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District Civil

District Civil

Location:
Etowah County Circuit Clerk
801  Forrest Ave., Suite 202
Gadsden, AL 35901

Telephone: 256-549-2150

Jurisdiction Code of Alabama 12-12-30

The District Civil handles civil cases with damages of $6000.01 thru 10,000.00. Additionally, District Court Civil Division has jurisdiction over evictions and The District Court Civil Division unlawful detainers. Should you have any questions concerning a case this type of need filing information, please contact our office at (256) 549-2150. Additionally, you will find forms commonly used in this court at www.legalhelp.org and www.alacourt.gov.

Fee Description

Claim Amount

Fee at Filing

Filing Fee(One defendant)

$6000.01 to $10,000

$247.00

Additional Service Fees

Claim Amount

Fee

Additional Defendant

Any amount

$10.00 per additional defendant

Additional Plaintiffs

Any Amount

$50.00

Garnishment

Any amount

$30.00

Execution

Any amount

$30.00

Subpoenas

Any amount

$12.00 per subpoena

Motion for judgment, default judgment or summary judgment

-

50.00

Should you file a District Civil Case?

Before you file a claim, you should contact the person or business you plan to sue and attempt to settle your dispute. This effort may save you time and money. In some instances, it costs as much or more than the actual claim to file and seek collections. You should also find out if the person or business you plan to sue has any money or assets to pay your claims, if you should win. Otherwise, you may have a difficult time collecting on a court judgment. Remember, it is up to you, not the court, to take further legal action against the person or business if they do not pay the judgment. This process can be handled through the mail; you only have to come to the courthouse when or if the case is set for a hearing.

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Who can use District Civil Court?

An individual who has reached the age of 19, a partnership, or a corporation may file a claim. An individual may file a claim with or without an attorney. If a partnership files without an attorney, the person representing the partnership must be a partner or an employee of the partnership. A corporation MUST be represented by an attorney.

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How do you file a District Civil Case?

You or your attorney should go to the District Civil Division of the District Court in the county where the person or business you wish to sue lives or has an office, and file a Statement of Claim (Complaint) form. Statement of Claim (Complaint). This form is available in the Clerk's Office. By law, the Court Clerk can not give you legal advice nor can they assist you in filling out forms (you, an individual or an attorney of your choice may do this). If you are physically unable to fill them out yourself, this office will gladly make reasonable accommodations in order to help you complete the necessary paperwork.

Once you complete the complaint, you become the "plaintiff" in the case and the person you are suing is the "defendant". The information that you must have in order to complete the case is the defendant's correct and complete address and/or their place of employment. You must pay a filing fee at the time the claim is filed. Filing fees are non-refundable. NO PERSONAL CHECKS. If you cannot afford to prepay this fee, you can fill out an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship form and ask the judge to delay payment and the costs will be taxed at the conclusion of the case. You may attain this form from the Court Clerk or download from the site here Affidavit of Substantial Hardship. The cost of filing the case is as follows and is broken down into a fee description according to the amount of the claim (amount of monetary damages you are seeking or claiming) and the fee charged at the time the case is filed. The fees for filing a claim with more than one defendant, additional fees or services will be added to what the defendant owes if you (the plaintiff) wins the case. Otherwise, you (the plaintiff) will be responsible for those fees accumulated over the course of the claim. Pleadings issued for service by certified mail on an individual must be made by restricted delivery ($11.51 for one ounce and $0.21 for each additional ounce).

CERTIFIED MAIL - When requesting service wherein the address provided is a post office box, or is out of state, the papers may be served by certified mail. You should prepare an envelope, green card, and green and white sticker. Be sure that the Clerk's address is the return address, to-wit: CIRCUIT CLERK, 801 Forrest Ave., Suite 202 Gadsden, AL 35901. You must affix the proper postage onto the prepared envelope. You will need to contact the US Post Office to obtain current fees for certified/return receipt mail—Restricted Delivery.

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What happens after the claim is filed?

