I live in Europe and my property manager in Idaho (USA) is not sending me the rents (which were paid by the renter).

I was thinking about suing her in small claims court, but it looks like I have to appear in court. Which is hard living 10000km away!

Is the physical court apearance a must, could it be virtual/teleconf?


  • 4
    The response to that kind of thing is to get a local lawyer to deal with that for you. They'll have the local knowledge of the law. Jun 21 at 9:03
  • Few U.S. small claims courts, which are designed for people representing themselves in person and mostly orally, are equipped to handle remote appearances. You need a local lawyer.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 21 at 12:05
  • @ohwilleke if you are allowed to bring a lawyer.
    – Trish
    Jun 21 at 16:05
  • 1
    @Trish Probably have to be in a limited jurisdiction court above small claims court.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 21 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


Realistically, if your lawsuit is with the person who has been acting as your agent in the United States, small claims court is probably not the right way to go.

If you are owed less than $10,000 (possibly including attorney fees), you probably need to hire a lawyer to pursue your case in the non-Small Claims Magistrate Division of the District Court. Lawyers are allowed in this forum, unlike the Small Claims division which is oriented towards pro se parties (i.e. people without lawyers). Small claims can consider only claims up to $4,000 against defendants in the county where the lawsuit is brought, and attorneys are now allowed in small claims court. (Source)

Even if you can be in the Small Claims division of Magistrate's Court, the enforcement of a judgment if you win requires technical court documents which are essentially the same as those for collecting a judgment from any other court.

Even when Zoom participation is allowed in a court, usually the main trial can't be conducted entirely remotely so someone needs to be in the courtroom representing you for the trial. (The only U.S. state where there is an actual right to participate in a civil court trial remotely is Alaska.)

A lawyer will also often be more effective at negotiating a settlement, with or without a mediator, which would avoid the need for a trial at all, and mediations these days since COVID are routinely conducted remotely. Mediation is often required before a case goes to trial.

If you are owed more than $10,000, you probably need to hire a lawyer to pursue your case in District Court (outside the Magistrate's Division). (Source)

It is also possible in District Court (not the Magistrate's division) in some cases to resolve the case in "motion practice" based upon submitted papers, rather than in a hearing. This is not really a possibility in the Small Claims Court or the Magistrate's Division.

Also, to be perfectly honest, the kind of case you describe is probably beyond the capacity of even a college educated person without legal training to do right and not screw up.

Handling issues like service of process, the rules of evidence, and the collection of a judgment are all highly technical matters, and there may be legal claims related to possible misappropriation of funds that you might not know how to raise. Depending upon the language of your contract, the other side may even be able to demand a jury trial which is far beyond the capacity of an unrepresented person to manage, even if they are only doing it to force you to hire a lawyer. It could also be necessary to use the "discovery" process or subpoenas to obtain records needed to prove the case.

For what it is worth, Idaho lawyers are less expensive than lawyers in much of the U.S., and Idaho is not known for having overcrowded courts the greatly delayed schedules, however.


There are special rules for small claims courts, so the first thing one would do is check the rules for your jurisdiction. If you were interested in Idaho, you would look at the rules set by the Idaho courts. Rule 2 says that "Any individual, partnership, corporation or association may file a small claim as a plaintiff in the action. An employee of the plaintiff may sign the pleadings", so you can file the claim, and an employee can sign the pleading. Rule 4(d) says "If the plaintiff or employee does not appear at the time set for any hearing on the matter, the court may dismiss the action with or without prejudice", which is to say that you or your employee must appear. Rule 8 says that "Any party may appear in person or by an authorized non-attorney employee", and "No attorney may appear with or for a party in any hearing". As you can see, you need an employee who is in Idaho to act on your behalf. However, rule 11 says "The court may allow the parties and any witnesses to appear telephonically" (may, not shall). Idaho courts do somewhat have the capacity for Zoom procedings, and here is one county's Zoom session page. This may not be an option for all counties.

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