When and How to Get Started
The San Mateo County Court has declared that due to a severe staff shortage caused by the pandemic, it won't hear small claims cases until April, 2022 (at the earliest), but claims are being accepted and processed now.
We suggest you begin the filing process at your earliest convenience. The first step costs very little, commits you to nothing, and is easy to do. Spouses usually file separately.
It would be several weeks before the paperwork for Step Two is undertaken which is a bit more complicated, but we've provided samples to make it easier.
The first step involves the City and County of San Francisco, the airport's owners who are legally responsible for the runway noise and its effect on residents.
It will be months between the time you mail the first form to San Francisco to the time you are in small claims court. Remember: this first step does not commit you to anything.
More about Small Claims
Small Claims isn't anything to be afraid of.
No lawyer can appear in court to berate or accuse you, like you see on TV.
The person representing the defense (the City and County of San Francisco) can not be a lawyer.
Only the judge can ask you questions during your testimony, not the kind of questions you see on TV that are intended to pin you down. The few judges we've observed so far have listened attentively and respectfully, putting no pressure on either the plaintiff or defendant. The questions asked (if any) are simple.
- speak for one minute if you wish
- call the small claims department to try to get an interpreter if you feel
you need one (well in advance of your scheduled hearing)
- read your testimony out loud
- come in a carpool; sit together; have a friend or family member there for support (IF the court's covid regulations allow it)
You won't have to sit at the front of the room and face people; you'll probably sit at a long table and look only at the judge.
You can ask the judge if your friend or relative may join you at the table (IF the court's covid regulations allow it).
If you must leave early, you may ask the judge at the end of your testimony for permission to leave.
- If you'd like to be one of the earlier speakers, you can slip the bailiff a note with your name and case number on it along with a quick message that you'd like to speak early if possible.
How You Can Help Spread the Word
You can help inform people of our efforts via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, NextDoor, or other conduits. Please mention our website sforunwaynoise.com in your comments to friends and neighbors who are affected by the runway noise.
You can organize zoom meetings for your neighborhood. We'll try to join if we're free.
You can put up an sforunwaynoise.com sign.
updated September 22, 2021