Once the forms are completed, this office will process the complaint and assign your case a number (You should use this number whenever you contact the court concerning your case). It normally takes 1 to 2 weeks to process the case. After it is processed in our office, it is then sent to the  Constable for service on the defendant(s) or issued by Certified mail whichever process you stated. Once served with a Statement of Claim, the defendant has 14 days to answer and to file it with the Clerk's Office. If the defendant files an answer, the case will be set for trial in approximately 2-4 weeks from the receipt of the answer. You should have sufficient time or notification of the trial in order to subpoena any witnesses and otherwise prepare your case for trial. If you have a conflict with the trial date, you will need to file a Motion to Continue in a timely manner with the Clerk's Office.

If the defendant fails to file an answer, the plaintiff can take a judgment by default by filling out a default request and affidavit form. This form is available here Application, Affidavit and Entry of Default Judgment. Please note that this form must be notarized.

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If you are the defendant, what should you do after a claim has been filed?

You may choose to settle with the plaintiff before the date the claim is set for trial. If you do settle, then the claim may be dismissed, with no judgment entered against you. If you choose not to settle or you are unable to settle, you must answer the Complaint within 14 calendar days after being served, admitting or denying all or part of the claim. Remember, your answer must be filed within 14 calendar days or a default judgment may be entered against you. As the defendant, you may also choose to file a Counterclaim Defendant's Answer(Counterclaim), which is a claim that you have against the plaintiff.

If a settlement agreement is reached before the trial, the plaintiff must immediately notify the clerk so that the trial can be cancelled.

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What should both sides do to prepare for the trial?

If an agreement cannot be reached, both the plaintiff and defendant should get together all papers, receipts, bills, sales tickets, estimates, photographs, etc., having to do with the claim. These are to be brought to court the date of the trial.

You should write down the details and facts of the case to assist you in telling your side of the story at the trial. As the plaintiff or defendant, you may bring any witnesses you feel can help explain your case. If there is any reason to believe a witness will not voluntarily appear, you may ask the clerk to issue a Witness Subpoena requiring that person to appear. This form is available for download Order to Appear(Subpoena) and Subpoena Request Form. You will be required to pay a witness subpoena fee. You will need to make sure you allow at least two weeks for service of your subpoena prior to trial date, especially if your witness is located in another county.

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What happens at the trial?

BE ON TIME! If you are late, the judge may dismiss your case (if you are the plaintiff) or he/she may enter a default judgment against you (if you are the defendant). If something comes up which would prevent you from being on time or appearing at the trial, you MUST inform the judge your case is assigned to as soon as possible and request a continuance (delay) of the trial—this must be in writing.This will not be accepted by phone.

A trial in District Civil Court is an informal hearing before a judge. There is no jury. When the case is called, the plaintiff will present his/her evidence and his/her witnesses. The defendant will then present his/her evidence, and call his/her witnesses.

After hearing both sides of the case and looking at the evidence, the judge will make a decision and render a judgment based on the law and the facts presented. A copy of the judgment will be mailed to each party or their attorney.

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What can you do if you disagree with the court's judgment?

If either of you (plaintiff or defendant) disagrees with the decision, you may appeal the case by filing a NOTICE OF APPEAL form with the clerk of District Civil Court within 14 calendar days after the date of judgment. This form is available here Notice of Appeal. The Clerk's Office also has this form.

The appeal will be heard in the Circuit Court. The party filing the appeal must be prepared to pay a filing fee of at least $246.00 for a non-jury trial or $346.00 for a jury trial. If any additional funds are to be paid, in order to secure proper appeal, it will be the responsibility of the party that appeals. We cannot give you legal advice. You may need the assistance of an attorney if you choose to appeal because the simplified procedures of District Civil court do not apply in Circuit Court.

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If you, the plaintiff, wins, how do you collect the judgment?

If the defendant does not pay the judgment (after the appeal time has run 14 days), it is up to you and not the court to take one of the following actions to collect your judgment: Forms for the following are available in the clerk's office.

  • Garnishment of Wages - It must meet state and federal requirements in order to collect using this method. Must have name and address of Defendant's employer.
  • Garnishment of Bank Account - Must know of the defendant's bank and bank address.
  • Execution for Levy on Property - Obtain a court order authorizing the sheriff to pick up any property belonging to the defendant and sell it to satisfy the judgment. The property levied cannot be under a recorded mortgage (plaintiff can check with the probate court for recordings).When a Writ of Execution is filed, it must have a full description of the property that you want to execute on (i.e., VIN#, Property Legal Description, Tag #’s, etc…). We will not research this for you.

