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Civil Division


Welcome to the Civil Division section of our website. We have helpful information for both plaintiffs and defendants, and for both the local legal community and pro pers representing themselves in court.

Effective Oct. 6, 2014: See Standing Order Re: Proper Courthouse for Filing Small Claims and Civil Actions

Case Information
Access online civil case or calendar information on our Case Information Portal.
Read about viewing or copying case dockets.

Civil Overview

"Civil" cases involve violation of private rights rather than violation of criminal law. A civil matter involves a lawsuit in which one party sues another to recover money or property, to enforce a contract or an obligation, to collect damages for injury or to protect some civil right.

For information on the difference between civil and small claims cases, review the comparison table in the Small Claims Self-Help section of this website.

Civil cases in Santa Clara County are heard in the Downtown Superior Court, the Old Courthouse, and the South County Courthouse.

For information on Complex Civil Litigation E-Filing, visit our E-Filing page.

Calendar and case information for Civil cases (as well as other case types) is available from the Court's Case Information Portal .

Case Types

Civil Court cases are divided into sections, depending on how much they’re worth.

  • If your case is worth $5,000 or less (if you are filing as a business), you can file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
  • If your case is worth $10,000 or less (if you are filing as an individual) you can file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
  • If your case is worth $25,000 or less, you can file it in a court called a “Limited Jurisdiction Superior Court.”
  • If your case is worth more than $25,000, you can file in a court called an “Unlimited Jurisdiction Superior Court.”

Read more about Civil cases and Small Claims cases in the Self-Help section of this website. Note: Civil cases can also mean all cases that are not criminal matters. For other types of non-criminal cases, see these other pages in the Court Division section of this website: Family, Juvenile, and Probate.

UD (Landlord/Tenant)

Landlords and tenants can have disagreements. If they can’t work it out, they may end up in court. An Unlawful Detainer (UD) case has to do with who has the right to live at the property.

An Unlawful Detainer action is a special court proceeding. It’s a legal way to evict someone from the place where they live or work. This usually happens when a tenant stays after the lease is up or the lease is canceled. An Unlawful Detainer decides if the landlord can take the property back from the tenant. The landlord is the plaintiff. The tenant is the defendant. If the defendant moves out before trial, the case is dismissed or, can be changed to a regular civil action.

Unlawful detainer cases are complicated. Talk to a lawyer to make sure all your rights are protected and that everyone does what they’re supposed to do. Our Self-Help section has information and legal resources for both landlords and tenants in Unlawful Detainer cases. Start at the UD overview page to get started.

ADR (Mediation)

Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR" for short) is the term used for multiple different ways to resolve disagreements outside of court. Forms of ADR include mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation, the use of special masters and referees, binding arbitration, facilitation, and settlement conferences.

Our Civil ADR page in the Self-Help section of this website provides an overview of the different forms of ADR.

The Court provides listings of legal professionals to help resolve disputes. Links to these searchable databases or lists are provided here.

Civil Harassment

If you need protection from someone who is not, or has not been, a business partner and who is not a close family member, you may want to request a civil harassment restraining order. This restraining order could be used for protection from neighbors, roommates, or co-workers, for example.

A Restraining Order can protect you from physical, emotional or financial abuse. It can order someone not to harass you or destroy your property.

The Civil Harassment page in the Self-Help section of this website steps you through the process of filling out the paperwork and filing a civil harassment restraining order.