Ask the County Law Librarian – Can I Get a Refund when I Dismiss my Case?
Q. Hi Law Librarian,
About 5 weeks ago I filed a lawsuit in the Sacramento County court against a customer who owed me $17,000. I had to include a check for $370 to file the lawsuit. I followed the directions to stamp it and put it in the dropbox, but I have never talked to anyone and I never heard back. I checked on the court’s website and my name isn’t showing up in the Case Index, and the check hasn’t been cashed. Last week the customer and I worked out a payment plan and I agreed to drop the lawsuit. Can I get my check back or do I have to wait for them to cash it to get a refund?
A. Hello Luvinia,
Unfortunately, even though it has not shown up online yet, your lawsuit has been “filed” and you will not qualify for a refund of the filing fee.
As you saw, the Sacramento County Superior Court now accepts most filings, including new complaints, in a dropbox, rather than the clerks’ windows. The dropboxes are a way to deal with staff reductions due to budget cuts. The staffers that remain are working really hard to keep up, but since the court gets so many papers every day, there can be a significant time wait time for you to receive your copy and for them to be uploaded to the court’s website.
However, the date you stamped on the back of the papers when you deposited them is the official filing date. Most of the time, this is a good thing. People need to know that their paperwork gets in on time. Some types of filings have strict deadlines, such as the end of the statute of limitations, and the date stamp proves that the deadline was met.
Even though you haven’t received your copy and it’s not showing on the website, your complaint is already in the system. The court clerks actually pull the papers out of the dropboxes several times a day, sort them by type of document, and perform some other preliminary processing. Later the documents are put through a more thorough processing. It’s after this more thorough processing that your stamped copies are mailed back to you, and the digital copies appear online.
Different types of paperwork are processed more or less quickly. For instance, new complaints may be a few weeks behind, while requests for dismissal may be several months behind. New complaints have a higher priority, because although there’s no immediate deadline after a complaint is filed, there are next steps that depend on getting the complaint back with the case number and summons. Requests for dismissal are less urgent.
Papers that require action within days, such as motions and ex parte applications, are still filed directly with the clerks.
You can check how long the wait is for several types of documents on the Civil Department’s web page. As of this writing, new civil cases are “only” three weeks behind—a vast improvement from the fall, when they were eight or more weeks behind. Requests for dismissal are three months behind.
One last note: you’ll need to file a Request for Dismissal, CIV-110, to end the case. However, since you need to include the case number on the form, you will have to wait until you get your copy of the complaint back to do it.
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