Motion to Vacate
What to do if you missed your court date.
Motion to Vacate
If you were sued and lost because you did not appear in court, you can file a Notice of Motion to Vacate Judgment. By filing this motion, you are asking the court to cancel the judgment entered against you and to give you a new trial.
You must file the motion within 30 days from the date the court mailed you the judgment. If you were not served and you discovered a judgment was entered against you, the court allows you to file the motion within 180 days from the date you discovered the judgment.
How do I file the motion?
Follow these steps:
- Get the form: Notice of Motion to Vacate Judgment.
- You must explain on the form why you did not come to court.
- File the form with the Small Claims Court Clerk’s Office at the court where your case was heard.
- Pay the filing fee.
If you were never served the Plaintiff’s Claim, be sure to write that on the form.
What happens after I file?
The court will schedule a hearing for your request, or make a decision without a formal hearing.
If the court schedules a hearing, you and the other party will be notified of the hearing date by mail. At the hearing, you should tell the Judge why you did not come to court the first time.
If a hearing is not scheduled, the court will decide the matter on its own and mail you the decision.
What happens at the hearing?
You must tell the Judge why you did not come to court the first time.
The Judge will decide whether or not to give you a new trial. The Judge will grant or deny your request for a new trial based on your reason for not appearing.
If the Judge grants your motion, he may decide to hear your case right then. For this reason, you should be ready to present your case. Be sure to bring your witnesses and evidence with you to court.
The Judge can also schedule a new court date. If so, all parties will be notified of the new court date by mail.
What if the Judge does not accept my excuse?
The Judge will deny your Motion to Vacate Judgment. You will have 10 days from the date the denial was mailed to you to file a Notice of Appeal. On the Notice of Appeal, check the box that states: “the denial of the motion to vacate small claims judgment.”
How do I appeal the denial of my Motion to Vacate Judgment?
If the Judge did not grant your Motion to Vacate, you can appeal the denial by taking these steps:
- Get the form: Notice of Appeal.
- Fill out the form.
- File the form at the clerk’s office.
- Pay the fee.
What happens at the appeal hearing?
At the hearing, a different Judge will hear your appeal. You and the other party both have a right to be represented by an attorney.
You, or your attorney, must tell the Judge why you did not go to court the first time. Remember, you are only appealing the denial of the Motion to Vacate Judgment.
If the Judge accepts your reason, you may get a new trial date.
If the Judge does not accept your reason, you have no further right to appeal. The original judgment against you is final.
Court forms are available at California Courts – Forms. Select “Small Claims” from the pull down menu. Forms are also available at the Court Clerk’s office.
County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Last change: May 19, 2015.