In the state of Mississippi, small claims court is called the Justice Court. A Justice Court has jurisdiction over civil cases that involve amounts up to a $3,500 maximum, misdemeanor criminal cases and any traffic offense that occurs outside a municipality.
Justice Court judges may also conduct bond hearings and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases and issue search warrants. A plaintiff, the person filing a small claims case, needs only the defendant’s name, address and the filing fee to file a small claims case. Filing fees vary among jurisdictions.
Filing Fees and Information Required
In DeSoto County, filing fees range between $75 and $225, depending on the number of defendants to be served. In Hinds County, filing fees have a similar range of between $75 for one defendant and $105 for four defendants, with $10 for each additional defendant.
The filing fee for a second action, after a judgment has been rendered, varies according to county and the number of defendants. Such actions are typically for a garnishment, warrant of removal or writ of replevin:
- Garnishment: Orders an entity like an employer to garnish the wages of an individual to pay their debt in a case.
- Warrant of removal: Orders a person to leave a rented property in an eviction case.
- Writ of replevin: Orders the seizure or attachment of property to be held under order of the court, as in a repossession action.
In Hinds County, filing fees for a second action are:
- One defendant: $60, unless the garnishment is for a state or county job, then $62.
- Two defendants: $70.
- Three defendants: $80.
- Four defendants: $90.
Information Required to Sue a Business
To sue a business, a plaintiff needs the full name of the business and the name of the business' agent of process. A plaintiff can get the name of the agent of process by asking the business or calling the secretary of state at 800-256-3494. Constables, law enforcement officers who go by the term “sheriffs” in other states, are authorized to serve process issued by all courts.
Filing the Complaint with the Court
A plaintiff is required to complete the form complaint for small claims court. This is called the declaration or affidavit. A person who cannot afford the fee for filing and service may file a pauper affidavit. The clerk will then assist them without charge. If the court later determines that the plaintiff is not a pauper, it will dismiss the plaintiff’s case.
Procedures for Small Claims Court
If a defendant was properly served and fails to appear, the judge will give the plaintiff a default judgment. If the defendant does not pay, 10 days after court, the plaintiff can flag the defendant’s credit or file a second action to garnish wages. The civil clerk can provide more details on these processes.
If the defendant was not at the address they provided, the clerk of court will give the plaintiff time to get a new address for service. The process may require an additional fee. A plaintiff can obtain one continuance by phone. To request additional continuances, the plaintiff must appear in court.
Court proceedings are not private. All court proceedings must take place in open court with the public present. A judge has the power to order all parties out of the courtroom if they choose. A party cannot call or speak to the judge about their case. This is called ex parte, or out-of-court communication, and it is not allowed in the court system.
Hiring an Attorney
The court cannot recommend or refer parties to an attorney. Parties do not need to hire an attorney to represent them in small claims court, but they can choose to do so. A person who chooses not to hire an attorney will be required to sign a form waiving their right to counsel.
Appealing a Court's Decision
A party who wishes to appeal a judge’s ruling must file the appeal within 30 days of the ruling.
Filing a Response to a Smalls Claim Suit
A defendant is not required to file a written response to a plaintiff. They have the option of filing an answer in writing with the court clerk before the hearing. The defendant should get two copies that are stamped “filed” by the court clerk. They should keep one and give the other to the plaintiff at or before the trial.
Other Mississippi Courts
If the amount requested in a lawsuit is over $3,500, but less than $200,000, the plaintiff should seek relief in County Court. County court also hears eminent domain, juvenile matters and non-capital felony cases transferred from circuit court. County court judges may issue search warrants, set bond and preside over preliminary hearings. They have concurrent jurisdiction with Justice Courts in civil and criminal cases.
Other courts of limited jurisdiction in Mississippi include:
- Circuit Court: Hears felony criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits above $200,000.
- Chancery Court: Hears matters involving equity, domestic relations, guardianships, sanity hearings, wills and challenges to the constitutionality of state laws.
- Intervention Court: Hears criminal cases committed by individuals who have substance abuse issues with drugs and/or alcohol.
- Municipal Court: Hears misdemeanor criminal, municipal ordinance and city traffic violation cases.
- Youth Court: Hears matters relating to the abuse and neglect of juveniles and offenses committed by juveniles.
The cases heard in county court regarding juveniles are different from those heard in youth court.
Small Estate and Probate Cases
A person who dies and leaves an estate worth $75,000 or less to beneficiaries can avoid the traditional process of having the estate go through probate in Mississippi. The first step is for the successor to complete a small estate affidavit declaring the worth of the estate. The affidavit is sometimes called the small claims estate affidavit.
The process of dealing with a small estate does not go through small claims court. The successor, or alternatively, the executor, the person who administers the estate, should file a written request with the local probate court requesting to use the simplified procedure. The court authorizes the successor or executor to receive or distribute assets without having to go through the lengthier and more expensive process of probate.
|Number and type of defendants||Filing fee|
One defendant to be served in DeSoto County
One defendant to be served by private process
Two defendants to be served at the same location
Two defendants at different addresses
Two defendants to be served by private process
Two defendants, one in Mississippi and one to be served by private process
Three defendants at the same location
Three defendants at three different addresses
Three defendants, all to be served by private process
Four defendants at the same location
Four defendants, three at the same address, one at a different address
Four defendants at four different addresses
Four defendants, all to be served by private process
Warrant of Removal
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.