that reflect these expenses. After hearing from both sides, the judge will issue a decision. An appeals decision is final and non-appealable.

Tips & Warnings

  • In California, a defendant is the only party who can appeal a judgment.
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