All of the above actions require an additional filing fee. (SEE FEES) The clerk has the necessary forms and sometimes the method of collection may become involved, you may wish to have an attorney explain the procedure and assist you in filing the appropriate forms. Again the court clerk cannot give you legal advice.

* It is important to mention, you cannot garnishee a retirement check, disability check, welfare, child assistance, unemployment, or social security check.

The court has no way of collection outside of the above mentioned methods and judgments are good for up to ten years. It is important to mention, it is easier to get a judgment than it is to collect on it. A judgment is not a guarantee of collection.

The plaintiff can request a certificate of judgment and have it recorded in the county probate court. It will then go on record and must be satisfied before the defendant can borrow money or sell property.

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Evictions/Unlawful Detainer

ACT NO. 2006-316 – Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Regarding Landlord/Tenant Relations

In District Civil Court of Etowah County, Alabama

Unlawful Detainer Actions are the remedy for eviction in a landlord tenant relationship – Title 6, Code of Alabama. Effective Date: January 1, 2007.

Who May File Actions: Individuals representing themselves or an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Alabama. Each plaintiff is required to file a Representation Form certifying if they are a sole proprietor, partnership (no corporate entity) or other entity such as: professional corporation, limited liability corporation, incorporated business or limited liability partnership all of which require attorney representation.

Jurisdiction: District Court and Circuit Court have concurrent jurisdiction. Actions seeking injunctive relief must be filed in the Circuit court. Injunctive relief is defined as seeking to obtain an order to either command or prohibit an action.

Rules of Civil Procedure govern.

Notice to Vacate/Notice to Tenant: If the eviction is for non-payment of rent, you begin with one (1) written 7 day notice for failure to pay rent. You can write the notice yourself or use a form provided by the Etowah County Constable’s Office. The notice must specify the amount of rent and late fees owed to remedy the breach and state that if the breach is not remedied within seven (7) days, the rental agreement shall be terminated. You should keep a copy of the notice that you serve on the tenant or post at the premises. If the lease has expired, a thirty (30) day written notice is required.

Statement of Claim for Unlawful Detainer (Form C-59): At the end of the seven (7) days, the landlord/Plaintiff may sue for possession of the property and for money damages in the same action by filing a Statement of Claim for Unlawful Detainer and pay the court costs of $247.00 and up. A copy must be served upon the tenant or posted on the premises by the constable’s office. Service by posting also requires that a copy be mailed to the tenant. Service is complete as of the date of mailing of the notice. NOTE: In order to obtain a money judgment, personal service upon the Defendant is required, not just posting. Title 6-6-332, Code of Alabama. Complaint for money must be served in accordance with Rule 4, Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure which requires service by certified mail or personal service by either constable, sheriff’s office or a private process server.

Answer of Tenant: The tenant has seven (7) calendar days after service or posting to file an answer with the District Court Clerk’s Office. If the tenant files an answer, a trial date will be set and you will be notified by mail. Counterclaims are allowed by the defendant/tenant, and there is no filing fee for this action in District Court.

Default: If the tenant does not file an answer, you may then file an Application for Entry of Default Judgment and pay a default judgment application fee of $50.00. You must wait an additional seven (7) days, not counting the date that the judge sign it.

Writ of Possession: Seven (7) days AFTER the district judge grants default judgment, you may file a request for the district judge to enter a writ of possession. The Writ of Possession will be delivered to the constable to schedule an appointment for the eviction.

Day of Eviction: On the day of eviction, you are responsible for removing the tenant and their belongings as expediently as possible while the constable is present to oversee the eviction under the writ of possession.

Appeals: If the case if filed in the district court, the appeal would go to the circuit court. Appealed cases must be set in the circuit court within 60 days. If the case is filed in the circuit court, the appeal would go to the Court of Civil Appeals. The time for filing an appeal is seven business days from the final order or from the ruling on a post-trial motion. An order entered by a district court judge should set the amount of appeal bond which would be two amounts based on past due rent and accruing rent. If the district court judge fails to set a bond before notice of appeal to circuit court is filed, the circuit court judge will set bond upon filing of a motion.

In order to stop the eviction while the appeal is pending, an appeal bond MUST be posted. Affidavit of substantial hardship does not waive the posting of this bond to stop the eviction while the appeal is pending. If the tenant does not post a bond, it has no effect on the appeal only on his right to possession of the property.

