What's small claims like?

It's months between the time you mail the first claim to San Francisco to the time you talk in small claims court. 

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 like the kind of questions you see on TV that are intended to pin you in a corner. 

The few judges we've seen so far have listened attentively, respectfully, with no pressure on either the plaintiff or defendant.

No phones or recording devices are allowed in the room. 

You can:

       - speak for one minute if you wish
   
       - Give someone you know in the room an
          authorization form to speak for you that the
          judge will probably allow

       - call the small claims department to try to get 
          an interpreter (well in advance)

       - read your testimony out loud

       - come in a carpool; sit together; have a friend or
          family member there for support

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 you need to 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.