Small Claims Judge Pro Tem Program
Service as a temporary judge is a great experience. Attorneys are able to use their unique legal expertise to resolve disputes in a way that involves very little cost to the litigants and permits the attorney (judge) to do justice for the parties that is not blunted by the excessive costs associated with litigation in the trial courts.
Sitting as a judge is not only a great way to provide public service, it is also most interesting. There are a wide variety of interesting and sometimes amazing presentations in the small claims court. Sitting as a judge pro tem permits the attorney to function outside of the usual adversarial role and develop judicial skills and insights that can be gained in no other way.
In January 1998, the Solano County Bar Association began an ambitious project to reduce the judicial burden of the small claims courts through the use of volunteer temporary judges and volunteer mediators. The compensation paid to the Bar Association by the Solano County courts for these services permits the Bar to operate an independent office, continue the operation of the Lawyer Referral Service, improve services to members, and cover the costs of the mediation and temporary judge programs. Mediation services in the small claims context do not always require the services of an attorney. Only attorneys, however, can sit on the small claims bench. Our greatest need at this time is for attorneys to volunteer for this service.
In order to qualify as a temporary judge in the small claims court, an attorney must have been a member of the State Bar of California for at least five years. In addition, the attorney must participate in a training program and be sworn in. The training program is provided by the Solano County Bar Association in the form of video and audio tapes and written materials. Once this training is completed, the Bar Association will arrange to have you sworn in.
The Small Claims courts convene in Fairfield and Vallejo at 9 am to 1 pm M, W, TH, and F and 1 pm to 5 pm Tues.
Judges are able to pick up their cases the day before the hearing from the Small Claims Clerk who will also direct them to the assigned courtroom. The courts are staffed with helpful and knowledgeable clerks and bailiffs, which makes the work much easier.