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An appeal is considered "de novo." That means that the parties must present their cases as if they were being presented for the first time. The defendant is entitled to a new hearing before a different judge of the superior court. The results of the first hearing, and the testimony and other evidence offered at that hearing, are not considered by the Appeals Court judge(s) who hears the appealed case.
In California, a defendant may appeal a small claims court decision to the Superior Court within 30 days and receive a new trial -- in which the judge addresses both the law and the facts of the case de novo.
The judge who hears the appeal conducts the re-hearing in the same informal way that cases are heard in small claims court. The judge who presides at the hearing on appeal allows both parties' attorneys to present evidence and examine witnesses under the judge's guidance and control.
At the close of the hearing, the judge issues a new judgment, and a new Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form SC-130) is delivered or mailed to both parties. If the judge awards costs to the prevailing party, the costs so awarded include those incurred by the prevailing party in both the small claims court and on appeal.
For good cause and where necessary to achieve substantial justice between the parties, the judge who hears an appeal may award reimbursement of the following expenses to a plaintiff who has prevailed at the hearings in both the small claims court and on appeal:
- Attorney's fees actually and reasonably incurred in connection with the appeal, but not exceeding $150, and
- Actual loss of earnings and expenses of transportation and lodging, to the extent actually and reasonably incurred in connection with the appeal, but not exceeding $150.
The court will make an award of expenses against a defendant who loses an appeal only if the court determines that the circumstances justify the award, and the award is necessary to achieve substantial justice between the parties.
If the judge who hears the appeal finds that the appeal was not based on substantial merit or good faith, but was intended solely to harass or delay the other party or encourage the other party to abandon his or her claim, the court also can award the other party a judgment against the appealing party for up to $1,000 for attorney's fees and up to $1,000 for transportation and lodging.