What do I say first in court? (opening statement in small claims court)

Updated: Apr 28

An opening statement is a concise and to-the-point summary informing the judge:

  • What the case is about.

  • What you are intending to prove.

For small claims cases, 10-15+ cases may be scheduled for one court session (court typically have 2 sessions: AM and PM, each lasting around 3 hours). This means roughly 10-20 minutes are allocated for each case, sometimes even shorter. You will be asked to give a copy of your Trial Presentation to the judge for review before your hearing officially starts.

When your hearing starts, the judge will likely approach it one of these ways:

  1. Ask the Plaintiff to tell them about the case (they may not call it an opening statement). Once that's done, they will turn over to the Defendant for their side of the story.

  2. Review the case materials submitted and jump straight to questioning both the Plaintiff and Defendant.

It's beneficial for both parties to prepare an opening statement as it can be a reference when the judge asks for a summary and is present in the Trial Presentation for the judge to review before diving into questioning.

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