These instructions are being provided merely for the purpose of instruction as to procedures of this office and in no way should be construed as advice as to the laws governing Unlawful Detainers. The clerk of constable cannot give you legal advice. If you need legal assistance, you should contact an attorney.

Forms Available in the Clerk’s Office:

  • Notice of Eviction
  • Statement of Claim for Unlawful Detainer
  • Application for Entry of Default Judgment
  • Writ of Possession
  • Representation Form

Contact Information:
Etowah County Circuit Clerk’s Office
801 Forrest Ave., Suite 202
Gadsden, AL 35901
District Civil Division: 256-549-5432 * 256-549-5499 * 256-549-5445
Etowah County Constable: 256-549-5450

Section 35-9A-461:

Landlord's action for eviction, rent, monetary damages, or other relief.

  1. A landlord's action for eviction, rent, monetary damages, or other relief relating to a tenancy subject to this chapter shall be governed by the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure and the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure except as modified by this chapter.
  2. District courts and circuit courts, according to their respective established jurisdictions, shall have jurisdiction over eviction actions, and venue shall lie in the county in which the leased property is located. Eviction actions shall be entitled to precedence in scheduling over all other civil cases.
  3. Service of process shall be made in accordance with the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure. However, if a sheriff, constable, or process server is unable to serve the defendant personally, service may be had by delivering the notice to any person who is sui juris residing on the premises, or if after reasonable effort no person is found residing on the premises, by posting a copy of the notice on the door of the premises, and on the same day of posting or by the close of the next business day, the sheriff, the constable, the person filing the complaint, or anyone on behalf of the person, shall mail notice of the filing of the unlawful detainer action by enclosing, directing, stamping, and mailing by first class a copy of the notice to the defendant at the mailing address of the premises and if there is no mailing address for the premises to the last known address, if any, of the defendant and making an entry of this action on the return filed in the case. Service of the notice by posting shall be complete as of the date of mailing the notice.
  4. Notwithstanding subsection (a) of Section 12-12-70, any party may appeal from an eviction judgment entered by a district court to the circuit court at any time within seven days after the entry thereof. The filing of a timely post-judgment motion pursuant to the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure shall suspend the running of the time for filing a notice of appeal. In cases where post-judgment motions are filed, the full time fixed for filing a notice of appeal shall be computed from the date of the entry in the civil docket of an order granting or denying such motion, or the date of the denial of such motion by operation of law pursuant to Rule 59.1 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon filing of an appeal by either party, the clerk of the court shall schedule the action for trial as a preferred case, and it shall be set for trial within 60 days from the date of the filing of the appeal. In eviction actions, an appeal by a tenant to circuit court or to an appellate court does not prevent the issuance of a writ of restitution or possession unless the tenant pays to the clerk of the circuit court all rents properly payable under the terms of the lease since the date of the filing of the action, and continues to pay all rent that becomes due and properly payable under the terms of the lease as they become due, during the pendency of the appeal. In the event of dispute, the amounts properly payable shall be ascertained by the court.
    1. If the tenant should fail to make any payments determined to be properly payable as they become due under this subsection, upon motion, the court shall issue a writ of restitution or possession and the landlord shall be placed in full possession of the premises.
    2. Upon disposition of the appeal, the court shall direct the clerk as to the disposition of the funds paid to the clerk pursuant to this subsection.
  5. If an eviction judgment enters in favor of a landlord, a writ of possession shall issue upon application by the landlord. Notwithstanding Rule 62 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, the automatic stay on the issuance of the writ of possession or restitution shall be for a period of seven days. If a tenant without just cause re-enters the premises, the tenant can be held in contempt and successive writs may issue as are necessary to effectuate the eviction judgment.
  6. In the event that the landlord is placed in possession under a writ of restitution or possession, and on appeal the judgment is reversed and one entered for the tenant or the proceeding on appeal is quashed or dismissed, the circuit court may award a writ of restitution or possession to restore the tenant to possession as against the landlord, but not as against a third party. The issuance of the writ rests in the discretion of the appellate court, and the circuit court, in all cases, may direct writs of restitution or possession to be issued by the trial court when, in the judgment of the circuit court, such writ is proper or necessary.
(Act 2006-316, p. 668, §1; Act 2009-633, p. 1939, §1.)