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Can a written declaration hurt my chances of winning a small claims appeal?

San Rafael, CA |

I recently took a former roommate to small claims court for breaking our lease early. We won round one, and she appealed. We went to the appeal, and the defendant put in a declaration written by a former roommate who was practically evicted by the landlord and left on bad terms. Would that be sufficient evidence to hurt our chances of keeping the winnings in our favor? Also, the judge was in quite a rush to finish a jury trial that was still going on, so we didn't even get a chance to respond the defendant's slanderous claims about us. Will the judge look at the hard evidence of her breaking the lease in our favor, or will he choose her "word-of-mouth" tactics against us. She only put in two pieces of evidence: the declaration, and some checks showing different amounts (rent, bills, etc.).

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Attorney answers 2


As you know, on a small claims appeal, a new judge hears all the evidence again and makes a decision. That judge does not know what happened in the first trial, so this new judge looks at everything as if the case was being decided for the first time. In other words, it is irrelevant how the first judge ruled. It is also irrelevant what evidence was presented at the first trial.

As such, the written declaration could indeed hurt your chances of winning.

However, no one can really predict the outcome of a trial.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult with your own attorney.


It is almost impossible to predict how a judge will rule on cases in which I am involved. It is even more so on cases where I have no idea what evidence or testimony was presented. In a small claims appeal, the Judge will consider the evidence provided and rule in the manner that he sees fit.