Going to Court
You can always represent yourself in Court, if you do not find a consumer attorney to take your case.
In New Jersey, if you wish to sue for $3,000 or less, you may sue in the Small Claims Court, which is a part of the Special Civil Part. The Small Claims Court is the easiest Court to use, with trials scheduled very promptly. To sue for over $3,000 to $15,000, go to the "Special Civil Part." Suits for over $15,000 go the "Law Division." Suits for divorce, etc, go to the "Family Part."
There is a lot of useful information at the N.J. Judiciary website, which has a very helpful section about representing yourself in Court:
Before suing, check whether the company has "fictitious name," searching at the County Clerk’s Office. If you sue the wrong name, you won't collect any money. For a corporation, you should search for the registered agent of a corporation, see New Jersey’s website at:
A lawsuit is started by filing a written "Summons" and a "Complaint" (which explains why you are suing). The "Plaintiff" is the person who sues, and the "Defendant" is the person who gets sued. The N.J. Judiciary website has sample forms for Summons and Complaint.
A Small Claims suit proceeds directly to trial or mediation. In other suits, both sides get the right to send each other written questions (called "Interrogatories") and Requests for Admissions. If your adversary sends papers to the Court, you must respond in writing (and send a copy to the opposing attorney). A "Summary Judgment" motion is an attempt to end the case without a trial. You must send the Court your own papers, your facts and proof, and why there ought to be a trial (otherwise you will lose).
The Court may schedule your case for arbitration (before an attorney standing in for the judge) or trial. The person losing the court’s arbitration has the right to ask for a trial before the judge. You have the right to ask for an Interpreter.
Collecting the Judgment
The case or the trial ends with a "judgment," which is the Judge’s decision-- who won, and how much money was awarded. The judge does not order the loser to pay up. You must find out the assets or income, and ask the Court Officer to "levy" on those assets. For example, the best way to collect is to seize the defendant's bank account. (Look on the back of the check you gave him to find his bank.) A business may have tangible assets to seize. The judgment winner may ask that the salary or income of the defendant be "garnisheed." A judgment is good for 20 years, and Special Civil judgments may be "docketed" in the Law Division, where they become a lien on real estate.
The lawsuit process can be a long one, but be persistent! If you don't keep on complaining, you won't get what is rightfully yours.
CLNJ has provided the above general information about the Courts with the understanding that CLNJ is not providing legal advice, and not acting as attorney. Please consult an attorney for advice specific to the facts of your case.