Balancing the Scales of Justice for Pro Se Homeowners

State Litigation Process and Tools

State Litigation Process and Tools


Each of our judicial (state and federal) have a hierarchy of courts.  In State Courts, California in particular, there are 3 levels of State Courts – the Superior Courts (Limited and Unlimited) which is where all civil suits start and are called “trial courts”; each county has a group of Superior Courts. Then the Court of Appeals which is broken up by Regions, are the courts that hear appeals on rulings from the Superior Courts in their region.   From the Court of Appeals is the California Supreme Court which hears appeals on rulings made from the Court of Appeals throughout the entire State.  If your case is heard in front of the California Supreme Court and either party is unhappy with the outcome, then the dissenting party can petition to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. (which according to the SCOTUS website, the Supreme Court receives approximately 10,000 petitions to be heard each year and they only accept between 75 to 80!).  Anyone can appeal a ruling, the further up the chain you go, the more unlikely it will be heard by the Court unless the issue is of “great public importance”.  

State Court Structure

Limited Case Appeals from the Superior Court are heard by the Appellate Court that is typically housed in the main Superior Court of the County; Unlimited case appeals are heard by the Court of Appeals (which is housed in State Courthouse). For example, Contra Costa Country Unlimited Appeals are heard by the Court of Appeals in San Francisco and Limited Appeals are heard by the Appellate Division in Martinez. For more details on the structure of the California State Courts see Overview of Courts.


 The filing of a complaint is just the beginning of a lawsuit.  Once the complaint is  filed and served the fun really begins (actually the work).  In California most  homeowner lawsuits are met with a "Demurrer" (commonly known as a Motion to  Dismiss in most states and in the Federal Courts).   Once past the Demurrer stage,  you then get into discovery along with additional motions (referred to as  pleadings).  The time between filing a complaint and actually getting to trial can be  as long as two to three years (except for Unlawful Detainers which usually happens within 30 days unless you know how to fight for your rights. See Overview of Unlawful Detainer).   Enter to here to learn more about the basic motions and lawsuit process. 


STATE ToolsTools (Pro Se Members Only)

In this section find sample motions, discovery information and forms, litigation schedules,  and other helpful tools that pro se's need to manage their litigation. 

LINKSLinks to State Law and Procedures

These links take you direct to sites that explain State Laws and Court Procedures.   This section focuses on California and we will let you know when we add additional states!


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